Pet Friendly Design

9 Tips for a Chic, Pet-Friendly Home

Your home can be beautiful and pet-friendly, too, with these pointers from design experts.

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6. Choose hard surface floors.

Bare floors are the way to go, but bare doesn't have to be boring. Painted concrete is lovely and durable, as are terrazzo and brick. Hardwood floors are simple to mop or vacuum and add a warm glow to a room, but keep in mind that large dogs can scratch wood.

The best floor is ceramic tile, because it's easy to clean and resistant to any stain an animal can dish out. Tile is toenail-proof, it makes a room look sleek and elegant, and it gives furry animals a cool place to nap during hot weather. Porous materials like marble or other natural stones aren't as pet-proof as other hard surfaces, since acids present in pet spit-up can stain them, even if they're sealed, designer Nan Ruvel says.

7. Set up an animal room near an entry.

"It's important to consider your pet's lifestyle when you establish the layout of your house," Nan Ruvel says. "If your dog goes outside, make sure he can come back in through an area that's super-impervious." She just finished a project in which she converted a breakfast room into a mudroom for a client's two dogs. "She wanted a place where she could get dirt off them before they came in the house," she says. To do this, she put porcelain tile on the walls and floor of the breakfast room, which opened onto the backyard. She replaced the table with a banquette upholstered in stain-resistant fabric and equipped with under-the-seat storage for leashes and food. Nan also installed built-in shelves on the walls where the client could keep towels used to wipe the dirt off the dogs when they came inside from the yard.

8. Give your pet tidy, attractive treats and toys.

Dogs adore pig's ears and rawhide bones, but Julia Szabo says they're a bad idea. "They're hideous, they're smelly and they're as bad for your pet as they are for your floor," she says, pointing out they're coated in nitrates and leave greasy stains on floors and furniture.

It's important to give your dog something to chew on, or he might go after a chair leg. Julia suggests rubber toys like the Kong or the Super-Tuff Rhino. For cats, Szabo recommends Everyday Studio's Cat Tree (www.everydaystudio.com), a scratching post/climbing tree combo that hangs on the wall. It's a chic, geometrically shaped concoction of colored metal and cardboard that offers a stylish alternative to homely, carpet-covered scratching posts and plywood climbing trees. "It's like a work of art for your pet; it's beautiful and it's functional," she says. Another option that will allow your cat to get out his inner panther, stylishly: shelves for him to perch on. Julia sells "Tiger Branches," a set of wooden demilune shelves that attach to the wall. (Visit www.animalhousestyle.com for prices and ordering information.)

9. Match colors to your pet's fur.

Your pet can be a source of inspiration when choosing colors for your room. Paint a concrete floor the same shade of gray as your cat. Cover your sofa in a honey microfiber that matches your golden retriever. This isn't just an aesthetic shout-out to your pet; it's also a practical choice because the hair they leave behind won't be as visible. "Put a white floor in a house with a black Lab, you're going to have black tumbleweeds everywhere," says Nan Ruvel.

Julia Szabo tells of a New York artist who painted a room in his Manhattan digs a brilliant shade of green inspired by his Amazon parrot. "It reminds the parrot of his ancestral home in the jungle. The wall is gorgeous, and it makes the bird much happier," she says. Painting walls white is a bad idea aesthetically and practically, she says. "Let's face it; a white wall goes gray in a minute around dogs." This forces you to be more creative and daring when choosing colors, Julia says. "Pets present you with the opportunity to really work with color."

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