Home Touch by Mary G. Pepitone

Dog-Gone Good Design

For more homeowners, being in the doghouse is a good thing, especially when it comes to design centered on their four-legged family members.

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners' Survey from 2018, an estimated 84.9-million United States households own a pet. The research found that Americans spent more than $72 billion on their pets, and that spending has steadily increased every year over the past two decades, says Tierra Bonaldi, Pet Lifestyle Expert with APPA, based in Stamford, Connecticut.

"Owners no longer consider their pet just an animal, but rather, equate them to another family member," Bonaldi says. "Because we view our pets in more human terms, our demand for higher quality and design has grown to be more in line with our preferences for products for the rest of the family."

Homes can have that (bow) wow factor with doggie decor and feline furnishings, which mirror our human preferences. "Home decor manufacturers are making products for pets that are not only functional and convenient for owners, but also something pet owners actually want to display in their homes," Bonaldi says. "With millennials now taking over as the primary pet-owning demographic, there is a demand for pet furniture that takes up minimal space, stores easily or seamlessly fits into their living space."

According to APPA, many builders are investing in special architectural accommodations for the four-legged inhabitants of homes. "Builders recognize that more than two-thirds of the population owns pets, and accommodating their needs as pet owners only makes for a more desirable home," Bonaldi says.

Evidence that home construction has gone to the dogs -- in a good way -- includes:

-- Washing and grooming stations in a mudroom, custom cabinetry with built-in food and water bowls, doggie doors and specialized low windows so pets can see outdoors.

-- Simple pet-friendly built-in options such as wall hooks for leashes and collars by the door; bins for pet food and toy storage; or a fold-down pet bed that is hinged at one end to store vertically against the wall when not in use.

-- Flooring and home furniture manufacturers offer pet-friendly options that essentially protect from everyday wear and tear of pets, including stylish stain-proof fabrics, while using materials that are durable, easy-to-clean and made to withstand claws and paws.

But to understand what pets truly need, form and function must also work from the four-legged perspective, says Abbey Stark, senior interior design leader at Ikea-US. A Swedish-founded company, Ikea designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture and home accessories, and is one of the most accessible contemporary home-goods retailers in the world.

"We brought in pet-loving designers and trained veterinarians to help develop Ikea's cat and dog home collection," Stark says. "The LURVIG line was created with our pets' natural needs and behavior as starting points."

With products that include a cozy cat hidey-hole, which fits into a bookcase, and snug dog beds with easy-to-clean cushions, a pet's essentials can be integrated into a minimalistic home design. "Having dedicated spaces for food storage, toys, and a place for your pet to enjoy a good night's sleep are all important for the happiness of your pet and the organization of your home," Stark says.

APPA says pet products that serve a dual function are most popular, including a dog bed and nightstand in one, or a litter box and end table combination. "We also noticed many manufacturers offering white and gray furniture, with more modern designs, again, mirroring the decor trends we're seeing on the human side," Bonaldi says.

Pet owners and homeowners can stylishly coexist by creating Zenlike zones for animals inside a house. "Nooks can create a cozy sleeping area for your pet, store a litter box or a food station," Stark says. "Selecting blankets and cushions that match the decor of your home is one easy way to provide a cozy place for your pet, while protecting furniture and not compromising the design of your home."

Homeowners don't have to undergo a house remodel to enjoy the perks of having a pet. Items in Ikea's LURVIG line range from $5 to $50, but you can also borrow inspiration from existing items in your home to attain pet purr-fection.

Living with pets as companions can fill a need for connection in this busy tech-filled world, Stark says. "Pets have become part of our daily lives," she says. "Pets give us unconditional love, and for that, we want to provide them with a home that is cozy, filled with happiness and a lot of treats."

Creature Comforts

For more information:

-- American Pet Products Association, www.americanpetproducts.org

-- Ikea-US, https://www.ikea.com/us/en/, Search LURVIG