Playful decorating means incorporating whimsical, unexpected or weird items to showcase your personality and make your design less serious. Read on to find out about one of our favourites to decorate with, vintage toy terriers, and about our real-life inspiration.
One of my goals when decorating our home is to have it look more grown-up and intentional than it did when we were in college, or just starting out. However, at the same time, I don’t want our style to be too serious or sterile. That’s why I embrace playful decorating. But I don’t mean juvenile or childish themes.
To me, playful decorating means incorporating an occasional weird, unusual, unexpected, or whimsical item. These items should speak to you and your own interests, and bring your own personality into your space. They might be a conversation starter, or large enough to be the focal point, but they don’t need to be.
As vintage lovers, it’s relatively easy to find pieces that are unique and appeal to our interests or aesthetics. Incorporating them into our design keeps our decorating playful and personalized to us. One playful item we like to add into our home is vintage toy terriers.
Why Vintage Toy Terriers? Our Real Life Inspiration
First Comes Oliver
Shortly after we were married, my husband expressed his wish to get a dog. As I child I’d begged my parents for a pet (to no avail), but I was uncertain about the idea of having one in the house as an adult. However, I began to research dogs (and puppies) and soon I was on board. At first I wanted a Basset Hound, and then a Scottish Terrier. Then I latched onto longer legged terriers like Wire Fox Terriers and Welsh Terriers. Their personalities really appealed to me.
We tried to adopt a Wire Fox Terrier puppy from the Humane Society, but they wouldn’t let us adopt him since we didn’t have enough terrier experience. So we brought home a Welsh Terrier puppy from a breeder. The first six months with Oliver were an adorable and exhausting blur of sharp teeth and wondering if we’d made a mistake.
Then comes Millie
But, by the time Oliver was nine months old, he had settled down and we apparently thought we were pros, or at least competent. The Humane Society now agreed and let us adopt an 8 year old Airedale when we visited to get Easter Bunny photos. Millie became the best big sister for Oliver. Other than her great desire to escape and her hatred of cats, she was well trained and she set a great example for Oliver.
Of course, taking a good photo of the two of them was challenging. It was like wrangling alligators sometimes.
Unfortunately, Millie passed away from cancer before she reached 10 years old so we didn’t have her nearly long enough, but she will always hold a special place in our hearts. To read more about a special memento of Millie, check out Vintage School Lockers.
I love terriers because they are playful, intelligent, and affectionate. But they are also independent, and can be stubbornly focused on particular things. I feel like their personalities mirror my own in a lot of ways. There’s no doubt that they are hard work and it takes special people (including trainers, vets, and groomers) to understand their terrier nature and work with it rather than against it.
I also love terriers because they are so darn cute. Often, people stop us on our walks with Oliver to remark that he looks just like a toy. I think many people have seen vintage toy terriers, especially the larger ones on wheels, and I had certainly liked vintage terriers before we started collecting them.
Our Vintage Toy Terrier Trio
First vintage toy dog
On our honeymoon, we spent a day at Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, a very large flea market at the Porte de Clignancourt in Paris. One of our few purchases was a vintage toy dog. He reminded us of Tin-Tin’s dog, Snowy, who was named Milou in the original French versions. Therefore, that’s what we decided to call this dog.
There are no tags to tell us what company made this dog, or how old he is. Our as-yet-unidentified dog seems quite old and well loved, however. He has a wire frame inside him that is poking out in a few places, such as his one front paw.
As well, wires that would hold his ears more upright are poking out under his jaw. We need to be quite careful with him because his head is coming unstitched. There are also a few holes in his fur through which you can see the “wood wool”, or excelsior stuffing.
The poor dog is also slightly front heavy and we usually need to prop him on something so he doesn’t tip over onto his head. He really could use some TLC, perhaps by the expert toy restorers on The Repair Shoppe. But regardless of his origin or his condition, I love him!
A Scottie dog on wheels
The second vintage toy terrier that we bought came from an antique show in a small town. Again, I’ve always had a fondness for Scottie dogs, and I loved his red wheels, and his little plaid coat.
He has a tiny remnant of a tag hanging from his neck.
But he was easy to identify because of the clear tag on his tummy, which reads: “Merrythought – Ironbridge Shrops. – Made in England”.
According to the Merrythought website, they began creating stuffed toys in late 1930. During World War II, the factory was used for map-making, and the soft toy makers produced other items needed for the war. Production of stuffed toys resumed in 1946. And based on the tag styles from the Teddy Bear Museum, I can conclude that Merrythought produced this Scottie dog after 1945 due to the style of the label. I did find a couple of similar Scottie dogs on identical wheels on Google, but none had the little plaid coat.
Terry the Airedale
Our last vintage terrier toy is a recent purchase, which I bought from a woman on Facebook Marketplace. She was selling other Steiff toys from her collection. She called him Terry the Airedale, and said he was Steiff even though he’s missing any buttons or tags. I do believe it highly likely that he is Steiff because he looks like other “Terrys” that I have found, such as on Worthpoint here, and here. Terry is also very similar to this one (minus the squeaker).
Steiff is a German company which began making stuffed toys in 1880. On the blog My Steiff Life, SteiffGal says the following, “In addition to Terry, Steiff launched many new smaller dog and cat models in the early to mid-1950’s as part of their global growth strategy of the era. Terry was made from mohair, standing, and unjointed. He was produced overall in six sizes ranging from 8 to 35 cm from 1950 though 1961; he was also made as a ride on toy in four sizes ranging from 28 to 50 cm from 1950 through 1961. All featured the breed’s charming “folded over” style ears in mohair, with the smallest versions having felt ears”.
I don’t care that much whether Terry is actually Steiff or not. I just think he is adorable and he reminds me of Millie. He has been very well loved and has some areas of mohair that are more bare than others. One front leg also has a bend in it, making him slightly unstable. But the two things I love most about him are the longer hair on his face and beard, and his recognizable terrier behind, or back stance.
You might also like The 7 Best Reasons to Buy Vintage.
Playful Decorating to Show Your Personality
Do you try whimsical or playful decorating? Do you like to incorporate any unusual or unexpected items in your home? If not, try thinking about your interests and how you can incorporate items to show your personality. That might be baseball memorabilia, vintage records from your favourite band, or a collection of vintage salt shakers. Time to let your personality shine!
I’d like to hear from you. What’s something playful, unusual, or unexpected that you like to decorate with? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,