It's been said that a dog makes a house a home. Whoever said that probably wasn't referring to the plastic crates, messy food bowls and plaid flannel beds that usually accompany man's best friend. Cats are no better, with owners struggling to hide accessories like the litter box or scratching post. Thankfully, there are solutions.
"When we're designing spaces it's important to design with the entire family in mind, and that includes pets," says Hank Matheny, owner and designer for Haskell Interiors. "I try to think about their needs - where they sleep, where they eat, etcetera and how best to accommodate them."
The never-ending battle against shedding can be won by choosing fabrics that are durable, easy to clean and match the pet's fur, he notes. Matheny has designed zippered dog bed covers that coordinate with rooms, or stairs to the owner's bed in case Fido is too finicky for the floor. And while Matheny is an animal lover - and owner to Dede, a 17-year-old cat he describes as a "diva"- he says that these innovations are for the owners as much as the pets. "Why spend all this money to make a pretty room and have an old, ugly dog bed sitting in the corner," he says.
At his 11,000-square-foot showroom, the Cleveland-based designer displays several ingenious solutions to co-habitation, including custom cabinetry fitted with a lower food bowl drawer. Between mealtimes the drawer can be closed - a feature particularly useful for people who like to entertain, or for households with curious toddlers.
In the same display, Matheny removed the double doors beneath the sink to fit it with a pet bed and curtains, creating a cozy nook for a dog or cat. This not only gives the pet his or her own space, but also keeps bulky beds out of the middle of the room, he points out.
In several other kitchen renovations Matheny has installed pull-out cabinets with lift-top containers specifically for dog food and treats. "I just like things neat and tidy," he adds. "A place for everything, and everything in its place."
He's not alone. It seems our world is increasingly going to the dogs (or cats) with innovative ways to seamlessly integrate our furry loved ones into our lives. More than ever people are willing to shell out big bucks for their constant companions. According to Pet Business Magazine, retail spending in the pet industry has actually risen during the recession to a whopping $52.69 billion in 2009, up five percent from the previous year.
On a local level, furniture stores are accommodating pet owners in a stylish manner. At Smart Furniture in North Chattanooga, designer Karen Culp created a perch for her cats, Rolling Stone and Peanut Butter, out of modular shelving from a line the store carries called Cubitec. The lime green, honeycombed structure allows her felines to climb high and peer out of windows while also providing storage for office supplies. The concept was so popular Smart Furniture now offers a special package dubbed CubiCat.
Revival in Warehouse Row also offers accessories for pampered pets, including water bowls that are handmade in Paris, crafted from black terracotta and covered in a milky white glaze. In the corner, a putty-colored dog bed with white Greek-key graphics blends seamlessly with the décor, which is exactly the point. And while the store will never have a section solely devoted to pets, the handpicked items are a wonderful complement to Revival's extraordinary offerings, says owner Rodney Simmons.
"Pets are such a big part of people's lives - both for our clients and our makers - so when we come across something that's wonderful we add it to the mix," says Simmons. "They say there are two things that improve the quality and length of your life, and that's prayer and pets. I don't think you can have enough of either one."