When you walk through a pet owner’s front door, you usually get one of two distinct impressions: either this is a person’s home and a pet lives here, or this is a dog’s house and a person just happens to also be occupying it. And as impressions go, who can say whether one is better than the other? Nevertheless, some of us pet owners who feel our homes may have “gone to the dogs” would like our human style to still be represented when guests come to call.
This year, I moved to a new home and had the opportunity to completely redesign my living quarters. I wanted something with both form and function for myself and my pets—because when you have animals, you need to make sure you can efficiently meet their needs or life will be pretty inconvenient. Lucky for me, there is an entire online community dedicated to creating functional and stylish spaces for your pets. With a quick internet search, I found a multitude of images to inspire me, and I got right to work.
I’m a big planner in every aspect of my life … except for my living space. So the planning stage was a struggle for me, but with enough inspiration, anything is possible. I found the easiest way to envision the new layout was to focus on functionality. When your primary goal is finding the most comfortable and efficient way to care for your pet, everything else falls into place.
Instead of worrying about the design, which I could work out later on, I thought about how I could make my space efficient. Keeping in mind my pets’ needs and habits, I first created a blueprint of where each pet item should be located. Some items went into their logical spots, such as food bowls being near the kitchen, and others depended on our regular routines.
For example, my dog loves her crate— that’s her zen zone. However, her eyesight is very poor in the dark and when she feels uneasy, she tends to start running toward her safety zone. So I chose a spot for her crate that is against a wall directly in front of the doorway into my bedroom, which gives her an unobstructed path to her crate. Then I thought about bath time. I remembered my back doesn’t appreciate having to bend over for an hour to bathe and groom her. She’s a pretty small dog, so I decided to create a raised grooming area to save my aching back. This is rather simple to do—you find a small bathtub online and place it on a raised platform. You can create this platform from small office tables. You can also search online for pre-fab dog bathtubs and grooming tables that can fold to save space when not in use.
My parrot enjoys being the center of attention and always craves company. I decided to place his cage in a nook in the living room that specifically faces the entertainment area of the main room, part of the kitchen, and the hallway. Now he’s always able to see his people and not feel lonely.
Once each of the key elements had a designated area, it was time to figure out how to integrate these items into the design of the rooms.
PHOTO COURTESY ANABEL DFLUX»
PHOTO COURTESY ANABEL DFLUX»
To me, this is where the fun began … finding furniture! I could buy the same ol’ run of the mill products from a big box store, but my whole point was to make a space that looks a bit more elegant than the usual expected items. With design finding its way into more and more pet products, it doesn’t take too much digging to find something nice.
Now, what really makes the difference is finding pet furniture that also serves another function, such as storage. This is what really appealed to me, because I wanted to maintain the large open spaces in my rooms (especially for dog training!)—I didn’t want rooms overflowing with furniture to have to zig-zag around. Trying to think like the “tiny house” folks on TV, I was determined that every piece of furniture would be at least dual purpose. Luckily, I found many selections that fit my criteria.
The first thing I needed was a dog crate—a “nice” one! Many companies have essentially reinvented the look of dog kennels to be much more design-centric. Numerous specialty pet companies make absolutely gorgeous custom-built wooden dog crates—stunning pieces of furniture that double as tables or countertops. Just what I was looking for! These well-appointed crates look nothing like a traditional dog crate or kennel—the kennel part is beautifully tucked into the bottom section where it’s almost invisible.
Feeding stations are another good addition to your functional design. Furniture with pullout trays at the bottom can hold your pet’s dishes, allowing feeding time to be as simple as pulling out the tray (and then tucking it away so you don’t trip over the feeding area). The drawers at the top can store food, treats, and medicines, keeping all your mealtime supplies contained in one easy-to-access spot. Similarly, walking stations are great for dog owners—think small, built-in shelves by the front door that hold all your dog-walking essentials, from leashes and collars to poop bags and collapsible bowls.
PHOTO COURTESY MAUPETS.COM»
In my search, I nabbed a decent-sized armoire that I converted into pet storage. All the pull-out drawers hold my dog’s things, with the side drawers being home to my parrot supplies. I bought various inexpensive drawer organizers that help keep each item nicely in its place. Minus the toy drawer, of course—that’s just a mess, which is how my dog likes it!PHOTO COURTESY MAUPETS.COM»
If you don’t have the space for something standalone, consider modifying something you currently have so it functions as some kind of pet solution. Small spaces can be made into hideaway pet areas—many pets seem to like being tucked away where no one can see them, especially cats. If you position hideaway spots around your home strategically, your furry best friend can find ways to hang out with you wherever you are and not be in your way!
And, before you drop hundreds of dollars on fancy crates and food stations, be realistic about what makes sense for your pet. If you have a large dog with a habit of breaking out of crates, a $1,000 wooden crate bench may not be the right call. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have nice pet furniture; it just means that you’re going to need to use a little creativity.
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Instead of getting a custom crate that really isn’t intended for destructive pups, purchase a crate strong enough to hold your pooch—beautiful or not—and, if necessary, cover it with a sturdy table top or an elegant fabric. There are specialty websites you can visit where crafters make custom wooden and metal toppers for all sorts of crates, giving the same fancy appearance and storage capability as a designer crate. If a hardtop isn’t your style, order a fabric crate cover that matches the colors or existing fabric in your home, or toss a pretty throw over the crate. With the right print, even a simple throw will help give your home that intentional, pulledtogether look.
In my case, I have a pup who has never tried to escape her crate—in fact, the crate is her favorite place to be when we aren’t actively playing or hiking. So I was able to snag an inexpensive but snazzy furniture-style crate that happened to exactly match the dark brown wood of my bedroom furniture.
Storage and Organizational Solutions
There are so many clever ways to tackle the storage and organization dilemma. The one I went for (and the one that seemed most recommended in design communities) was that of organizational boxes and baskets. These are easy to find in most home goods or general merchandise stores, and they come in various cute designs. A lot of them are stackable as well, maximizing the space.
A creative way to store leashes and collars is to attach industrial pipes horizontally on a wall that these items can hang from, adding a modern or industrial touch to your space. If that’s not your style, create a utilitarian wall using a peg board to hold all of your dog walking essentials in one place.
Because I like to have all my supplies contained in designated areas, I set up numerous wall shelves and a wall shelving unit to hold all my pet gear. My home, like most, had so many unused corners and crannies, it was great to give them all a purpose.
Gates and Off-Limit Areas
As much as you love your pets, you probably have certain spaces in your home where you’d prefer they not go. If so, having gates to block off-limit areas are a must. I didn’t like the way traditional baby gates look, so I was very much on the hunt for a gate that matched with my tastes. Instead of going with wires or bars, I found plexiglass gates that looked clean and modern, a much better fit for my home. My dog enjoys this as well, because she can still see in, so she doesn’t feel left out.
Now, if rich wooden bars or sleek metal wires are what you’re looking for, there are plenty of beautiful options on the market, and some won’t even break the bank. Pocket gates are a space-saving option for doorways, and they keep the gate aspect of the design minimal.
Keeping the Design CohesivePHOTO COURTESY ANABEL DFLUX»
So, what keeps the design looking … designed? It’s all about being cohesive with your colors. I found that what really pulled my design through in each room was keeping the color scheme cohesive, particularly with my accent items. My dog’s storage boxes are the same slate grey as my wall paint, my dog’s blankets match as well, and of course, her furniture items match the slate grey of my furniture. My parrot’s cage is the same slate grey, so to break it up, I threw in some teal accents here and there, which catch the eye and add a bit of interest. I stole this appealing color scheme from my dog’s favorite portable crate, which is grey with teal seams.
For me, I chose a neutral color scheme with only minor pops of color, which kept shopping for decor pretty simple. But going bold is no problem, so have fun with it. The online shopping possibilities are endless, and you’ll find every product you can imagine in most any color you want, from hot pink cat scratching posts to lime green dog beds. These great pops of color make for a fun, inviting space.
I’m in no way an interior designer (not even close!), but I did manage to find the perfect balance between function and beauty when creating a space to accommodate my pet focused lifestyle. From storage cabinets that pull double duty as tables and organizers, to basic pet products that are tasteful and pleasing to the eye, I found just the right items to fit both my space and my budget. And you can, too!