If you have pets, your decorating decisions involve more than just you and should take into consideration usability and durability.
Suzanne Lasky is owner of S Interior Design and Pawprint Design Services in Scottsdale, Ariz.
New York City designer Julia Szabo is author of Pretty Pet-Friendly: Easy Ways to Keep Spot's Digs Stylish & Spotless and Animal House Style
Knowing what fabrics to look for can be helpful when you're shopping for new upholstered seating. However, if you want to take the guesswork out of your purchase, seek out furnishings specialized for pet owners, like those available at Denver-based Livable Home Store. Pet-owner Amy McCawley became frustrated by the lack of stylish options available in pet-friendly fabrics—so she started a store where pet owners can find pet-friendly sofas, chairs, ottomans and upholstered headboards that work with their existing décor.
Designing with Pet-Friendly Panache
If you have pets, you'll find that focusing on details like walls and flooring can have a big impact on the beauty and livability of your home.
- by Jennifer Sellers
When you have four-legged family members living in your home, you're probably aware of the impact they have on your fabrics and upholstery, but did you know that other details, like the type of paint you use on your walls, can also matter?
Two sought-after animal-friendly designers, Suzanne Lasky, owner of S Interior Design and Pawprint Design Services in Scottsdale, Ariz., and New York City designer Julia Szabo, who is author of Pretty Pet-Friendly: Easy Ways to Keep Spot's Digs Stylish & Spotless and Animal House Style, share how walls, floors and even cleaning supplies make a difference when you're designing and decorating a home where pets live.
The Pitter Patter of Little Paws
An area of your home most likely to show wear-and-tear from pets is flooring. If you have a pet you know that carpeting isn't a good match for shedding and accidents. Then again, claws can scratch the surfaces of hardwood floors. And, of course, tile can be cold for animals to sleep on. So what's a pet owner to do?
Szabo says that she always starts with flooring when she's designing a home for pet owners because that's where the animals are going to spend most of their time. "The floor needs to be high-performance and easy-to-clean," she says. "Linoleum, wood and bamboo can fit those standards. Polished concrete and tile can also work. However, they're not the most comfortable for pets—especially seniors or those with hip problems."
Another drawback with tile is that pets that aren't housebroken can damage the grout when they have accidents, points out Lasky.
When it comes to hardwood flooring, you have to watch out for scratching. "I love engineered wood flooring, but if it's dark, it's going to show scratches from the pet's toenails," continues Lasky. "Keeping that in mind, it's best to go distressed to start with. You can also go with laminate, which is fabulous."
Whenever you have hard floors, you should keep in mind the hazards of area rugs because they can slip around and cause accidents. "Modular carpet tiles are a great compromise," says Szabo, who promotes the design idea in Handmade Modern, which she co-wrote with Todd Oldham. "Ones like those made by Flor have adhesive backing almost like a post-it note. Therefore they stay put, but won't damage your floor when you pull them up. You can also combine patterns or pick a solid selection to get the design you want. You can actually create a very elegant look with them."
Another caveat of hard flooring: If you own an apartment and you're on a higher floor, keep in mind the noise problems that can arise when your pet's feet and hard flooring meet. "The click-clacking of toenails against the floor might be a precious sound to you, but your neighbors below may not appreciate it," says Szabo.
That brings us to carpeting. Can pets coexist with it in your home?
"Carpet is going to trap dirt and fur like nobody's business," says Lasky. "If you're going to have it—and some people do prefer it—make sure the color doesn't contrast too much with your pet's fur. If you have a black dog, white carpet is going to be a disaster. You'll also want to avoid looped carpet because toenails can get caught in the loops, harming both the animal and the carpet."
An option that allows you to have soft, quiet flooring without carpeting is cork. It's also environmentally friendly and offers anti-fatigue support for the two-legged family members. "I love cork; it's one of the best flooring options out there," says Lasky. "It's soft underfoot, it's quiet, it's green and it's warm for pets to lie on."
Focus on Walls, Too
You may not think of your walls as being in danger from your pets, but if you're a pet owner, it shouldn't surprise you that any place in your home is susceptible to wear-and-tear from canines and felines.
"When you have pets, you do not want flat paint on your walls, because animals have lots of oils in their fur and skin, and when they lean or rub against the walls they can get them dirty," says Lasky. "If possible, use a paint with a sheen to it—it will be easier for you to clean.
"If you really want to go flat, go dark," she continues. "The dirt will be there, but no one will know."
Also when it comes to paint, Szabo recommends using zero-VOC paints. "Not only are there no toxic fumes for your pets to inhale, it's also a more durable paint—that can be important if you have to wipe down the walls a lot," she says.
A Safe Sanctuary
In addition to non-toxic paint, consider non-toxic cleaning products, too. "Pets lick surfaces," says Szabo. "It makes me feel better knowing that what they're coming in contact with doesn't have a lot of chemicals."
Szabo says that it's important to use non-toxic cleaners everywhere—even the places you might not consider. "A lot of bigger dogs drink out of toilets," she points out. "If this is something your dog does, you don't want him to be consuming the dangerous ingredients in most toilet-bowl cleaners."
As far as other safety considerations go, Szabo recommends high thread-count sheets for your bedding if your animals sleep with you. This will cut down on snags and tears in the sheets. She also suggests avoiding spindly-legged furniture and removing knick-knacks from places where wagging tails can knock them over.