When visitors step inside Linda Cutail's home they see spots before their eyes.
Linda Cutsail had some cows, ee-eye, ee-eye, oh.
Actually, more than some. But then again, really none. Her cows aren't beef or dairy, like those next door to her on a real farm. They are an ersatz bovine bounty, the dominant decorative motif inside -- and outside -- her split-level home in the rolling Maryland countryside.
Think Holsteins, the dairy cows with the big black spots on their white hides.
"Everyone knows I'm a little off the wall," said Cutsail, 53, whose walls are adorned with cows -- in frames, in hangings, in clocks, in adhesive cow "Wallies" in her dining room.
"I was out playing golf and I came home and these Wallies had appeared," says her husband, Lew, 49. "Every time, after I play golf, I'm kind of afraid to walk in the house."
Then there's what's become known as the "cow rock" in her front yard -- a huge boulder of a certain suggestive shape she painted white with black spots. It has become a neighborhood landmark.
"If I call for (food) delivery, the guy says, 'Are you before or after the cow rock?' We say 'We are the cow rock,' and everyone knows where it is. I repaint it twice a year."
The reason why
There are, no doubt, complex psychological reasons why people choose to decorate their homes with images, emblems and figurines of a particular animal, whether it be cows, bunnies or bears. A consuming predilection for a particular species could mean anything, said Washington psychiatrist Lise C. Van Susteren. "You really can't generalize. There is no one answer."
But, she added, "it does show a sense of humor. It's a playful sort of thing. You get people to comment, take an interest."
Sue Pelley is national spokesperson for Interiors by Decorating Den, which has more than 500 franchises in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. She has seen such ardent fondness for particular animals before (a house with a surfeit of "moose accessories" comes to mind) but never as a dominant motif all over the house.
Cutsail "obviously has taken something she's passionate for and surrounded herself with it because it makes her feel good. The extent of the collection this woman has as a totally dominant decorating theme very rarely happens."
Pelley says most people display collections in curio cabinets, or restrict them to one area of a house. "How much is too much depends on what they're collecting," she said.
For Cutsail, the choice of cows is not terribly complicated. "People are always asking me, 'Why do you like cows?' I like black and white -- it's right, it's wrong, it's black and white. I'm not crazy."
But a little eccentric? Perhaps. Rolling down her knee-high cow stockings, she proudly displays a small cow she had tattooed on her ankle during a recent trip to Texas, where her 21-year-old son is stationed in the Air Force.
So where does Cutsail find her cow collection? Craft shows are a source. She also spends a lot of time on eBay -- two or three hours a night, Lew Cutsail says. "If you type in the word 'cow,' you'll get 12,000 things that pop up," she says. "I was trying to get these cow clogs last night, but I got outbid."
"I have cow clothes, a cow coat, cow gloves, a cow scarf. I even have fuzzy cow hats," she says. "I want my coffin painted with cow spots. My husband said he wouldn't unless I put it in my will, so I did. They're gonna say, 'Oh, my gosh, she really liked cows.' "
There's hardly a room in the three-bedroom house that isn't bovine-bedecked. Multiple cow "welcome" signs greet visitors at the front door, which has a regular doorbell and a cow bell. You enter and wipe your feet on a cow doormat.
"I think they multiply when I'm sleeping," Lew Cutsail says. Though, he acknowledges, "They don't eat much."
Showing off her house of cows, she notes, "I mean, I think it's tastefully done. Some people, if they don't like cows, that's fine. But people are always amazed."
In kitchen cabinets, cows browse on glasses, flatware, placemats, utensils, pitchers, dish towels, towel holders, teapots, potholders, trivets, cutting boards and a soap dispenser. A cookie jar moos when you lift the lid. The refrigerator is white with magnetic black spots. The kitchen stool legs have little cow booties.
"I hope you don't mind drinking out of a cow mug," Cutsail says, offering a visitor some coffee.
"Did you catch the wall switches?" she asks. "They're cows too." So are wall socket covers.
"Everyone who comes in here says it's very nice," she says. "It may be all cows, but it isn't tacky. I just love my cows. I do." Cutsail pulls out a pair of rubber cow-adorned boots.
"They're not your normal boots," she says.
"Well, you're not the normal person, honey," Lew says.
Harder to find
Her husband, a brick mason by trade who works in highway maintenance, is generally so good-natured about his wife's obsession, one is tempted to call him an enabler. He buys her cow gifts for birthdays and anniversaries. "But it's getting more difficult," he says, "because there's not much she doesn't have."
For her 50th birthday, Lew Cutsail bought his wife a 500-pound cement cow he spied for sale in Pennsylvania. It took three men and a forklift to move it onto their porch, where it sits by the front door, not far from the cow chimes and windsocks.
A cow clock keeps time in the hot-tub room, where the ceiling fan has cow spots. One of her favorite ornaments is here, too: a sign that says, "Husband and Cow Missing. $25 Reward for Cow."
In the couple's bedroom, she points to cow curtains, valences, a comforter, sheets and pillow cases. In one closet, Cutsail keeps her collection of 30 or so cow shirts. In their upstairs office, there's a cow table lamp and a cow princess phone, a cow mouse and mouse pad, and a cow-shaped wooden wall clock.
Even her office in Rockville, Md., where she is the human resources manager in the Montgomery County permits department, is decorated with cows. At Christmas, she hangs cow lights. On Fridays, a mechanical cow flaps its wings.
Back home, a cow shower curtain and a cow toilet seat cover distinguish the upstairs bathroom.
"The living room is not as extreme yet," she says. There are some cow throw cushions, figurines by the fireplace, a planter with the word "moo" printed around the outside, two clocks and a few other cow things, with room for lots more.
"Notice how she said 'yet,' " notes her husband.