Your pet at home
The era of the pampered pet has arrived: we've welcomed them inside our houses, onto the sofa and even into our beds. You see dogs and cats lounging in picture-perfect rooms in magazines -- no rugs have been chewed, no upholstery ripped, and no stains linger as evidence of delicate digestive systems. How is that possible? I've learned a few tricks since bringing home our French bulldog puppy, Lulu, two years ago, and asked some experts for advice on creating stylish sanctuaries to share with our furry friends.
According to dog behaviour expert and University of British Columbia psychology professor Stanley Coren, there are two main issues homeowners face when creating a welcoming environment for their pets. The first is safety, the second, cleanliness. I'd add selecting and organizing pet stuff to that list: even kittens and puppies come with accoutrements that can clutter our living spaces.
“The safety issue,” says Stanley, “is much the same as when you have a two-year-old child: the larger your dog, the higher the objects have to be placed.” Before Lulu came home, we covered unused outlets, tucked away cords and relocated a favourite antique – our bulldog-shape leather footstool was sure to entice our teething puppy, so it now sits on the top shelf of a bookcase.
Stanley suggests hiding tempting items behind closed doors (avoid glass doors at pet level); owners of particularly persistent breeds (terrier owners, that means you) may even need to add child locks to restrict access. More stylish solutions to the safety issue include installing hard-wired sconces or swing-arm lamps; adopting a more minimal style and clearing away breakable, chewable clutter from tabletops; and choosing tailored runners or placemats instead of long tablecloths that can be pulled down.
Within an hour of Lulu's arrival, every rug was whisked away lest it be mistaken for the paper-training area. The bare floor look is modern, but I find it a tad cold underfoot. And that's not the only disadvantage.
“Wood and ceramic floors are the easiest to keep clean, but large dogs can scratch wood,” says STYLE AT HOME decorating editor Kimberley Seldon, who has tackled the flooring issue personally (she has a pug named Delaney) and professionally. “Then there's ‘the slide factor': Delaney can get up a good run and end up going nose first into a kitchen cupboard.” Kimberley prefers a combination of wood or ceramic floors and area rugs. Patterned Persians, dhurries and Turkish carpets are terrific at hiding stains and fur. But if you prefer a neutral solid-colour rug, “Seagrass is wonderful,” says Kimberley, “because it's made of a waxy leaf that repels moisture and resists stains – unlike sisal, which is very absorbent.”
Another innovative carpet option is Interface's Flor system, which consists of carpet tiles that can be combined to cover an entire room or form an area rug. The design possibilities are enticing and the practicality undeniable: if a tile gets soiled, you can remove it for easier stain treatment or simply replace it with a clean one.
The right fit
For years, easy-clean slipcovers have been the most popular option for protecting upholstery from pet wear and tear. Vancouver designer Donald Kirkby, who has a Brittany named Trio, is a fan. His are made with his favourite vintage – but washable – textiles.
Cat owner Eleanor Jungkind of Elle Maison in Toronto sells a line of furniture with slipcovers (Colexion Perez) because she knows first hand about the havoc that claws can wreak. “My cat, Teddy, terrorized and wrecked my whole place,” says Eleanor. (Teddy modelled for us without incident.)
If slipcovers aren't your style, high-tech synthetic fabrics -- one of the strongest trends in upholstery -- like faux suede and leather, are a fashionable option. New York-based fashion designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka chose white vinyl for their sofa, a chic perch for the duo and their two papillons. “Today's vinyl isn't like the vinyl of the past,” says Mark. “It looks and feels great and you can just wipe it clean.”
For the upholstered furniture they design for their retail store, Oni One, Toronto designers Elaine Cecconi and Anna Simone offer Not-a-Hide, a faux leather that stands up to pets (even the store's burly mascot, Sparky) in style. “Ultrasuede is also fantastic,” says Kimberley. “Because it's a little slicker than a natural fibre, pet hairs come right off.” Just run a rubber glove over the fabric – the fur sticks right to the glove.
“No matter how well trained your animal is, there are going to be accidents,” says Stanley. He and his wife share their city and country homes with a beagle puppy named Darby, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling retriever named Dancer and a cat named Loki, so keeping on top of accidents requires vigilant spot cleaning. Though Nature's Miracle or other enzyme cleaners are handy for cleanups, deal with messes before they happen. Store a towel at the door for wiping paws, provide toys for aggressive scratchers and chewers, and groom pets regularly.
Despite the growing selection of toys, coats, leashes and other products available, Katrina Herrndorf wasn't thrilled with what she found when shopping for a kennel for her puppy, Chester, a Bernese mountain dog. “Just because you have a dog doesn't mean you have to give up on style,” she says. Sensing a void in the market, Katrina used her training as an architect to design Haus, a kennel/end table, which was launched last spring. The Haus fits pets up to 20 pounds; a medium-size model is in the works.
Also jumping on the bandwagon is über-designer Karim Rashid with his Dxg Bxne line of doggy goodies for Canadian manufacturer For the Dogs. Even IKEA has introduced a full range of pet products, including beds, a scratching post and toys.
Things are looking up for those of us who enjoy cuddling up to a pet without worrying about the furniture or compromising on style. In our house, we opted for a seagrass mat and have gradually switched our colour palette from pale neutrals to black and white, which is also a good match for Lulu's fur. While we may have given up on some things – silk upholstery, having a spotless home 24/7 – what we've gained in comfort, companionship and sometimes pure joy is easily worth the small sacrifices. I'm sure all pet owners would agree.