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Aha! Design: The Organized Home, Dog-Friendly Edition

Enrique had only been with us a few days when we blithely left him home alone for a few hours. The shredded curtain and broken windowpane that we returned to clued us in that our rescued 15-pound mutt wasn’t yet feeling acclimated. Dogs need to feel at home, too, we realized.

I’m happy to report that years later, Enrique is leading a good life and hasn’t done any further damage–and, though you might find it hard to believe, we feel we ended up with the world’s sweetest pet. But like a toddler-proofed house, our rooms show signs that someone with four legs has the run of the place.

Hard to believe that not so long ago, dogs lived in doghouses. Now that they’ve been fully welcomed indoors, it only makes sense to incorporate our pets’ needs into the design plans. As Ben Bischoff of Made Architects LLC wisely points out, “You don’t want to have to shoehorn a big dog bed or metal crate into a finished room. If you’re constructing or remodeling, you should design and build places for your pet’s things to go.”

Toward that end, here are eight key things to take into consideration when setting up quarters for man and beast.

1. A Convenient Way In and Out

The practicality of a dog door depends, of course, on where you live and the size of your dog. But having a built-in dog door is a great boon for both dog and owner. Have a look at Amanda Pays and Corbin Bernsen’s dog door tucked into a corner of their laundry room.

laundry-room-concrete-floors-dog-gray-roller-blinds
Above: This pantry/mudroom room holds the refrigerator, laundry—and a secret dog door linking the space to an outdoor dog run. (Gracie, shown, is a 17-year-old terrier mix and a descendant of the dog actor who starred in Benji.) Photograph by Karen Steffens for Remodelista, from In California Wine Country, A Modern Farmhouse for a Brit and a Texan.
dog door fence by Marta Xochilt Perez
Above: And if your pooch has a canine friend next door, consider a doggy-sized gate that allows the two to visit each other. Photograph by Marta Xochilt Perez, from Before & After: A Garden Makeover in Michigan for Editor Michelle Adams.

2. A Place to Hang Leashes and Towels

A mudroom is a luxury high on dog owners’ wish lists, but any entry equipped with hooks and storage will work–as long as it can be tread upon by dirty paws and spritzed with wet fur. Think twice before adding hand-blocked wallpaper, as we did, in our entry. What you need is a resilient staging area where your dog can be cleaned and dried before being unleashed into the rest of the house.

Leash in Entryway in Organized Home Book, Image by Matthew Williams
Above: All your dog-walk essentials—leash, dog toy, and poop bags—at the ready in this entryway. Photograph by Matthew Williams, styling by Alexa Hotz for Remodelista: The Organized Home.
black Portis Hat Rack from Ikea by Matthew Williams
Above: Michelle hangs her dog leashes from a black Portis Hat Rack from Ikea; $24.99. Photograph by Matthew Williams, from 11 Ways to Add Curb Appeal for Under $100.

3. Resilient Flooring

“In a pet residence the floor is the first and most important consideration. Pets spend a lot of time on the floor; it’s our pets’ eminent domain,” writes dog design authority Julia Szabo in her book Pretty Pet-Friendly: Easy Ways to Keep Spot’s Digs Stylish and Spotless. Easy to clean, nonporous surfaces are ideal, she advises. Concrete and tiles work well, as do hardwood and bamboo floors (but be warned that dogs with scratchy paws are likely to leave their mark on soft woods.) Radiant heat flooring is a boon all around–energy efficient and a dog favorite. Carpeting is not recommended: It’s too hard to keep clean; but if you insist, Szabo recommends Flor carpet tiles–they’re removable and washable. Also consider Bolon, woven vinyl matting from Sweden that’s easy to clean and indestructible; I use it in my front hall to save our hardwood floor from all the snow and rain that gets tracked in.

A polished concrete floor with radiant heat works extremely well for a couple who live in a converted upstate New York barn with two giant rottweilers. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista: Sourcebook for the Considered Home.
Above: A polished concrete floor with radiant heat works extremely well for a couple who live in a converted upstate New York barn with two giant rottweilers. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista: Sourcebook for the Considered Home.
Matthew Axe in Jackson Heights by Eric Piasecki
Above: Hard floors are more pet-friendly, but if you want carpeting, consider using an inexpensive and flecked option, which hides stains beautifully. This affordable rug is from Home Depot. Photograph by Eric Piasecki, from Quiet, Please: A Stylish Apartment in Bustling Jackson Heights, Queens.

4. A Feeding Area

Too often dog bowls are left out in the open waiting to be knocked over. When designing a kitchen (or mudroom or laundry room), build in a convenient place for the food and water bowl to live. It will become one of your greatest daily satisfactions.

Cobble Hill Duplex by Oliver Freundlich Pet Bowl Niche Above: Architect Oliver Freundlich created a dog bowl nook in a kitchen island, and painted it Christian Louboutin red. It’s in the same Brooklyn duplex pictured above–tour the whole apartment at Architecture as Alchemy.
Cat Food Storage from The Organized Home
Above: Of course, most people have to make do with no feeding nook. A good option for the rest of us is to prepare for errant kibble and water overflow. Here, a dishcloth and enamel tray offer double protection from spills. See Fancy Feast: The 6 Things You Need for Corralling Pet Food to learn where to buy these essentials. Photograph by Matthew Williams, styling by Alexa Hotz for The Organized Home.

5. A Place to Stow the Kibble

Bags of dog food are unwieldy, not to mention unattractive and prone to attracting vermin. Having a built-in, air-tight bin is ideal.  

Amanda Pays laundry room by Matthew Williams Above: An old-fashioned metal garbage can works well in Amanda Pays’ laundry room). Photograph by Matthew Williams, styling by Alexa Hotz from Rehab Diary: Amanda Pays and Corbin Bernsen Air Their Dirty Laundry.
utility closet storage organization shelves
Above: Michelle keeps dog food in a white steel Knodd Bin with Lid; $14.99 from Ikea. Photograph by Mimi Giboin, from What’s Inside: The Stealth Utility Closet.

6. A Wash Station

A laundry sink works well as a dog bath for small- and medium-sized animals–and means you don’t have to bend over a low bathtub. Bonus: It’s easier to clean up a sink than a bathtub. Alternatively, consider installing a dog shower with a handheld nozzle–these work well in tiled niches in mudrooms and laundry rooms.

Bethany Obrecht, co-owner of dog accessories company Found My Animal and a rescue dog advocate, equipped her Brooklyn brownstone kitchen with an antique farmhouse double sink, purchased on eBay and sized right for Claude, her mutt, and Henri, her Chihuahua. Photograph courtesy of Found My Animal.
Above: Bethany Obrecht, co-owner of dog accessories company Found My Animal and a rescue dog advocate, equipped her Brooklyn brownstone kitchen with an antique farmhouse double sink, purchased on eBay and sized right for Claude, her mutt, and Henri, her Chihuahua. Photograph courtesy of Found My Animal.
outdoor dog bath
Above: Another luxury–the outdoor shower. Here, a mini-shower is perfect for washing down dirty dogs (and kids). Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces.

7. Pet-Proofed Furniture

Dogs don’t need to be allowed on the furniture, of course, but who can resist lounging on the sofa with a furry companion? It’s wise to protect the comfiest seats in the house by slipcovering them in washable fabrics. Alternatively, cotton painter’s drop cloths are a fast, affordable strategy. Our London editor, Christine, tucks a washable duvet onto her couch to dogproof it, and LA interior designer Michaela Scherrer drapes her living room furniture in claw-proof, spongeable white leather. If you’re thinking of reupholstering, Julia Szabo recommends Crypton, a stain-resistant, low-VOC, and formaldehyde-free fabric sold by the yard (some patterns are designed by William Wegman). And for an especially dog-friendly house, consider building a spot especially for your pets, such as a window seat or top-of-the-stairs lookout.

 This vintage nine-foot sofa was reupholstered in hardwearing and pet-proof wide-wale corduroy. Photograph by Kate Sears, from ‘How to Live With Stuff and Little Space’: 17 Affordable Tips from an NYC Creative Couple.
Above: This vintage nine-foot sofa was reupholstered in hardwearing and pet-proof wide-wale corduroy. Photograph by Kate Sears, from ‘How to Live With Stuff and Little Space’: 17 Affordable Tips from an NYC Creative Couple.
Above: A homemade window seat built over a radiator serves as a toasty hangout and mailman watch in the London home of the owners of pet accessories company Hindquarters (formerly Bone & Rag). The window seat is made of painted MDF with turned legs and air holes, and has a dark blue velvet cushion that’s hardwearing and, yes, washable. Photograph from Hindquarters.

8. A Comfy Spot to Nap

Dogs need a place to retreat to where they can sleep soundly–”somewhere quiet and comfy but close to the action and free from drafts,” specifies Jeremy Cooper of Hindquarters. The hitch is that dog beds and crates hog a lot of space. Instead of allowing them to clutter your rooms, consider creating cozy built-in niches under shelves, islands, and stairs.

Matthew Axe Jackson Heights Apartment Dog Bed by Eric Piasecki
Above: A dog bed tucked under a table in the living room is the perfect cozy spot for Rusty. Photograph by Eric Piasecki, from Quiet, Please: A Stylish Apartment in Bustling Jackson Heights, Queens.

Rawene House Katie Lockhart Studio
Above: Another option—place it in a corner. Here, a Cloud 7 Dog Bed and a Godmother blanket provide a dreamy spot for a pampered pet. Photograph by David StraightMark Smith, and Harry Were, courtesy of Katie Lockhart Studio, from A Soulful, Monastic House in New Zealand, Japanese-Shaker Style Included.
N.B.: This post is an update; it was first published on Remodelista on April 10, 2014.

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