Jura Koncius, The Washington Post
Pet furniture has come a long way from teal carpeted cat towers and lumpy plaid dog beds.
For discerning pet owners who treat their cats and dogs like family - in some cases better than family - designers are creating stylish, even glamorous, furniture. Witness the new R70 000 Crystal Clear Lotus Cat Tower by the Refined Feline, with three platforms for lounging and a hideaway cubby at the bottom lined in white faux fur. (You can see one at the trendy Los Angeles cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.) And now you and Buddy can catnap or watch DOGTV on matching tufted Chesterfield-style Wayfair Archie & Oscar sofas; his is a R4000 miniaturized version of yours in faux-leather scaled with similar nailhead trim and turned legs.
None of these products, however, guarantee that they will keep their paws off your favorite club chair.
Over the past five years, pet furniture has been growing in sophistication and durability, says Phil Cooper, a pet industry expert with more than 50 years in the business. This trend has blossomed with the development of regional pet stores and local pet boutiques, which tend to offer more personalized service than big-box stores, plus the rise of fancy pet product websites, he says. An army of pet experts, behaviorists and designers is looking for ways to make dogs and cats sleep and play more comfortably, stylishly and safely.
"The choices available to pet owners today did not exist even a few years ago," says Steve King, chief executive of the American Pet Products Association. Jackson Cunningham, founder of Tuft + Paw, just got back from Italy, where he was sourcing partners to develop designer cat furniture. His three-year-old company has appealed to fussy feline owners with sleek gray scratching towers and retro birch litter box furniture.
"Making pet furniture is very interesting because you have a customer who is human and the user who is a pet. You have to make sure it works for the user, but the decision-maker is human," Cunningham says. "We want to make pieces that owners take joy in seeing their cats use."
So what's sparking joy these days for whippets and Maine coons? Here are some trends you'll see on Instagram and pet blogs.
Space is a problem for pet owners in urban areas. Ikea's Scandinavian-style clean lines and affordable prices are popular with a younger crowd that's often living in smaller apartments. So in 2017, with the introduction of its Lurvig line of furnishings for pets, it made sure the pieces fit in with what was already in their collection. For example, the Lurvig cat house is a cozy cube fitted with a cushion (with a removable washable cover) inside that slides perfectly into Ikea's Kallax shelf storage unit.
No room for a separate dog bed for your schnauzer? Try the Abigail Murphy Classic Dog Bed by New Age Pet. The bed (available in espresso and antique white) folds up when not in use and has a memory-foam mattress with a machine-washable cover.
Josh Feinkind, president of RefinedKind Pet Products, whose brands include Refined Feline, is constantly looking for ways to accommodate pets in small spaces. "We New Yorkers don't have floor space, but we have wall space. Cats want to climb and perch, so we make lots of interesting shelves," he says.
When Kristi Pond of Tacoma, Washington, remodeled her house, she wanted to keep the furniture simple and clean, but she also wanted a place in her living room for Oliver, her 1-year-old Bengal cat, to hang out. "He jumps on everything, so I wanted something up high, but I didn't want one of those tacky shelf units that looks like it belongs in a cat room," Pond says. She bought Refined Feline's Lotus Branch Cat Shelf lined in white faux fur. "It looks very classy," she says."When Oliver is on it, it looks like a piece of art."
Mini human furniture
Last year, Wayfair launched the Archie & Oscar line of pet furnishings with nearly 1,000 pieces, including a gray rattan domed cat lounger and a white Chippendale-style dog gate made of chew-resistant wood. "We conceptualized a lot of the product to look like human furniture," Wayfair spokeswoman Julie Cassetina says. "Our pets have tested our sofas and armchairs, and we know they enjoy them, so we scaled them down to size."
Similarly, the humans that run the Casper mattress brand were intrigued that so many of their customers posted social media photos not of themselves but their dogs luxuriating on their pressure-relieving memory-foam mattresses. "We decided to launch a pet-friendly version of our people mattress, with little tweaks that are dog-specific," says Jeff Chapin, Casper's co-founder and chief of product. They interviewed dog owners, pet retailers and dog psychologists to come up with the best design details. Two years ago, they introduced a specially contoured dog bed available in three sizes and colours with a washable outer cover made to shed fur and withstand bites and scratches.
Owners like furniture that serves both them and the pet, King says. At New Age Pet, the Sundown Nightstand Pet Bed, available in espresso, antique white and Nantucket gray, lets your dog sleep beside you on his own little cushion, and you can keep your bedside lamp on the same piece of furniture. Joss & Main's 60-inch Henrietta Cat Tree provides a jumping area and hideaway for your cat and a faux tree for your living room.
Some companies are creating discreet accent furniture that hides the lowly litter box. The Rifiuti by Tuft + Paw is made of birch plywood with horizontal stripes and tapered legs; the company website says it references "mid-century modern furniture and classic retro radio designs."
Where to put all your pet's accessories? Joss & Main's Lula Entryway Dog Bed is a stylish multitasking piece of wood veneer furniture with a dog bed and hooks to hang leashes plus your dog's raincoat and yours. The pullout storage drawer can be filled with dog toys or your gloves and scarves.
High design for stylish owners
It used to be that cat poles, condos and towers came only in a few colors, "and none of them matched your decor," Cooper says. Now there are many more choices.
"Cats, like dogs, have now been elevated to child status," he says. And they are finicky about where they like to hang out. (He's got two at home, Pumpkin and Tigger.) Walmart's new pet collection from Drew Barrymore's Flower Home includes a brown wicker cat bed with whisker detailing that will accommodate "tiny kittens to full-grown cats up to 40 pounds." (Forty pounds?)
And for those turned off by ugly wire crates in the kitchen, B&B Kustom Kennels offers sophisticated solid wood kennels in seven finishes in a variety of sizes and colors to fit a Pekingese or a Great Dane.
New York interior designer Alex Papachristidis often designs custom pet beds in chic cottons and florals for clients. (Would your poodle prefer chinoiserie or Hollywood Regency?) "The fabrics I use are not really washable; they are decorative. But you can spot-clean them with Ivory soap and water," he says. He told Susanna Salk, for her 2017 book "At Home with Dogs and Their Designers," that he often looks for antique children's chairs or vintage stair steps to use as step stools for clients with pets - as well as for his own dog Teddy, a 16-year-old Yorkie. "Little dogs love to jump around, but you have to be so careful about their backs," Papachristidis says. "This can give them a leg up."
Salk is working on another book for Rizzoli due out in 2020 about designers and dogs in the English countryside. It's a dog's life both here and across the pond. "The truth is, designers love their dogs so much, they let them on all their furniture. They don't worry about the fabrics," Salk says. "Their pets are a part of the family, and that's what makes a room feel like home."
Feature Image: B&B Kustom Kennels