Designers accept canine realities

Thoughtful home decor includes furniture, accessories tailored for the stylish dog

February 11, 2007|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,Universal Press Syndicate

Home design has gone to the dogs.

So, throw out the scruffy blankets and smelly pillows. Think stylish pet furnishings that embrace just about every design fashion from cottage toile to rustic lodge, mid-century modern to arts and crafts, period French to Eastern.

Beds for canines are not confined to the obvious oversized cushions - but even those familiar forms are fancier, with fetching fabrics and details. There are metal and scrolled iron beds and wood frames in finishes from cherry to zebrawood to painted pine that include sleigh, trundle and four-poster styles.

Pet houses, beds and food stations often are simply scaled-down versions of furniture and accessories in our own homes, and that comes as no surprise. Many furniture designers also own dogs and get frustrated trying to find dog beds that complement their media-worthy interiors.

Consequently, there are fancy throws for the sofa and the car to protect from spills and odors. There are doghouses that range from Louis XV to pagoda styles and sassy pet cabanas for the garden and poolside. Those ubiquitous plastic crates have chic alternatives in woven rattan or sleek metal for the urban dog.

There are pet chairs and sofas, some with drawer storage beneath. There are chaises, some upholstered in fancy patterned brocades and punctuated with tassels on plush rolled arms.

Many designers believe pet accessories and furniture should complement home decor.

"It makes sense," says Eileen Chanin, founder of Calling All Dogs, a Web business she started seven years ago when there were only about 20 or 30 others like hers. Today, she says, there are almost 8,000.

"I'm surprised when you go into beautiful million-dollar homes and walk into the mudroom where the dog stuff sits - and there are plastic bowls," Chanin says. "There's a huge emphasis on the home and everything that goes in it today. Pet stuff needs to be beautiful too."

At Calling All Dogs, she says, "some of our beds are frame-only so people working with decorators can make cushions to match their own fabrics."

A pod for the pooch

One of the more unusual silhouettes on the market, the Wowo dog pod, resembles something from Star Trek. The name refers to a line of pet furnishings and accessories in a choice of five wood veneers. The roofed bentwood bed-on-feet is shaped in an elliptical curve and lined with a fluffy pad that looks like a Greek flokati rug. It's $749.95 at Modern Tails, a luxury pet boutique.

If you're the type to snap up a Ralph Lauren shearling dog coat for $250 to match your own, you might dig a Burberry bed lined in its signature Nova check for $350. It seems right if your doggy sports a $550 Hermes collar or is carried in a $1,770 Sac Chien Louis Vuitton bag.

In fact, the spending potential is staggering. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, nearly half of U.S. households have at least one dog. In the last five years, the number of products and categories devoted to dogs has taken off.

Donna King, a co-founder of Room Service Home, a mail-order catalog and Internet resource based in Dallas, reports that dog showers and birthday parties have generated a new kind of business.

"People have showers to welcome new puppies," King says. "And they buy favors for dogs attending birthday parties, just like for kids."

Along with the book 97 Ways to Make a Dog Smile, Room Service Home sells Puppy's First Blankie, a 19-inch-by-26-inch fluffy in pink or blue for $49, and a shower gift set, which includes a teething toy, bone, fuzzy buddy and squeaky alphabet blocks in a drawstring satchel for $32 (for dogs under 6 pounds) or $39 (over 6 pounds).

For glamour dogs

From retail stores to catalogs to online sources, sniffing out the most fashionable products to make your dog feel at home can be an amazing odyssey. There's also a comfort factor. There are sound therapeutic reasons to make your pet comfy. It's better for their bones and joints if they curl up in something warm and soft than on a cold, hard floor.

From Soft Surroundings, you can purchase a pet bed, pillow with tufted faux suede cushion and a ruffled, patterned skirt that is a perfect match to the luxe bedding the catalog sells for humans. Price range for the Verona pet bed is $80 to $165, depending on size.

Fills range from synthetic to real down feathers, and cushions are plush. One over-the-top bed is trimmed with a feather boa. Fabrics include brocade, velvet, velour, corduroy, ultra suede, cashmere and faux leather as well as cottons. Stain-resistant outdoor fabrics from Sunbrella or Crypton that have antimicrobial and moisture- and odor-resistant properties are available.

One of the best sources for dog style is the Pampered Puppy. Launched in 2002 by Angie McKaig in Toronto, it's billed as the Web's largest online monthly magazine and shopping portal devoted to luxury lifestyles for dogs. It features nearly 11,000 products from 17 companies and includes product reviews based on the experiences of McKaig's own diva pug, Merry McKaig.

SOURCES

Calling All Dogs, 800-965-8596 or callingalldogs.com

Jo Sherwood Design Ltd., 401-723-9654 or josherwooddesign.com

Modern Tails, 877-399-4645 or moderntails.com

Precious Palaces, Betsy Boggs Interiors, 212-980-3677 or preciouspalaces.com

The Quintessential Pet, 609-499-8885 or quintessentialpet.com

The Ritzy Rover Pet Boutique, 704-573-1504 or theritzyrover.com

Room Service Home, 800-588-1170 or roomservicehome.com

Soft Surroundings, 800-749-7638 or softsurroundings.com

Susan Fredman at Home, 877-732-9640 or susanfredmanathome.com

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