While designer Thomas Hays acknowledges that some may be concerned that pets could ruin expensive pieces in a beautifully designed home, he argues that this is no reason not to have a pet, nor should you limit design because you have pet. Instead, he believes quite the opposite. Bringing nature in the form of plants and animals (pets) into the interior is essential for any good design. “It makes the design more organic,” he says, Hays believes that designs for homes should be “user-friendly.” This means that if you want to put something such as an expensive carpet in your home, but have a cat, perhaps considering hanging the carpet on the wall. In his own designs, he tells me “while I use fine antiques, I try not to create a museum. It is important to create an environment that invites you to come in and live in.”
In addition to being a designer, Hays is also a photographer. He has traveled to such places as Cambodia, Vietnam, Namibia, and Mongolia to photograph animals and people. These are also an important aspect of Hays’ designs. Having photographs of exotic locations on the wall is another way to bring the natural into his rooms. Hays’ photographs have exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions in Manhattan. Moreover, he uses his photos to promote a cause close to his heart. He has sold his paintings for the African Rainforest Conservatory, a grassroots group that raises money to preserve the rainforest and replant trees mainly in Kenya and Tanzania.
Hays’ own home is not without pets. Living with him and his wife are two parrots, Etu, and Brutus. “They are named after a betrayal,” he laughs. “It was my wife’s idea.” The two birds live in the den where they greet visitors. They are members of the family. “It is almost like having toddlers. They love being in the thick of things” Hays says. While birds are currently his only pets, he and his wife are considering adding a dog to the family in the future. In fact, Hays had never intended to be a bird owner. “I bought the birds on a total impulse” he tells me. “There used to be a great pet store in Tribeca. One day when my mother in law was in town, we all went there after brunch. We came out with three birds, one for my mother in law, and two for me and my wife.” Etu and Brutus have actually inspired Hays. He has found that he likes using the color of their feathers in his designs. Alas, his spontaneous decision to buy the birds was ultimately another logical step combining Hays love of nature and skill for design.