What’s that furry thing beneath the dinner plate in the Pottery Barn holiday catalogue?
It’s a faux-fur place mat, the latest home product to be made of that soft, luxurious fabric that makes you want to pet it.
Throws made of faux fur have been popular for years and are now a staple for the winter months, along with fake fur coats. “As the world gets crazier and crazier, our homes more than ever are places that we want to feel coddled,” says Newell Turner, editor in chief of House Beautiful, who has faux wolf and fox throws at his place in the Catskills. “They feel fantastic. Since they are faux, I don’t feel guilty.”
At Restoration Hardware, faux fur is a seasonal star, and the retailer’s 2014 holiday book notes that it’s been refining faux fur for 30 years, calling it “ultrasoft, cozy and with all the weight and nuanced shading of the real thing.”
Every year there seems to be more and more faux mink, chinchilla and fox to fling about: pillows, ottomans, wine bags and bean bags. It’s sold at Frontgate and Wal-Mart and you’ll find faux-fur snow leopard throws at West Elm, Nate Berkus white faux-fur stools for Target and blankets of fuzzy faux giraffe at Pier 1 Imports.
“Our customers can’t get enough. It just keeps growing every year,” says Jenn Kline, Pottery Barn’s head designer, whose office is piled with samples of “fabulous faux-fur throws.”
The store has faux fur dog beds, duffel bags, hot water bottle covers, tree skirts and Christmas stockings. “Fur in America used to be a very unattainable thing. Fur was a luxury item you would have to invest a lot of money in,” Kline says. “Now everyone can have fur.”
Although some animal activists are against faux fur because they say it draws attention to real fur and makes it more fashionable, it’s probably a relatively guilt-free and affordable choice.
At Restoration Hardware, you can even buy your dog his own mini fur throw of faux wolf or mink. Or you can dress him in a faux fur doggie vest, a dog dressed in wolf’s clothing.
New York designer Alexa Hampton writes in an e-mail, “I think faux fur is so popular because it satisfies an almost innate desire for a deep, comforting texture that is simply not provided by anything but fur. Naturally, or unnaturally as the pun demands, faux fur is the caring alternative.”
Hampton says she uses faux fur in her interiors and in her own home. “They conjure images of 007 lounging on one by the fireplace,” she added.
But back to those place mats, which frankly freaked out a colleague who brought them to my attention. Kline says having a bit of fur on the table “helps create a winter wonderland environment.”
But some style watchers think faux fur has its place, and it’s not at the table.
“That’s a little too cave man for me,” Turner says.
As for Hampton, “Fur near one’s food sounds a bit like a potential hazard,” she says. “Fur balls in the Christmas goose could make a person feel like a turkey.”