Designing for Dogs and Cats

Decorating a home with pets in mind has come a long way.


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Fabric is key when it comes to pets.

Stephen Loewinsohn

 

This story from our October issue will be available online Nov. 1. Copies of our print issue are available by calling 510-238-9101.

Animals are definite members of the family these days, and so it’s only natural that you make a place for them in your home. There’s absolutley no need, however, to let your decor go completely to the dogs. Following are a few tricks for integrating your hairiest kin with both style and ease.

First, evaluate your animal. If you’ve got a shedder, color coordination is key. Even the most fastidious housekeeper will find it difficult to keep up with all that pet hair. So give your lint roller a rest, and choose upholstery fabric that is similar in shade to your pet’s fur. You’ll save yourself a ton of aggravation and a lot of work.

If Fido doesn’t really shed, you’ve got much more leeway in terms of color, but your material choices are still crucial. Stick with a fabric that is easy to clean and designed to take a beating, like an indoor/outdoor poly. If you think this resigns you to a stiff, plasticy feel, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. This material has come really far in recent years. Not only is it available in every shade in the rainbow—and tons of patterns, too—it comes in weaves ranging from heavy canvas to Dupioni silk. With so many options to choose from, you’re sure to find one that suits.

Leather is another good choice, as you can wipe any hair or messes right off. You’ll want an imperfect-looking hide, with scuffs and wrinkles built in. Any damage your pet may do will only improve the patina, resulting in a look that’s both perfectly rumpled and casually chic.

That being said, if your pet is a real scratcher, you probably want to steer clear of anything except velvet. Velvet is constructed differently than other fabrics. It’s made of cut fibers, woven with great density. This means that claws don’t have anywhere to grip (or rip) it, making it a particularly good choice for homes with cats. Take care with your rug choice, too. Messes happen, so you want something that is either easy to clean or hides dirt well. Look for one with a low pile and dense pattern. Kilims come to mind, as do Perisan rugs—the more beat up, the better. Any extra wear and tear will only add to their antique feel.

If you favor something a little less bohemian, try an indoor/outdoor rug. You can find them with stripes, flowers, and everything in between. They’re also pleasingly soft underfoot, which makes them nearly indistinguishable from their wool or cotton counterparts. The only difference: When they get dirty, you can just hose them clean.

Of course, allowances must be made for the animals in your life, but there’s no need to compromise style to give your pets a home. A few shrewd choices will create a space that’s easy to live in, whether man or beast.

Sarah Coombs is an interior designer based in Alameda.

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