Married…with pets: Incorporating furry family members into home design

Jan and John Ponson's King Charles spaniel Lucy was featured in our January 2017 issue. Photo by Melissa Oivanki.

Much like children, pets are blessings filled with challenges. However, while four-legged friends can’t draw on the walls, they can have a very real impact on interiors, even if you opt for keeping them off the furniture. My mother has made countless attempts in vain to overcome the obstacles of owning four dogs. These attempts have extended to the outlandish–just last year, she removed the entire lawn only to replace it with artificial turf in the hopes of limiting muddy paw prints. But what can be concluded from her insane efforts is that, above all else, pets are crucial members of the family that owners will do almost anything for.

With two dogs of my own that have taken up residence on my brand-new couch, I was curious to know how interior professionals handle the dirt, dander and inevitable saliva that come with furry family members. For both my own, as well as the greater, good, I reached out to local designers and proud puppy owners. Check out their suggestions for accommodating animals into the home below. Click the designers’ names for more information about their work:


Amanda Cason, Amanda Cason Interiors

Amanda Cason. Photos courtesy Amanda Cason.

“Our home life is pretty infused with our dogs, Doberman pinschers specifically,” says Cason, who, after the passing of her black and tan Doberman Jax, adopted her newest edition, Rome, in August. “They are a cuddly, close companion breed, which means they do occupy some of the furniture with us.”

Planning for the puppy naps that take place almost constantly on her chairs and bed, Cason notes that the key to keeping a clean house is selecting durable fabrics and investing in items like a machine-washable coverlet. In addition, Cason also suggests placing aesthetically pleasing but functional doormats at each door a pet uses in order to catch dirt at the source and limit the chance that it will make its way to furnishings.

“When I walk through the selection process for home furnishings with clients, the conversation of pets reinforces the importance of buying quality goods so proper cleaning of carpets and fabric, when needed, will maintain the beauty,” explains Cason. “But personally, I have had more human spill debacles than dog maintenance issues.”


The Design Studio

The Design Studio team. Photo by Marianna Massey.

For the team at The Design Studio, their days are filled with dogs, as employees are encouraged to make their pets part of the design family. In fact, their furry friends help the designers work on integrating new pet-friendly plans into clients’ homes.

“We recently designed a hidden, built-in dog bowl drawer in a laundry room to keep the bowls discrete, but always accessible to the client and their pups,” says Brinley Barkurn, senior interior designer. “We also created a built-in shower off the back door with a handheld shower head to wash the pups off after they have been outside. That way, the dogs are clean before they enter the home.”

These innovations, and others, which include tucked away spaces for dog beds, are the result of the team’s own close relationships to their pets. In partnership with dogs of their own, the designers are able to tailor the homes of clients to the needs of the entire family, four-legged members included.


Erin Mixson, Erin Mixson Interiors

Erin Mixson. Photos courtesy Erin Mixson.

Over the years, dogs have made a major leap from outdoor animals to treasured indoor pets. And with that transition, pet supplies have gone from utilitarian to decidedly fashionable, with many designers opting to extend their lines to pet-friendly pieces. Mixson says that scoping out these higher-end items, or even converting items meant for human use, is the key to maintaining a cohesive design, while accommodating a pet’s needs.

“One method I like to use when decorating with pets in mind is to blend your pet’s items into the design of your space,” explains Mixson. “For example, there are plenty of lines now that will make precious dog beds with pleasing, neutral materials that can seamlessly fit in a room without screaming ‘dog bed.’ Also, since many people have toy collections for their pets as well, I like using a nice rattan basket to keep the items organized. That way, the toys blend in with the rest of the room’s décor.”


Shane Griffin, Shane Griffin Designs

Griffin and his wife Elizabeth. Photos courtesy Shane Griffin.

“When working with clients who have pets, upholstery is key,” says Griffin. “I always try to go with a stain-resistant fabric such as Crypton or Revolution. And I always recommend my clients enlist the services of a local stain-protectant company like Fiber-Seal of Baton Rouge to treat rugs and upholstered pieces. This is crucial when investing in new furniture.”

Griffin doesn’t stop with the places that humans sit. He says carrying those same fabrics from couch to dog bed can be key in giving a room a cohesive look, while also upgrading a dog’s space from standard to high end.

“Nobody wants to see some dirty old dog bed sitting in the corner,” explains Griffin. “I don’t care how cute your dog is!”

Last but not least, Griffin says the number-one thing to avoid is a metal dog kennel cluttering up a newly designed space.

“One thing that drives me crazy after you create this well-appointed space is to plop a big dog cage in the corner of the room,” notes Griffin. “There is always an extra space that can be converted into a dog kennel, whether it’s a new construction or modifying an existing space.”


For a look at interiors through the perspective of furry friends, check out our review of New Orleans photographer Sara Essex Bradley’s book Dog Décor, which not only shows more than 80 refined pups in their high-class homes, but also allows them to tell their stories. And for more from the designers above, check out their other tips here.

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