11/11/2010 at 06:35 PM EST
, a former interior designer who runs Atelier, an eclectic "British bohemian" boutique in England, travels around the world searching for funky textiles and furniture that are just right for her tongue-in-cheek shop. The one thing she could never really find? Good lighting.
"There's so much stuff I hate, and I just wasn't finding anything I like," Ahern tells PEOPLEPets.com.
She got so fed up that she took what she'd been imagining in her head – that perfectly "Portsmouth with a twist" lamp – and designed it herself.
What Ahern had pictured was something she saw when she took her 14-month-old Welsh terrier to school, where she goes a few days a week.
"I remember taking her there and seeing all her buddies, and I thought that all her different friends would make great lamps," Ahern says. "Then I thought, 'No, I'm totally crazy.' "
She started sketching anyway. Ahern created greyhound, poodle, bulldog, even pelican-shaped bases for the lamps, which would be topped with very whimsical, feminine shades that would be atmospheric and cast a subtle, soft glow.
Ahern spent months finding a local factory that would produce a small run of hand-thrown, hand-glazed bases, and commissioned the silk and taffeta shades from a studio in Paris. In September, she launched her first capsule collection of lamps.
To her surprise, "the dogs outsold everything," she says. "There's something about dogs that people love."
Ahern has been overwhelmed by the response – in fact,Robert Downey Jr. called last week looking to use the lamps for a party, and Harrods will soon be selling the quirky pieces in its department store.
You can find Ahern's animal lamps (starting at $315) at Atelier's online store
. See more products for your home on PEOPLEPets.com:Jonathan Adler's Chic Makeover of Doggie (and Kitty!) Decor REVIEW: Dyson's DC23 Animal Looks Like a Pet, But Keeps the Room Clean