7 Smart Ideas For Decorating a Home with Pets, According to Designers

updated Nov 20, 2020
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Kitchen with dog bowls at end of island

For as much fun as living with four-legged family members can be, designing a stylish, pet-friendly home is tricky. Not only can animals wreak havoc on furniture and upholstery, certain pet essentials, like dog crates and litter boxes, are often major eyesores.

Fortunately, with a little planning and the right items, you can design a pet-proof space without sacrificing any style. To prove my point, I asked a handful of designers to share their advice on how to decorate a home that’s full of fur kids. From doggy wash stations to designated drawers for food bowls, here’s how the pros design with pets in mind.

Credit: Dustin Peck

Find pet furniture that pulls double duty

When you don’t have the option of hiding an important piece of pet furniture, designer Zandy Gammons of The Warehouse Interiors recommends finding a way to make it more multifunctional and part of the fabric of a room.

“One of our dog-loving clients wanted to transform a mudroom into an attractive place to hold her dog’s crate,” she says. “We worked in collaboration with the homeowner and a contractor, who built a custom crate that fit perfectly in the entrance and that could double as an organized resting place on top for keys and bags.”

Materials matter here. If you select a crate design that has a flat top, then there’s no reason you can’t corral a few lightweight things there. Bonus points if you can also make your dog’s crate look like a fancy built-in with baseboard molding, as shown above.

Design built-in feeding drawers

If you have more than one pet, then chances are you’re dealing with a lot of food and water bowls. To prevent cluttering up a space with pet dishes, designer Rachel Cannon of Rachel Cannon Limited suggests integrating them into the design of your home with custom built-ins. “When I redesigned my kitchen, I incorporated a low-level drawer with built-in food bowls for my cats,” she says.

What’s great about a project like this is that it’s localized in your kitchen (or perhaps mudroom) and really only has to affect a cabinet or two. So even if you’re not remodeling a full room or your whole home, you can probably hire out a small job like this for a reasonable fee and little inconvenience.

Carve out a distinct pet station

Ask any dog owner and they’ll say the same: Bath time can get messy. To avoid unnecessary cleanup when giving your pooch a bath, designer Lori Paranjape of Mrs. Paranjape Design + Interiors recommends converting a spare bathroom or an area of your mudroom or back entry into a washing station for your pets.

“My clients are constantly looking for a place for bath time and pet accessories, and it often ends up being in or near the family mudroom,” she explains. “A recent project included a sink for baths and a faucet dedicated to keeping the water bowl filled!”

If you don’t have the space to go all out, don’t worry. A few key accessories in your bathroom, like a Waterpik’s dog-specific shower wand attachment, can help you handle at home grooming in style.

Credit: Dustin Peck

Use performance fabrics wherever possible

Let’s face it: Pets can be tough on upholstery, which is why designer Liles Dunnigan of The Warehouse Interiors suggests investing in easy-to-clean, pet-friendly performance fabrics, such as microfiber and microsuede, when decorating high-traffic areas of your home. “Performance fabrics ensure you won’t have to worry about dirty paws or dog messes staining the furniture,” she says.

Stain-, fade-, and scratch-resistant leathers are also a good option for pet owners, according to designer Chris Stout-Hazard of Roger + Chris furniture. Same goes for performance velvets, particularly when it comes to feline friends. “Most cats, when seeking something to scratch, find that their claws have nothing to hook into with velvet and thus have little reason to scratch at it,” says Stout-Hazard. “The downside? Well, velvet can require a careful touch when cleaning. And it can be a magnet for lint and pet hair.” Because velvet is a cut pile though, Stout-Hazard says fur is unlikely to weave itself into the fabric and can usually be vacuumed right off.

Create a designated pet drawer

If you can’t afford custom built-in bowls in your home, designer Kendall Wilkinson says a designated feeding drawer is the next best thing. “When I adopted my yellow lab, Biscuit, I came up with the idea of carving out a drawer that hides and houses his water and food bowls,” she explains. “The drawer integrates perfectly into the wall between the entry coat closet and kitchen, which makes it easy to access and clean.”

Credit: Annie Selke

Buy pet beds with washable covers

While many buy cozy dog and cat beds to keep furry friends off furniture, they can get covered in allergy-inducing pet hair pretty quickly. That’s why home decor designer Annie Selke says it’s crucial to buy pet beds with removable covers that can be cleaned regularly. “Dog beds should always have a removable, washable cover, so they’re as comfy as the sofa but stylish enough to leave out,” she says.

Create a doggy dining nook in your kitchen

Just because they’re animals doesn’t mean your pets don’t deserve a stylish eating area. When decorating her own home, designer Carolina V. Gentry of Pulp Design Studios incorporated a designated doggy dining zone—complete with artwork!—inside her kitchen, which you can see above. “We custom-made a dog bowl out of a vintage root beer crate and added a colorful art canvas above it to create an inviting space for our dog to eat under our kitchen island,” she explains.