Nov 29, 2017

Designing With Pets

Lots of people rescue animals and bring them into their homes. The excitement of being a pet parents often causes them to forget to have an ideal  place for their to pet eat, sleep and play whether they're  home or not. Providing spaces for pets like cat trees, cat wall climbers and dog dens are essential to a happy pet/mom/dad relationship. When designing for a client that has pets, not only do I think about the overall elements of design, but the safety of the occupants. That includes plant and accessory selection, house cleaning products, and other items that pets may come into contact with. Like human children, pets too can be caught up in window .lblind cords, chew wires, and open cabinet doors. In order to keep client's homes looking as aesthetically perfect as they like, I frequently find ways to conceal litter boxes, feed bowls, and food storage. The products I recommend they use in the home - cleaning products, surface materials, bedding, furnishings, and flooring materials – are non-toxic.  Even  though pets may not have allergies like human children, it's essential to eliminate chemical off gassing from products used since their lungs are so much smaller and they live very close to the ground.

Here are some practical tips to create a space that you and your pet can enjoy.   The bottom line on what's important is to select the right product and finish, durability is a key factor, and of course so is time you will spend on maintenance. 

1) Add a throw.  Like my pets, yours may love the sofa, easy chair or bed, but shedding makes it difficult to keep clean.  Use an acrylic or polyester throw whose fibers capture hair quite well and easily wash out. Better to have hair on that throw than your best suit! For beds, you can add an extra decorative sheet or duvet that's easy to wash. Dining chairs can be covered with cloth napkins that look great & serve as protection for your fabrics. A great cleaning trick is to get a squeegee .... yep, the ones that are used to clean windows. They remove the hair from just about any fabric with a quick swipe.

2) Vacuum it up. Purchase an easily handled vacuum - shark makes one with a removable canister for carrying around easily – and use it faithfully at least twice a week. You will reduce the amount of oil and odor that shedding hairs leave behind. I have a small hand-held that slips behind the sofa..plugged in at-the-ready. 

3) Go hard.  On the floors that is... Having wall-to-wall pile carpet is nice but it captures hair, bacteria and odor. Wet stains are nearly impossible to fully remove. If you love carpet, try a berber or other low pile product. Consider area rugs and carpet squares. Be sure you use an anti-microbial, moisture resistant pad for long-term durability and best results. Porcelain or ceramic tile is an ideal flooring (See details in previous blogs) and with the variety in style and color, and easy care, make it practical and beautiful. Wood  floors are OK if you know the type of protective urethane coating, select a great hardwood, and even  get a distressed floor that will look better as it ages!
Soft woods do scratch and claws can often leave gougesKeeping a door mat outside the door will also help trap debris before entering. 

4) Remember The Walls: Consider the texture of your walls if you have pets that roam freely. A highly textured wall will act as a magnet for pet fur when your cat or dog rubs against it. Another idea to keep in mind when painting the walls is to choose a scrubbable matte finish - like those from Benjamin Moore - which are easier to clean and less likely for fun to stick to. While sheen paints, satin, eggshell and semi-gloss, seem like good choices, if you have to touch up anywhere, it will be more obvious than a flat or matte finish paint.

5) Switch fabrics. I love silk and wool but they are not pet-friendly. With body oils and nails, there is often enough damage from one 'leap' to cause me to want to re-cover.  Crypton has some fabulous colors and patterns and the fabric is stain, soil and bacteria resistant. Ultrasuede takes the place of velvet quite nicely.You may be in love with gorgeous silk bedspreads or drapes, but  cats will think nothing of shredding the fabric to pieces. Mine are attracted to the scent and lick it.  Choose fabrics - try to select pet-friendly colors - like cotton/polyester blends and Crypton, that fur won't stick to, also won’t attract your pet to use it as a scratch post or a chew toy. When selecting fabrics, pillows, flooring, etc....try to select colors that work with your pet.  A white marble floor for a black lab isn't practical so try a deep taupe tile or ebony bamboo flooring! You get the idea. Tapestry and other heavy woven fabrics can work well but beware of too much texture since it is a claw magnet and could pull. If you just can’t part with a favorite piece of furniture – think slip covers. Take note of  exposed wood on your furniture. That, like wicker, rattan and sisal will serve as a teething toy for your new puppy, whereas metal or chrome will keep them searching for another source. When you need a quick solution, fleece throws are generally inexpensive and easy to wash!


6) Window Treatments
: Your cats will love to sun themselves in a sunny window. So beware that cords and also entangle a cat or dog. My cats jump on the window sill and the dogs want to know who just drove up in the driveway. Although there are some fabulous window treatments for all styles, consider using blinds that you can raise and lower so they stay out of the way; use safety cords for pets too.  Roman shades, wood and woven blinds, and roller shades are all good choices. If you must cover a window all the time, consider the use of sheer fabrics since they allow dogs to look out while enabling access to the window sill for cats.

7) Storage for Toys and Dishes:  Utilizing a small cupboard, closet, bench or other piece of furniture to hide pet leashes, pet wipes, doggy treats and other pet essentials, keeps your home clean and organized. For pet dishes, try utilizing the toe kick under your cabinetry to store them. The food bowls simply slide out when it’s time for dinner, and slide back under to be easily concealed when not in use. Keeping fresh water available for your pets is important so just select an attractive water dish that remains out all the time. Baskets, cabinetry, covered benches and decorative boxes are just a few ideas to store cat and dogs toys so you keep your living spaces neat while having them ready at a moment's notice. Even litter boxes can be concealed nicely. 
8) Groom and bathe.  Trimming dog and cat claws regularly will help your floors and upholstery. If you brush pets often, less hair will end up everywhere else.  Some dogs hate baths, but it's easier than removing stains from your sofa. I discovered the DeFURminator and it's fabulous for removing hair from your pet so it stays off the floors and furniture.

10) Create barriers.  This refers to a literal barrier to prohibit pets from using certain areas in your home.There are some beautiful wooden fences at Frontgate, and may be perfect for puppies and kittens. Create a barrier between the litter box and the floor with boot trays that capture litter and make it easy to pull out and clean the boxes. Some cats don't like enclosed boxes...but that's another option.

When in doubt, have an interior designer come give you an evaluation. You'll be happier in the long run, you likely save your fabrics, furniture and your house. It will be money well spent. Enjoy!