What are the must-have amenities for today’s pampered pet?
By Tim McKeough
When you’re designing or decorating a home, you have to consider the needs of the occupants — and that means not just people but any resident animals.
“Our clients are very serious about their animals,” said Jimmy Crisp, the principal of Crisp Architects in Millbrook, New York.
At Crisp’s home, in nearby Poughquag, New York, there are multiple dogs in residence, along with a cat. So it’s not surprising that many of the homes he designs have built-in amenities for pets.
Amy Storm, the principal of interior design firm Amy Storm & Co., in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, thinks along the same lines. “Most of our clients do have pets and certainly want to pamper them and create special places for them,” she said. “It would actually be unusual that we wouldn’t be working on some sort of location for the pets to eat and bathe.”
What are the must-have amenities for today’s pampered pet? Read on.
The dog shower
One of the most popular features is a dog shower. Usually placed in a mudroom or laundry room with direct outdoor access, it offers a convenient way to rinse muddy paws and fur.
Kate Marker, an interior designer in Barrington, Illinois, added a shower for her two dogs to the lower-level mudroom of her own home. “We made the dog shower opening fairly large and implemented a hand-shower component for easy washing,” Marker said. There is no shower curtain or glass door to get in the way, which makes it easier to reach in and scrub the dog.
For larger dogs, a shower with an opening at the floor makes the most sense, Storm said. But for smaller dogs, it’s often better to raise the shower, so that it resembles an oversized sink, she said — that way, you don’t have to hunch over.
And don’t forget: Dog showers can be multifunctional. A raised shower for small dogs “could double as a mudroom sink,” Storm said, while those that extend to the floor offer a great place to dry laundry if you add a hanging rod.
Food and water bowls can look like an afterthought if separate dishes are simply placed on a waterproof mat. A better alternative is a built-in pet food station.
Shelby Van Daley, a founder of interior design firm Daley Home, included an open cabinet with built-in dog bowls when she was designing a kitchenette for a family room in Austin, Texas. The pet dining space is lined in quartz countertop material and has cutouts to hold removable stainless-steel bowls. There’s also a pot filler, to make it easy to add water.
“A lot of our clients look for things they can add to their home to make it easier having pets,” Van Daley said.
If you don’t want to see bowls sitting out all day long, there’s another option: Install a low drawer in a bank of cabinetry, with cutouts for bowls, so you can slide it closed when it’s not in use.
“It’s a hidden dog bowl,” said Crisp, who once built a bowl drawer into the base of a mudroom bench seat.
A custom crate
Crate training your dog shouldn’t mean putting up with an ugly wire structure in the middle of your living space. Many designers are creating upscale custom crates that are built into homes.
Van Daley designed a pair of crates with brass-mesh doors and enough space inside for dog beds as part of storage cabinets in the primary bedroom of one project. And Crisp designed a custom crate to fill the unused space under a staircase.
If you don’t need a crate but want a place to hold wet dogs in the mudroom, there are other options.
For one client, Storm designed a mudroom with a half-height screened pocket door that pulls out of the wall like a baby gate. Compared with a solid door, “you still have good light and good air, and everyone can still see each other,” she said, “even though the dogs are secured.”
An architectural playground
While dogs can usually get outside to play, indoor cats don’t have that opportunity. To compensate, some cat owners design their interiors to double as feline playgrounds.
Alexandra Barker, the founder of New York-based architecture firm BAAO, prioritized cat-friendly features while renovating a Brooklyn row house for a couple of cat lovers. “They came to me with a request to design a house for them and their two cats,” Barker said. “Right from the get-go, the cats were on an equivalent plane.”
The home’s defining feature is a built-in bookcase that runs along one wall of the living room. Some of the shelves project out into the room to serve as cat steps, and the top of the structure angles up and down to serve as a cat run. At one end, the run reaches a ceiling hatch that opens to the primary bedroom above; at the other, a hatch opens to an art studio.
A concealed cat bathroom
For another client in Brooklyn, Barker is designing a cat bathroom that conceals the litter box.
“It’s a door into a closet with a portal in it,” she said, so the cats can come and go as they please and no one has to look at the litter box. “Then you can open the door to take the litter box out.”
The same thing can be achieved with cabinetry, by adding a cat door that opens to a concealed litter box in a base cabinet. That way, Barker said, “the litter box isn’t this object always parked in your way.”
If you want to create an indoor feline playground but aren’t ready to renovate, there are products that can be installed on an existing wall.
Mike Wilson co-founded Catastrophic Creations, a manufacturer of cat-play equipment in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after devising a wall-mounted rope bridge for his own cat in 2013.
“We had a small apartment and were looking for ways that we could expand the place for him without taking up floor space,” Wilson said. “I wanted it to look good. We just weren’t interested in regular cat trees.”
On Etsy, the bridge was a hit, and the company soon developed a range of wall-mounted cat runways, steps, scratch posts and hammocks.
Jackson Cunningham started Tuft & Paw in Vancouver, British Columbia, for similar reasons. “The idea came from our own experience of living in a smaller space in the city and caring about the stuff we put in that space,” Cunningham said. “When it came to pet furniture, you had to settle for one of these tacky, fuzzy cat trees.”
Tuft & Paw now makes cat hammocks, perches, beds and litter boxes that are as considered as any piece of designer furniture.
After all, creating a home that takes into consideration the needs of animals shouldn’t mean compromising on design.
“People love their pets,” Barker said. “The idea is to integrate their pets’ needs into the design of their spaces.”