A bird in the hand

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 May, 2006, 12:00am

Depending on the species, the appearance of bird motifs in interiors carries connotations of either good fortune (doves, pigeons, nightingales) or something darker (owls, ravens). Nonetheless, all types of birds - the eerie ones included - are emerging as patterns on all manner of decorative home accessories for autumn and winter this year. Whether on pillows, comforters, kilim rugs, tapestries or posters, our feathered friends are adorning surfaces in myriad colours and styles, lending a fresh retro touch to home decor.

'We're seeing it on wallpaper and fabrics, but it has an in-the-now feel to it,' says Kamini Ezralow, managing director of Lifestyles Interiors in London, which works on upmarket residential projects. Ezralow adds the trend can largely be attributed to a chinoiserie throwback, with twigs, birds and branches at the centre of patterns. In its latest incarnation, however, the accents are given a contemporary twist with colours and textures.

The trend also tips its hat to 'country kitchen/shabby chic'. Earthenware owl containers from www.10homedecor.com convey a rustic, down-to-earth sensibility. At www.target.com there are solar owl lanterns as well as statues carved from stone, coloured in antique grey, dark walnut, copper, weathered bronze or terracotta capable of lending a mystical look to an exterior entrance of a house.

The motifs are a throwback to another era; they were commonly used from the 1950s to 70s and, before that, had pride of place in Victorian-era homes. Today, fabrics printed with bird designs are treated to evoke an old-world ambience.

At www.horchow.com, handcrafted cotton and silk pillows have pretty pastel bird patterns; www.williamsburgmarketplace.com has needlepoint pillows influenced by the work of naturalist Mark Catesby. Texas-based Vietnamese designer Phat Tran recently produced a pair of lovebird pillows in blue and pink on a plain white cotton canvas background (left; www.phattran.com).

At National Geographic-associated online store www.novica.com, which brings together artists and craftsmen from around the world selling furniture, home decor and other items, products featuring birds are a consistent top-seller, according to a spokesman. Novica's most popular piece is a 90cm square woollen tapestry by Peruvian artist Luis Leon titled Amazon Macaws (above), which depicts a pair of the birds soaring through a rain forest. Also from Peru, and also a woollen tapestry, is Zosimo Laura's Night Owls, which can serve as a table runner or wall hanging. Laura's bird-adorned pieces range from pink flamingos to intertwined toucans.

Glossy prints and posters emblazoned dramatically with owls and other birds are a highlight of Fulcrum Gallery (www.fulcrumgallery.com). Albrecht Durer, a German artist who lived in

Italy in the 1500s, created fine drawings of owls, prints of which are available at the gallery. An enduring favourite is Donna Lacey-Derstine's rendering of the owl and the pussycat; Lacey-Derstine derived her inspiration from her childhood in rural Pennsylvania, where she was surrounded by rolling hillsides and lots of bird life.

Even Italian fashion and homeware giant Moschino has taken up twitching. Last month, it showcased handmade owl lamps (below) made of paper-backed cotton fabric and wire. The with-it design house obviously believes the products will take wing, considering the effort involved in creating the items. It takes five people 30 hours to produce one large owl.