Pet Fancy: Designing with Pets in Mind

Cat on sofa

When you invite us into your home to help you with a project, we are often greeted by the family cat or dog,….or bird, or chicken. And even more so than families with kids, We are  thinking about watch-outs for pets with design elements. You many think I’m crazy for some of the questions I ask you when we are planning your design, but having a pet can be a real challenge when designing a beautiful space. I don’t want you to live to regret your investment down the road if something expensive gets damaged, and it will. Proper planning makes it easier to deal with.

Cat on shelfvia

We’re pet people. I have 3 cats. Linda has 3 dogs. Did I just say that? Yep it’s true. It’s a real time study over here daily as far as trial and error as to what works and doesn’t work with these creatures that are integral to our families and living with fancy interior design products.

When planning your design, we see it all. Kitchens need to be designed with pet supplies in mind, mudrooms with waterproof spray-down locations, special pet snack containers that don’t LOOK like pet snack containers. Where do the food bowls go? How does the elderly dog or cat get up onto the very expensive new bedding? I have to consider an answer to it all, because one thing I know is that pets are very, very important. And I need to take care of them. Sometimes their opinion is more important than the spouse, no kidding.

Dogs in mudroomvia

Here are a few of my favorite tips to consider when dealing with pets in design:

Window Treatments Do Not Mix Well with Animals: Really consider the style and design. Open weave fabrics, sheers, and silks are usually not a good idea. Cats love to scale things that are high. I have seen cats hanging from newly installed panels. Maybe consider a top treatment or roman shade style. That may be less tempting to get too. Also, as cords are an issue with children, same goes for pets. Highly anxious animals tend to chew on these items, so your shades aren’t going to work once they are sawn off. I learned this the hard way. There are many options for cording, so make sure you ask the questions as to what is available.

Looped Carpet and Delicate Fabrics: Tell me if a pet is in your future, even if you don’t have one It will determine what fabrics I suggest on your new sofa, or for the runner on the stairs. Yes, cats have claws, but dog nails do a ton of damage as well. Carpets with a loop are always susceptible to pulls. A boucle, or sisal type of weave is never going to work, also natural fibers won’t survive accidents.  A cut style. or tighter weave  is always going to wear better and hide any damage. While most nylon carpets you can cut a single thread, expensive wool Wiltons can snag and run all the way across like pantyhose or a sweater, so think twice before this investment.

carpet and window treatments1 | 2

Leather: choose antiqued, vintage, or distressed styles.  It does not work well with dog nails. You will see the markings. The best way to avoid this is to buy imperfect leather. Leather that is patinaed and ages, and looks even better with marks and bruises, and time. This way you won’t notice every last mar. And for the record I have seen cats destroy a Baker leather sofa in record time. Cat nails will slice through leather. I hate the idea of declawing, but truly if you are making the investment, it may be something to consider. Or keep them out of the room where the good furniture goes. i struggle with this concept myself, but it’s best to consider your lifestyle and all the options before making a purchase.

Bedding: Let’s face it. Everything ends up on this bedding. We have had every cat excrement appear in our own home. Only go with washable materials. It’s a must. I will never let you buy bedding that you have to iron or dry clean. It’s not necessary. There are so many good washable fabrics out there, and good bedding resources . You can get a big look in bedding with Restoration Hardware or West Elm bedding, and custom designed pillows or a designer headboard. If the pets sleep on the bed or gets mad at you, it’s going to happen.Buy washable and add Designer elements.

Bed and leather1 | 2

Blocking Against Barks and Meows: We have a 19 year cat that yowls louder than a human. It echos off the walls. I thought about having the hardwood floors exposed for a few minutes on our stairs after we had the floors refinished. After she woke us up every night at       2 am meowing, we got carpet. Upholstered fabrics are an amazing noise barrier. Whether on windows, floors, or furniture, fabric covered surfaces may ease your sleep, and your neighbors nerves if you have a barker in the house.

Allergies: Many people love pets and live with allergies. The best course of action is to use natural materials such as cotton, linen, and wools that can be laundered easier. These natural materials have natural immunities that won’t hold the allergens as much as a synthetic fibers. They can also be cleaned better, and laundered less expensively than the alternative. Regular vacuuming of furniture, window treatments, carpets, and washing of bedding will assist with pet allergies. There are some great durable fabrics out there that we can specify for families with pet allergies. I don’t want your design showing wear and tear after multiple cleanings, so let us know so we can make the right selection.

Dog and cat walk1 | 2

Hardwood Floors: When installing hardwood floors, the harder the material the better. So Maple or Oak will beat out pine any day. Pine is the softest and will show every nail mark, mar, and imperfection. Even walnut, which is so popular, now, is a softer hardwood. The best course of action is to install a wood with a lot of natural graining or something called “character” flooring. It has some distressing or hand-hewned effect so it won’t show traffic and wear and tear. Lastly, make sure it gets sealed properly, and gets maintained. If your pet has  a regular “accident” area, it will damage the wood. Be aware of what is happening under a rug or the carpet, I unfortunately learned this the hard way.

Dog on wood floorsvia

So we love pets, and they are a fact of life, and crazy enough, some of our largest clients tell us they are getting a puppy a week after the project ends. So don’t mess around, and we’ll help you “bark and meow” your way through the design process.


Opening Image: Designed by Kim Johnson

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