Wool pelts, the interior design version of Bob Ross’ painted “fluffy little clouds,” can soften the hard angle of dining chairs, or warm your toes on chilly mornings.

Thomas J. Story

Back in the early ’00s, that mythical pre-Pinterest era when you found decor inspiration at friends’ houses and in magazines you bought on the newsstand, I first noticed sheepskin rugs at the Williamsburg loft of a Kiwi friend. He rolled out rugs to warm up his under-furnished apartment. They were plush and inviting, and a little slice of his New Zealand home that he hauled with him halfway across the world. And they almost made you forget that there wasn’t anywhere to sit. They softened the home’s hard edges without any added frills.

Today, they’re a decorating staple, draped over chairs on the snowy terraces of glamorous ski resorts, laid out at the foot of a bed, placed around a cocktail table in front of a fireplace for a relaxed sit-on-the-floor-and-do-a-puzzle kind of night. When my kids were babies, they each had their own little wool nest to nap on, and I now use those same rugs to cushion a wicker chair in my living room.

Home style icon and designer Jenni Kayne, who is a convincing proponent of using only natural fibers and materials in interior design, puts them everywhere when the temperatures drop. And we can’t think of a simpler, more efficient way to add a layer of cozy warmth to every room in the house.

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For anyone concerned about the ethics around buying and using sheepskin pelts, consider that only about 5% of the animal hides created in food production are used to create shearling boots, jackets, and home decor. The rest are incinerated or buried—up to 15 million in the U.K. each year. If you want to buy pelts from humanely raised animals, don’t skimp on a cheap version, which was likely factory farmed and processed by extremely low-wage workers. And if you notice that rugs or throws from a dealer are all the same shape and size, something isn’t right. Each one should be unique. Rugs from humanely raised sheep are available from brands like The Citizenry and Ecowool.

If your conscience won’t allow animal skins in your home, there are equally soft and easy-to-maintain faux fleece options available from West Elm and IKEA, which just introduced an ultra-soft acrylic version of its beloved affordable sheepskin.

Here are some of our favorite ways to get hygge with sheepskin, and where to buy them.

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1. Take the Edge off of Rattan.

Here’s the thing about rattan and wicker: It’s chic as can be, but it’s a little knobby and stiff. And most pillows slide right off of it. Toss a cozy pelt over a chair or settee and turn it into a wintry nest.

2. Toss over Outdoor Seating.

Backyard COVID-safe conversation circles are here to stay, and they are a four-season event with sheepskins. Just don’t forget to bring them inside overnight and keep them out of the rain.

3. Drape Across the Foot of Your Bed.

In the coldest climates—like the northern Swedish countryside, home to the Ice Hotel— people sleep with sheepskin under the covers. Here in the temperate West, you can keep one at the foot of your bed in case of a midnight chill.

4. Soften the Edges of a Modern Metal Chair.

Sorry, but these chic metal chairs are the opposite of cozy. Tossing a fuzzy hide on it helps.

5. Warm up Minimal Décor.

How do you make a long, stark bench next to a barn the most stylish outdoor seating you’ve ever seen? Layer natural sheepskin throws across it, plus a handful of pillows, and let it be.

6. Go Glamping.

Roll up a few rugs to take with you on your next chilly outside sleepover.

7. Give Your Cold Toes Something Good to Wake up To.

Jenni Kayne‘s “pacific natural” look leans heavily on sheepskin throws. She knows that bare feet like nothing more than a plush, woolen rug at the side of a bed.

8. Make a Bench More Bearable.

Encourage your dinner guests to stay longer by making that hard wooden bench a bit more comfortable.

9. Winterize a Swing Chair

A summery swing becomes a quiet winter corner by adding a layer of soft warmth.

10. Make Piano Practice More Inviting

A vintage piano bench gets a modern-rustic accessory in the form of a sheepskin laid over its bench.

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