Lately I feel as though every time I look at an interiors book or magazine or online article I see foo dogs. It's like they are following me! What are foo dogs exactly? Traditionally they are a Chinese Guardian Lion also known as an Imperial Lion. They are stylized lion statues that stand guard in front of Chinese palaces, temples, government buildings and homes of the wealthy. They have done so since the Han Dynasty. Naturally they are meant to be guardians of the buildings in front of which they were placed like the more natural looking lions we use in front of buildings in the west. Guardian lions often appear in pairs and are life size or larger.
In interiors, the foo dogs are used a little differently. They fit into the whole Chinoiserie side of decorating and are used as accents, so of course these guys are much smaller than a traditional Guardian Lion. They are a nod to the original. What they do for a space is give interest and charm. Here are some examples:
This is a gorgeous living room by one of my favorite designers Alex Papachristidis. He uses a pair of foo dogs on either side of a painting above the sofa. Sconces would be more traditional here, but the foo dogs on matching shelves is a beautiful touch. Additionally the foo dogs are a gorgeous yellow which stands out against the dark background. They serve to repeat other chinoiserie elements of the living room such as the bamboo coffee table. Love this! Notice the yellow urn on the bookshelf reinforces the yellow of the foo dogs. This repetition of themes and color and texture is what make a great room fantastic. Additionally I think they add whimsy to any setting.
Lets look at another one:
So here is a fab interior by Mary McDonald. Dear Mary McDonald, I love you! This lady is amazing. I am absolutely in love with her designs and her glamorous persona. Focus here.... So the little foo dogs appear in the upper level of the bookshelf in this living room. They stand out against the black painted bookshelf. (A technique I borrowed for my living room). Again they add a touch of Chinoiserie whimsy.
Finally lets look at an interior by a designer I have recently discovered, Benjamin Vandiver.
I was reading an article on the 1stdibs blog about Benjamin Vandiver, a designer in Nashville whose clients include Nathan Followill of the band Kings of Leon. So I thought, well this guy is obviously cool. I was a little surprised then to see this little guy! A foo dog on a side table. It is a more traditional accessory and here being used by a more natural modern designer. It was fun to spot it and see it used by this hip young designer.
I am definitely tempted to invest in a pair of foo dogs in yellow for the black, white and yellow scheme I did for my living room. Is my living room fine without it? Yea, but wouldn't it be fun to have a couple of these guys on my mantle? I think so!