The family dog and high decor might not seem natural partners, but Sara Essex Bradley's new book, Dog Decor: Canines Living Large (Glitterati Inc., $35) reveals how beloved canines become a central part of many households, often claiming the best seat in the house. The book, released July 1, is 160 pages of beautiful pictures of home interiors, most in the New Orleans area, and each shot places pets (there are a couple of cats) front and center.
The idea for the project took a while to form. Bradley, who has been a professional photographer for 18 years, says at first she would just snap photos of the dogs who became friendly with her as she was shooting beautiful homes for interior designers or various media outlets — not as part of the assignment but on a lark. "The dogs to me all seemed to match the decor," she says.
Over the past dozen or so years, Bradley began snapping a picture of the family pets in one of the rooms she already was photographing. "When it was just me shooting ... the dog would get pretty comfortable, they're pretty sociable, and just start hanging out and following me around. If the owner wasn't home, it was easier to get them to pose."
Over the years, Bradley found she had photographed more than 60 dogs in their home environments and was struck by how naturally they fit in, whether lounging on a bed, a white couch or an antique chair. Sometimes, she says, it seemed rooms were decorated around the dogs.
"I do know that one person, (New Orleans artist) Miranda Lake (whose rescued dog Birdie appears in a colorful bedroom shot), actually chooses her dog to match her house (or vice versa), and she says, 'If I get a ... brown dog or a certain kind of dog, I'd have to repaint the whole house,'" Bradley says.
Interior designer Donna Russell and her husband Tom received a pit bull terrier from a client, and when they built a new home, Russell designed one room with wall and floor tiles that mimick the reddish brindle markings of her dog Tyson. "I know that (home) was a new build," Bradley says. "They had the dog before that, so they may have subconsciously chosen the tile to match because it's perfect. It really works."
- Photo by Sara Essex Bradley
- Baxter, a bulldog who lives in the Garden District with Dr. Troy Scroggins, is featured in Sara Essex Bradley's new book.
In another picture, a Metairie dog named Stilts is pictured in an elegant faux marble-finished room with golden hues that appear designed around the blond and white Welsh corgi.
Though the pictures alone could sell the book, Bradley went a step further by telling the dogs' stories. It's one of the most endearing parts of the book, though choosing to tell the stories in first person from the viewpoint of the dog makes for some tricky transitions into talking about decor.
Because her photo assignments have come from places like interior designers, New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles, The Washington Post, The New York Times and other publications, the subjects include dogs of local luminaries such as chef John Besh, who has two Labrador retrievers, and the Casbarian family, who owns Arnaud's restaurant.
An added plus for Bradley is that her photos also spotlight New Orleans artists. "I love that there's so much local art in a lot of these pictures," she says. "It just emphasizes ... how people support their local artists here. Our local artists are now becoming nationally famous, like Ashley Longshore and Amanda Talley and Bradley Sabin, Kevin Gillentine, people like that. I see their works throughout people's homes."
Bradley, whose own pets are two cats she characterizes as "very spoiled," says Dog Decor may not be her last foray into publishing a book focused on animals and interiors. "I have been collecting (pictures of) cats, too," she says. "I maybe have 20 right now. I would like to do a Cat House book."