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Design

Are Body Part Decor Pieces Back? And Are They The Ultimate Conversation Starter??

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling VERY inspired by some old Emily Henderson projects lately. Maybe it’s a generational thing – Em was about my age when she designed some of the rooms I’m lusting over – but to this day, I’m so impressed by her bold mix of bright colors, caramel leathers, and brass tchotchkes styled alongside so many incredible flea market finds.

So on a recent Zoom, I brought up Em’s stylistic evolution – you know, her growth from almost-maximalist to the designer of a dreamy, quiet, timeless shaker farmhouse – and then asked if she’d design any of her former rooms differently if given the chance. That’s when this photo came up…

photo by laure joliet | from: my bedroom

I have to be honest – I know this picture is almost 8 years old, but this vignette still makes my heart skip a beat a little bit. (Anyone else?) I’ll always be a sucker for an orange-y wood casegood and that painting is one of my all-time favorites, but the real standout for me here are those weird and fun leg molds. For what it’s worth, today’s Emily said she would have toned down the styling on this dresser, but those legs swept me off my feet and got me thinking.

I realized that there’s something special about a statement piece of furniture or decor – be it shaped like a hand, or a foot, or a head – that adds a little something extra to a space.

Once, when I asked Em what to save on and what to splurge on, her answer was simple: splurge on the conversation starters. When it comes to body decor, though, there are conversation starters and showstoppers available at all kinds of sizes and price points. You can make a statement with one piece. You can fill an awkward corner (no more arbitrary plant placement!), add the perfect finishing touch to your shelf, and express your personality with ONE PIECE OF DECOR. I ended up digging around and y’all, I found SO MANY EXAMPLES of this in the wild.

Today, I want to give you some eye candy – let’s look at the tiny tweaks and major renovations that bring body parts to the forefront of the home. And at the end, EHD rounded up some decor options at every price point (like, from $10 to uh, a piece that basically costs a month’s rent) so you can bring some easy, conversation-worthy pieces to your home, too. LET’S GET STARTED, YEAH?

design by chelsea hing | photo by rhiannon taylor | via yellowtrace

Let’s kick it off on the right foot (sorry, I swear that’s the only pun in here) with this office by Chelsea Hing. The space is minimal and simple, but it’s anything but boring. It’s proof that you don’t need a ton of stuff to make a huge impact – a thoughtful hit of pink, a huge piece of bold art, and a made-you-look accessory take the room to the next level.

design by geremia | photo by aaron leitz | via clever

I’m in love with the sweet, quirky addition of two hand sconces in this shop. It takes a classic vignette with timeless styling (hello credenza topped with flowers, vessels, bowls, and candles) and elevates it just enough. Imagine the same space with a more linear sconce and it’d fall flat – the organic nature of the hand speaks to the items being displayed and makes a cohesive, soothing space.

design by alicia holgar | photo by shannon mcgrath | via the design files

AH. Sigh. How serene is this apartment? In a space filled with quiet neutrals, soft textures, and curved shapes, the two-faced vessel adds the perfect amount of quirk while echoing the more robust pottery collection in the back half of the room.

styling by annie portelli | photo by amelia stanwix | via the design files

I love this vignette as it says SO MUCH about the person who lives here. The face bowl is unexpected and a little playful – this home belongs to someone who is cool, but in a fun and cheeky way.

Of course, you can never go wrong with a peace sign cast in a shiny brass finish. On the left, it adds a little shine to an incredible textural and layered space; on the right, it’s the cherry on top of a happy and glam Hollywood Hills entryway. I think it’s easy for metallics like this to go cheesy or young really quickly, so I love how both are styled with a ton of breathing room and alongside some grown-up coffee table books. It’s a simple and clean finishing touch that won’t break the bank. Big fan.

design by hommeboys

Oh my, we LOVE this Carmen Ellis footed vessel at EHD – so much so that you can actually spot it in Julie’s bedroom and in this makeover of a teen’s bedroom that we published last year! There are so many incredible statement-making moments in this room – the wallpapered ceiling! The lime-washed walls! The arched door! The textured chairs AND rug AND bed AND headboard AND…. (you get it, right?) – so it was a super wise decision to keep the dresser’s styling VERY simple with just one standout piece. And if you’re only going to use one vessel…why not go with the unforgettable choice?

design by black lacquer design

HOW SWEET AND HAPPY. Everything in this space has a buddy – the black accessories pop off the white quartz countertops while echoing the hex tile floors; the onyx bowl’s veining echoes the wooden vanity, but this whole space really sings because of that jade hand, which shines next to those walls and brings a ton of spunk to this space. Plus, it’s practical for jewelry storage 🙂

Never thought I’d be this into feet, but uh, HERE WE ARE. Those shelves on the left are masterfully styled, but that foot adds juuuuust the right level of funk (in the good way). It’s silly, whimsical, and it has more interesting proportions than a bowl – something dense next to those vases and that mint piece would have made the shelf seem a little heavy – but the curvature of the foot sends your eye right back up to the lamp. WELL DONE. And I can’t get enough of this tiny foot on this console-turned-bar – it’s the perfect way to start a conversation between strangers when you throw your first big dinner party. (Plus, it does a nice job of balancing out the dark bottles.) SEND MORE FEET (DECOR) PICS TO ME, THANKS.

design by liz kamarul

Hi, Liz Kamarul, I’m a fellow ribbon chandelier owner (albeit a much smaller one!) and a huge fan of this space. You don’t need a ton of stuff when every piece is this special, and I love how this bright white torso brightens up what could have been a dark void of a corner. (Get a load of that hand at the top, too! Body parts for days!)

Who doesn’t love a bust? (I just bought this one for my bathroom makeover and am so excited to get it in the mail!) This is the dream decor choice for folks looking to bridge uber-modern and traditional styles. It’s timeless but it’s also graphic, and it looks just as comfortable on an end table/bar as it does chilling next to a disco ball on a pistachio green cabinet. If you’re looking for versatility and longevity, this is the best choice.

But OH MY, these installations TOOK MY BREATH AWAY. Boy, does this elevate a space!!! Like, guys – this is a gray room with tan carpet and a beige room with tan carpet, but they BOTH look like a million bucks (or even a billion bucks, TBH) because these busts are so dynamic and cool and fresh. Who needs a plant in a corner or a cabinet in the entryway? BUST IT UP. I also love this from a budgetary perspective, as you can find both pedestals and art pieces at the local flea market – style them out in a corner together today; throw the bust on a mantle and a plant on the pedestal later. Infinite decorating options that are guaranteed to look good. HAVE I SOLD YOU YET?

design by black lacquer design

I’ve been lusting over the entirety of Nicole Byer’s bedroom for years at this point, but I’m especially partial to all the mixing going on in this shot. Sure, you’ve got the mint bust (so good!), but the vases are a liiiiitle anthropomorphic and the lip pillow reflected in the mirror is flirty and bold. But beyond that, this shot is just a masterclass in going for it – the modern credenza with lucite pulls, the classic marble bookends, the fresh take on the bust, the ornate mirror reflecting the classic banana palm print…I think that a lot of the time I worry about making the wrong choice, or about my colors looking just a little off, or about being too weird, and this just assuages those fears. (Can you tell I’m a big fan?)

photo by jenna peffley | via architectural digest

Obviously, had to throw in one more banana palm wallpaper shot for my regency and Palm Beach fans! This home’s styling is so eclectic and cozy and welcoming that the bowl on the table just says, “Hey, come on in. Sit down and grab a nanner. Let’s chat for a while“. (Okay, it probably actually says “banana,” but this is my post.) In a more sparse or minimalist home, this would be an elegant statement piece (imagine it solo on a huge island!), but it’s cheery and accessible and homey when styled here.

design by heather nette king | photo by amelia stanwix | via the design files

Continuing our little foray into the maximalist world by showing y’all this incredible mantle vignette by stylist Heather Nette King. The back of this piece is stunning, and it’s elevated on a simple black box (it almost disappears into the wall, right?!) so that the bust’s face is reflected in the mirror. This is such a cool and fun way of making the things you already own feel new and fresh – are there any pieces you could turn around and throw in front of a mirror so you could experience them in a new way?

The above shot on the left is a different angle of the space we chose for the opener photo. When there are so many geometric and measured shapes at play, it’s refreshing and dynamic to add in something organic, like the human form. The same goes for the space on the right – when working with so many earth tones and simple lines, it just feels right to include some natural shapes, too. (Check out the art on the wall for more examples of the human form at work!)

I love these two shots as they show that any existing space can be spruced up with a quick decor addition. Whether it’s a tiny head, mini bust, or little hand gracing the top shelf (I know – that one on the right was a little bit of a Where’s Waldo :)), each of these choices add a ton of personality and life to the shelf without impeding functionality.

design by black lacquer design

You don’t need much to polish off a space when the pieces you’re using have THIS much soul. It harkens back to my all-time favorite Emily lesson – the conversation starters are the things worth splurging on. A more compact dining nook may have been jammed into this space, but it’s not necessary when the things in your home could probably pull double duty as an art exhibition.

via architectural digest

Speaking of exhibitions – this Gucci setup has held a place in my mind and heart for a while now. There’s a ton to say about the pattern mixing and absolutely wild layering (can you spot the peacock?) but what I’m really drawn to is the collection of porcelain hands on the left. They’re special and rare enough that even a collection of 3 (or 4, or 5) can make a huge and special visual impact. Plus if Gucci says it’s cool…

Speaking of collecting…OH HEY. And did you see that ear on the left, too? On the right, I love how this maximalist vignette is connected by the elevated hand reflecting back the white from the painting above and to its left.

And you know I’d be remiss to leave out something as iconic as the Dali Lips sofa, which may just be the original body part decor piece. This little lady turned 50 last year (she doesn’t look a day over 25!) and she’s a guaranteed showstopper in every room (and in any color). Throw her in a room with cathedral ceilings or dress her up with some Groucho Marx-esque eye paintings above – she works everywhere. The original cool girl, right?

photo by caitlin mills | via the design files

Last but not least, an option for those who want a more permanent installation…can you believe that these floors are real?! Eyes are a pretty timeless motif and the most accessible body part but it’s hard to go wrong when you go this hard. (“If you’re not going all the way, why go at all?” – every ice skating coach I’ve ever had, in advice that’s surprisingly prescient here.) It’s a full-on art piece in the home that will be enjoyed for years to come.

Wanna bring something special home? Check out your local flea market or thrift store first, but then take a peek at some of our favorite picks…

1. Hand Vessel | 2. Hand Bowl | 3. Classic Legs | 4. Carl Auböck Model #4273 ‘Foot’ Brass Paperweight | 5. Traditional Decoration Tattoo Rooster Articulated Hand | 6. Polystone Foot Statue | 7. Calfee Hand Jewelry Holder Tabletop Figurine | 8. The Original | 9. Candle Holder Handsup | 10. Female Body Ceramic Vase | 11. Mannequin Hand | 12. Eye Trinket Tray Set | 13. Memorabilia Mvsevm Nose | 14. Figurative Surreal Sculptural Nose Vase | 15. Hand Object on Stand

1. Adeebah Rock on Hand Sculpture | 2. White Face Sculpture | 3. Decorative Brass Hand Figurine | 4. Porcelain Female Foot | 5. Hand Ashtray | 6. Brass Hand Ring Holder | 7. Decorative Hands | 8. Palma Candleholder | 9. Vintage Chalkware Feet | 10. Vintage Bust | 11. Stark Hand Sculpture | 12. Michelangelo’s David Nose Classic Greek Roman Art Wall Sculpture

And to that end, I ask – DID I WIN YOU OVER? Will you be adding a body part to your decor any time soon? Fingers crossed that next time you see a glove mold at your local antique store or flea, you’ll look twice (and maybe even bring it home). LET’S TALK WEIRD STUFF, PLEASE?

Opening Image Credits: Design by Paradowski Studio | Photo by Pion Studio | via Sight Unseen

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Christina
2 months ago

Caitlin! You said, “Let’s kick this off on the right foot” was your only pun but you actually missed one you made even earlier than that…

 For what it’s worth, today’s Emily said she would have toned down the styling on this dresser, but those legs swept me off my feet and got me thinking.

Hahaha! Anyway, can’t believe the timing of this post as I just put out my newly acquired hand vase….much to the horror of my husband. He claims there’s a part of Beetlejuice where a hand pops out of the ground clutching flowers in an identical way and thinks the vase should come out only as part of Halloween decor. Once he said that, I will admit I did start to see it in a more creepy light. As of now it’s still sitting out, but for how long?!

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Lindsay
2 months ago
Reply to  Christina

Ooh! I love it! where did you get it?

Alice
2 months ago
Reply to  Christina

That vase is really special. Beetlejuice, really, are we all 12? Laugh.

Kate
2 months ago
Reply to  Christina

I love it! Maybe you could compromise and bring it out every year for the month of October. Do your own Halloween version of Elf on the Shelf- Hand on the Lam? Have it pop up in weird places every few days to make you laugh and creep out your husband! You could put it in the bathroom with his toothbrush sticking out one morning and listen for his screams?

Dena
2 months ago

I love old Emily’s style as much as new Emily!
My friend got me a belly plaster kit for my pregnant belly (years ago) and it’s my statement piece and has the sentimental value too!

Elizabeth
2 months ago

I’ve never understood this idea of decor as “conversation starters”. How often do you have people in your house for the first time and do you really not have anything to talk about?

Elizabeth
2 months ago

I can see that. Maybe I have the advantage of being old and a lifetime of gathering things I love – almost everything I own has a story behind it.

Sally
2 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

They’re not literally to start conversations. Call it a conversation piece if you like. It’s just an expression to indicate a fun, interesting or whimsical object, one that’s likely to provoke comment. People don’t actually use them to replace social skills.

Lindsay
2 months ago

I love this post! I have always had a thing for body part sculptures and decor, and now I know I’m not the only one 🙂

christine
2 months ago

I love this post! So many great rooms! And such a fun lense through which to look at them all! More please! (And yes, I will be adding body parts to some of the rooms in my house)

Monica
2 months ago

I always think of the Ikea wooden hand ‘HANDSKALAD’, a bargain at $12.99!

Rusty
2 months ago

What a fresh take on decor!! Body parts!!! Love it.
👉🤘👌
I’m especially drawn to hands – love the wooden hand chairs and really love the hand fruit bowl on the table.
I received two hands with fingers in meditation pose, that hold a tealight each. They’re embossed ceramic and live on my mantle near the ceramic “naked lady” I made…this is a conversation starter on repeat…it captivates people’s attention over and over for years. Wot’s with body parts art?!?
Gets me in the lizard brain! 🦎

ack! Caitlin, i love your posts always! so much eye candy! okay, so first of all, i LOVE LOVE LOVE vintage Emily style (love her stuff now of course). that first vintage Em pictures is so good. That elephant tower lamp is so cool. i need one. I love the whole body part as decor thing, but eye balls and ears are a no for me. they creep me out!
the hommeboys room and black lacquer design room are epic. love those. the paradowski studio room is sooooooooooo good and stopped me! that chrome lamp is awesome and looks great with the orange wall. and the heather nette king fireplace vignette……………………holy moly. love love love.

Annabelle
2 months ago

For more peace sign hands: https://www.doriengarrystudio.com/

Elise
2 months ago

Fun to see some quirky decor pieces. Although I’m not into body parts or busts displayed around the house, Emily’s hand chair has always been a favorite.

kk
2 months ago

I am soooo picky. I really only like body parts decor when it is 1. vintage or very vintage inspired 2. quite abstracted. 3. doesn’t imply abuse or objectification of women’s body parts. 4. campy. For example the jewelry shop- hyper realistic hands holding the sconce. They are too 80’s for me in a bad way – ( and I am also bummed out by the PAINTED Brasilia buffet ). I am also NOT into bathmats of women’s bodies or jewelry racks based on breasts – I don’t want to walk on bodies or hang things off nipples, it makes me feel guilty! However I went through a serious 1940’s and 50’s ladies head vintage planter phase, back when one could find them in thrift shops, and I am always up for some Gemma Tacconga! Lina Cavalieri Fornasetti plates! Or the HUGE Jonathan Adler lucite foot…
I just came back from a thrift where I got a vintage white glassware mug in the form of a 1970’s Leather Daddy bust…might put a plant in it..

Mariele
2 months ago
Reply to  kk

Oh my god, I just said that I didn’t like body parts decor… but I have a HUGE collection of lady head vases!! Lmfao. Guess they don’t seem to count to me, I think of them as fashion icons, haha.

2 months ago

I made myself a head vase based on one I loved for YEARS, but just couldn’t spend $400 on.

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Mariele
2 months ago

I must not be cool. These either wig me out or just plain look tacky to me. I did think the bust facing the mirror was neat, though!

Pat McRee
2 months ago

Ah! To know I have kindred spirits near and far is a wonderful thing! The first thing I bought for my house 40+ years ago was a finger which has been a hook in the kitchen doorway ever since. A pottery head hangs above the doorway to my living room and he wears my husband’s boyhood camera around his neck. There are other decorative body parts that have slipped in and out but my favorite was discovered in one of the cheap seats at the fairgrounds flea market in Memphis. It was like the sun beamed down and directed me to him lying on a blanket. He’s a wax model head of Eisenhower (I think). The sun beamed so hard it melted one of his ears but it made me love him even more. Talk about a conversation-starter! Thanks for the fun post, Caitlin!

Christa
2 months ago

I like the art pieces because they feel handmade and classic, but the mass produced decor pieces are not working for me.

Sarah
2 months ago

We have a concrete Grecian-looking head planter that’s meant to be in the garden but she lives in our kitchen and is crowned with a revolving selection of houseplants and her name is Denushka. I’m really liking the hand fruit bowl idea now!

Meghan
2 months ago

Let me add to your list! Check Anissa Kermiche of London! Delightfully cheeky!

Nina
2 months ago

There are exceptions but in general body-shaped decor freaks me out a little. It’s just a hair less creepy than having actual taxidermy or body parts on formaldehyde in your house… yikes!

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