trade tales | Jun 12, 2020 |
6 designers share their most common pet-related requests

When working on a home, designers have to consider the needs of everyone who lives there, and that often includes four-legged family members. We asked six designers—Iantha Carley, Chuck Chewning, Ashley Colombo, Annette Jaffe, Jessica Nelson and Vani Sayeed—to let us in on the cool, crazy and just plain practical pet-related design accommodations.

Vani Sayeed
Vani SayeedCourtesy of Vani Sayeed


“Our most common request is to have performance fabric on furniture and for rugs to be treated with a protective finish for easy maintenance and cleaning. But the most unusual request to date was to spec a smooth, round glass knob on a pull-out cabinet door that housed the garbage, so that the dog could not get hold of the knob and get into the trash!” —Vani Sayeed, Vani Sayeed Studios, Newton, Massachusetts

Annette Jaffe
Annette JaffeCourtesy of Annette Jaffe

Herding cats
“One of our most beloved clients has two cats who, it turns out, are really the ones our designs have to work for. They aren’t the decision-makers, but their opinions and reactions definitely matter. One of the first things we installed was an upholstered platform bed, and within a week the cats destroyed the Maharam fabric. When I expressed my shock, the client said, ‘Oh, I forgot to tell you the cats would do that.’

“Recently, we redid the client’s upstairs laundry and guest bath, motivated in part to build a less obtrusive area for the litter box. The calls we’ve fielded as the cats acclimated to their new private bath have been too funny. We looked at everything from adding direct venting to the outdoors to lining a pull-out tray below the vanity with antimicrobial material. The cats adjusted, and we’re on to the next project.” —Annette Jaffe, Annette Jaffe Interiors, Port Washington, New York

Iantha Carley
Iantha CarleyCourtesy of Iantha Carley

Special treatment
“My initial assessment of each project includes the human and the furry. Since I’m a dog owner, I know that even if I don’t allow my little lady on the upholstery while we’re home, she’ll make herself comfortable on a chair or sofa once we leave! Using textiles that are pet-friendly—such as cotton velvets, performance fabrics, leathers and prints—are important. One service I insist on for all my clients is a fabric treatment application, such as Fiber-Seal, to protect their investment against stains and fading.” —Iantha Carley, Iantha Carley Interiors, Silver Spring, Maryland

Ashley Colombo
Ashley ColomboCourtesy of Ashley Colombo

Paws off
“The most common request is to minimize the visibility of pet hair and use textiles that are easy to clean of dirty paw prints. Performance fabrics and rugs in rooms like the family room, mudroom and kitchen are a must, and I often recommend a color scheme that blends with their pets’ hair color. I’m currently working on a kitchen remodel and we’ve included a low-level drawer that holds the two dogs’ food bowls. Clients also want creative storage solutions for their furry friends’ belongings.” —Ashley Colombo, Ashley Colombo Interiors, Winnetka, Illinois

Chuck Chewning
Chuck ChewningCourtesy of Chuck Chewning

Tough stuff
“A number of our clients are pet lovers, which has a direct impact on the way they live. We had installed a beautiful wool Stark rug in a client’s living room, and during the night, their dog urinated in the middle of the rug. There have been continuous ‘accidents,’ and now we are looking to replace the rug with an indoor/outdoor one that’s more durable. [With] clients who allow their pets on furniture and beds, we know not to use delicate materials. We are also sensitive to interior architectural materials, such as wood floors, that easily get scratched by pets. In designing, we are asked to incorporate built-in dog beds, hidden litter boxes into cabinetry, areas to wash dogs, and even custom pet beds made of indoor/outdoor fabrics to coordinate with the interiors.” —Chuck Chewning, Charles H Chewning Interiors, Savannah, Georgia

Jessica Nelson
Jessica NelsonCourtesy of Jessica Nelson

One big Happy Family
“Pet requests have been so frequent lately! Many of my clients want to allow for dedicated and thoughtful spaces for their cats and dogs. Recently, I have been adding dog-washing stations in laundry rooms, as well as pet food stations that are thoughtfully concealed. When a pet’s needs are met in my client’s home, it allows for a more functional and thoughtful living space for the whole family.” —Jessica Nelson, Jessica Nelson Design, Seattle

Homepage photo: A project by Vani Sayeed | Photo: Nat Rea

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