“Putting on the dog” has taken on a whole new meaning when it comes to designing with pets in mind.
Whether it’s fashioning an area or three for your pup or kitty to lounge, sleep or dine, you no longer have to fret about whether their stuff will clash with yours. High-style fabrics in a range of colors and fabrics for beds, bowls for dining and drinking, and furniture that is so good looking it can do double duty in your family room or bedroom, have been game-changers.
There are plenty of choices — not only on dedicated websites for all sorts of pet gear, but also from high-end fashion and interior designers, manufacturers and retailers who are dishing up options that blend with many styles of decor.
And there clearly is a need, as there are nearly 80 million pet-owning households, according to a national survey sponsored by the American Pet Products Association. That includes 10 percent or about 8 million new owners, the majority of which are millennials. It’s a business that has grown to around $60 billion annually, with around $14 billion spent last year on supplies (including over-the-counter medicines).
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Younger owners tend to pamper more and purchase more high-tech gadgets like pet cams, electronic health-monitoring collars and Bluetooth-enabled trackers and feeders. Then there’s the bling —Swarovski-encrusted collars and pet beds. There’s even a fragrance for dogs called Sexy Beast — a unisex blend of bergamot, vanilla, musk, patchouli, mandarin and nutmeg oils — that comes in a bone-shaped container and sells for $65.
One major catalyst has been the explosion of performance fabrics and fibers, which especially has been a boon to homes with children and pets. Fabrics from Sunbrella and Crypton have shown their trustworthiness as they handle sun, moisture, mildew and stains.
June Barker, who in 1993 launched one of the early pet websites, DogBedWorks, can attest to the toughness of these fabrics.
“I have a 90-pound lab who is a nester,” says Barker. “He has a Crypton bed, which is almost indestructible. It’s built for durability — plus style.”
Even high-end fabric manufacturers now include outdoor collections, which has expanded choices for people seeking flair, whether it’s a geometric Moroccan look or an op-art print or traditional toile. And lifestyle brands are smart to offer pet-related pieces that blend with their look.
Among the retailers offering dog beds, for example, are Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Pottery Barn, Urban Outfitters and West Elm. Carter says the pet-product marketplace has exploded since she launched her business.
“There’s so much competition now for function and decor,” said Carter. “Plus, websites are giving more information.”
Blending in and functionality have been top considerations for some designers. A few years back, architect/interior designer Bobby McAlpine included an elegant console in his furniture line for MacRae. Directoire style shown in weathered oak with ebony detailing features a nesting spot along the base, which tucks in a cushion for pets to stretch out.
Custom cabinet manufacturer Wood-Mode created Pet Parlor as part of its Embassy Row cabinetry to address pet issues. The concept, which reflects a larger trend catering to America’s booming pet market, features a multitasking room that has an island for brushing, grooming, sorting and folding; washer and dryer and laundry bins; hideaway dog dish drawer with adjacent food storage bins; a deep sink for bathing; and a “fountain” with faucet that allows fill-ups for a bowl tucked in beneath it.
The bar also has been raised with the design of pet beds. Although most beds average around $150, some are as expensive as furniture.
One with a tufted cushion on the Lap of Luxury Dog Spa website, looks like a leather club chair and sells for $495. Another model on the same site called Marilyn Muttroe, features Swarovski-encrusted bone shapes on each of the four sides of a 36-inch-long white iron bed and sells for $1,150.
Very often the designers are pet lovers/owners. Designer Annie Selke, who named her rug company Dash + Albert for two of her dogs, recently added to her company offerings under the label Fresh American with Wouf pet beds made of chew-proof and hose-off woven polypropylene stuffed with smooshable polystyrene beads. She also designed Wouf wear “slipcovers” made of softer fabric that can be secured with drawstrings.
Michael Tavano, creative director of Marks & Tavano, a New York workroom that designs custom upholstery, window treatments, bedding and tabletops, has been designing fancy dog beds for about 15 years. He and his partner, Lloyd Marks, have a pair of smaller rescue dogs.
“I wanted to design something that looked like a piece of artwork, a sculpture,” said Tavano, “something that has some life to it. It evolved. I used all outdoor fabrics.”
Pooch Penthouse, which has a tiger-patterned cushion and features a rooftop tray to hold leashes, was just recently put into the company’s line.
“You can put it next to a sofa and use it as a side table,” he says.
Another Pooch Palace called Lime Lattice has an exotic flavor.
“I wanted something with a bit of a Moroccan feel,” says Tavano. “The pattern is almost like trellis work.”
Prices start at $1,500.
Filipino designer Kenneth Cobonpue says sleep should be a “journey to the world of dreams.” So when he designed his Voyage collection, he said, “What better way to travel than in a bed reminiscent of papyrus and reed boats?”
Apparently, he thinks pets also deserve a little dreamy vacay. He includes a sculptural dog bed that’s actually outdoor safe as part of his collection.
Seattle designer Evan Gray Gregory built her company, Modernist Cat, on the idea that “the ways we incorporate our pet’s needs into our home is an opportunity for added beauty rather than a problem of hiding an eyesore. “
“I’ve taken litter box covers, dog crates, scratching posts, pet beds, and even food and water dishes, and made them into gorgeous, high-quality furniture that serves our human needs and desires, too,” said Gray Gregory. “It’s why my slogan is: ‘Made for pets. Designed for you.’”
Dog bowls also have stepped up style. Available in porcelain, metal, food-safe melamine in traditional or modern shapes, a gamut of colors and patterns from courtly checks to painterly florals.
Designer Bunny Williams recently designed a kiln-fired ceramic bowl for Ballard Designs, which is flat-bottomed and features a classic foo Chinese motif inside and out. It coordinates with a set of mats.
With so many fun and colorful products, there are no excuses to deprive your pets of a little swagger. It will make them feel like a million. Pawsitively.