Outdoorsmen and women often bring the outdoors world inside by preserving their trophies through taxidermy. It’s a great way to turn a living room, den, man cave or a dedicated room into the place to keep and admire trophies. But it’s not just a place to hang dead fish and animals. It’s a memory room — a place where you can relive past hunts, remember the adventures, and appreciate your accomplishments. It can tell a story about your adventures and inspire conversation. A well-designed trophy room also enables others a way to see who you are as an outdoorsmen— giving family, friends and visitors a glimpse into your passion.
Home décor and design can be an art, and there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. Here are a few tips on how to create a well-designed and managed trophy room:
- Use space wisely. Don’t try to fill every inch of wall or floor space with taxidermy. Provide ample space around each mount, so that each one has some space where visitors can view and admire each mount. Cramming too many mounts into a small space not only makes it look cluttered, it takes away from the beauty of each individual trophy.
- Create an experience by strategically placing the mounts. For big game, face them looking into the center of the room, or possibly at another focal point of the room. Don’t put them in a corner or facing into another wall. The same applies with waterfowl and fish — face them flying or “swimming” towards the room, not into a corner. The idea here is to draw the visitor’s eye to other elements of the room.
- Choose the right height. Don’t hang big game heads too low on the wall, or people may walk into them or knock them off the wall. Placing them higher also keeps them out of reach of children and pets to prevent damage. Also don’t place them too high, or where the antlers are touching the ceiling.
- Place the appropriate size head on the right sized wall. For example, your Yukon moose on an 8-foot wide wall might look confined. Conversely, your average 8-point whitetail buck might look tiny on a 20 foot high wall. For large walls, consider designing the entire wall at one time, creating a interesting mix of game. Instead of lining all of your deer heads in a row at the same height, stagger them to keep from having a boring, linear look.
- Mix it up with style of mounts. As time goes by and you acquire more trophies, choose a style of mount that is different. For example, deer head forms range in style from upright and alert, to a semi-sneak with the head low and stretched out. You can also choose different forms where the heads are turned in a certain direction. So as you get more trophies, choose different styles so they don’t all look the same. And that goes for fish as well.
- Use ancillary art to create an outdoors experience. A gun cabinet or gun rack is a great way to break up the room and give it an outdoors theme. Wildlife prints or artwork also give the visitor a visual break from taxidermy and enhance the outdoor feel. Other nick-nacks can be found at flea markets, art shows and outdoor expos. Items like Indian artifacts, bow and arrows, antique fishing rods, or possibly a shadow box with antique fishing lures.
- Use more than the walls. Other items can be added to mix like an antler chandelier, candle holders, custom outdoor picture frames. Another touch could include a desktop digital picture frame that runs a slide show of some of your trips and adventures. On my dining room table, I created a centerpiece with a pillar candle surrounded by shed antlers.
A great way to maintain your trophy room is to take care of the mounts by keeping them clean and dust free. Nothing disrespects the mount and diminishes the “wow” factor more than cobwebs hanging off of antlers or a half-inch of dust on your fish. According to Cliff Kowalczyk, owner of Cliff’s Taxidermy in Plainfield, taking good care of your mounts is important. He suggests not smoking in your trophy room as smoke will discolor the taxidermy or absorb into the fur. “The best way to extend the life of any mount is keep them out of direct sunlight and keep them clean,” explains Kowalczyk. “For deer heads, I tell my customers to use a soft rag with just a little spritz of furniture polish and always wipe going with the direction of the hair. For fish, use a cotton cloth with a little Windex. Just be careful around the fins and wipe with the direction of the scales.” He also suggests dusting them with a feather duster before wiping. Another good tip is to use a can of compressed air to spray around the eyelashes, nostrils and ears on big game. And a little Windex on a Q-tip works great to polish the eyes.
The goal should be to inspire others with your adventures, not brag about your trophies, while giving you a comfortable living environment. If designed correctly, your trophy room will tell a story, allow visitors a glimpse into the world you’re passionate about, and foster some great conversation for years.
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