The Rural Life—Living the Good Life … Living Rural


Hides & Horns

Use cowhide and skull accents to dress up your décor in a decidedly Western way.

By Raquel Lynn, horsesandheels.com


The sight of a cowhide rug in an upscale Beverly Hills boutique makes my heart melt. If I see a steer skull mounted in an artisan coffee shop, I immediately Instagram it. As a full-time lifestyle blogger at horsesandheels.com, I’m constantly blurring the lines between traditional Western and modern décor and mixing rugged textures with the latest en-vogue look. Let my obsession inspire your inner cowgirl.

The Perfect Western Accessory

The trend of decorating homes and rooms with traditional Western design pieces is at an all-time high, but it’s not just reserved for all-out rustic locations. Western elements, especially cowhides and skull pieces, can work well within many design aesthetics—modern, vintage, Western, mid-century, art deco, shabby chic and minimalistic—to celebrate your cowgirl soul even in a New York high rise.

Many companies pride themselves in running niche businesses selling one-of-a-kind embellished steer skulls and fancy hide rugs. These unique pieces are the easiest way to add a touch of Western to your abode without overdoing it.

Rugs With Style in Mind

Cowhide rugs can be found in any dude ranch, luxury Western home or rustic cabin in the mountains. Close your eyes and put yourself in these places: picture the rugged, wooden beams, leather details, Navajo textiles and, right at home within it all, a spotted hide. Generations of ranchers have perfected this look to bring a little taste of the outdoors inside.

Conventional hides come in black, brown and tan with various prints. They blend easily with similar or neutral colors. If you pair dark against light or vise versa, the contrast will pop and catch your eye. You could also choose a traditional spotted hide to add extra visual interest for a unique look.

Cowhide can also feel right at home in a modern design. Bold, solid colors in pink, yellow, orange, purple, red, green and blue are often found at high-end retailers. Other modified hides feature patterns and laser-cut prints. Square and rectangle rugs with similar-colored patchwork hide gives off a high-fashion edge by eliminating the traditional hide shape. These alternate cuts and colors inject an interesting dose of Western texture while blending in with the rest of the aesthetics. I often see these colors and cuts in pop-up shops and small eclectic art galleries around Los Angeles.

Another style of hide is acid wash, which is accomplished by applying acid to burn hair off some sections and then transferring dyes or metallic foil for added visual interest. The acid wash look works with shabby chic, modern or vintage décor; I’m determined to add a hide with flecks of gold or silver to my own personal collection. The process of creating an acid washed rug is time consuming, so be prepared for a price tag that reflects this.

Picking Out Skulls

If you prefer to feature your style on a wall instead of under your feet, consider adding a skull amongst your picture frames.

Western skulls can come from bison, cows, deer and sheep, but a traditional cow skull is the most popular look. Longhorns offer more drama because of their immense horns.

While bleached or natural colors can look great, skulls can also be personalized with color or add-ons to fit your décor. Consider materials that reflect you and your home, and pull from your preexisting design to inspire your skull up-do. Traditional bone skulls can be painted or embellished with beads, stones or crystals. Mosaics made of bright chunks of stones, glass or even mirrors are another interesting option.

Real skulls can become fragile and brittle over time. Alternative mediums such as resin, metal or ceramic are more affordable options.

Hide & Horn Harmony

Cow skulls and cowhide rugs make the perfect Western pairing, but some thought is required to achieve a magazine-worthy match. First, consider the material and color of each piece and how they balance and play off each other.

A Swarovski crystal skull is a work of art in itself, and the shimmer and sparkles make it the star of a room; pair a wild skull like this with a more subdued rug, as too much detail on the floor can distract from the crystal skull. In the opposite setting, if you have a metallic, acid-washed hide, pair it with a neutral skull, or choose a skull that features the hide’s accent colors. Solid hide colors work well with most skull types as long as color combinations are taken into account; in this case, either item can potentially be a statement or accent piece.

Creating cohesion must be done tastefully; decide what you want to be your focal point, and complement accordingly. For a more modern aesthetic, try separating your skull and hide into different areas of your home.


This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Spring 2017 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.


View Galleries on SmugMug