In interior design photography, one reliable technique for making a space look lived-in and approachable is to include the family pet. In her new book Dog Decor: Canines Living Large, interiors and architectural photographer Sara Essex Bradley focuses exclusively on dogs, showing them in luxe spaces she photographed mostly around New Orleans, where she is based.
The book collects more than 70 photos of dogs (and two cats) in sleekly modern or ornate, antique-filled homes, sprawling on sunny floors or sitting on velvet settees. Bradley came across many of them in her commercial assignments, and she describes her typical interaction. “Usually when I arrive, there is barking at the door (“Oh, good! A new friend!” I think). I am greeted with slobber and jumps,” she writes in the book, which was published recently by Glitterati Incorporated. The owners apologize and Bradley insists it’s fine for the dog to hang around while she photographs. “Eventually, the dog mellows and becomes curious about what’s going on. He follows me around, and I enjoy the company—and usually can coax the dog to pose in one of the shots…The dog is so surprised by a stranger saying ‘Sit! Stay!’ that he plops his butt down and cocks his head.”
Often, there is a happy resonance between animal and decor. “Looking through the shots as a collection, I’m surprised by how often it seems like the space was designed to match the dog,” writes Bradley. Stilts, a tan and white Welsh Corgi, nearly disappears into the beige stone floor of an entry hall. Bradley reports that the decorator may have been chosen the palette to match the dog. Mitch, a cream and grey Havanese, blends nicely into the bedroom furniture covered in the same tones.
Interior designer and decorator Valorie Hart writes in an essay in the book that she’s always glad when a house comes with a dog. “Sara Essex Bradley and I have worked on many photo shoots of beautiful homes for various publications and books. We always are happy when there is a family pet in the house. Homeowners will often ask if we want the pet sent away for the day so as not to be underfoot while we work, and we always emphatically decline. To us having a dog in the shot makes the room more human.”
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