We love, love, love our pets, am I right? Life wouldn't be the same without those sweet furry faces. But real talk: the accoutrements of life with cats and dogs does not a #designgoals home make.
The lovely, would-be formal dining room in my Victorian home stars a wonderful, original fireplace—annnnnnd one 54-inch heavy-duty dog crate that my half mountain dog Cassius Thunderpaws adores for nap time. And I can tell you: there is zero pretty about a giant black wire box in the dining room. As for the rest of it—silly cartoon-emblazoned bowls, plastic litter boxes, grubby beds, piles of raggedy toys, bags of kibble—it's frustrating to put so much care and attention into your nice things and then take in this decidedly non-pretty side of pet owner's life every time you turn around.
But there must be a way to have your dog or cat and love your home, too. My best (and only!) tip was storing food in (giant) vintage apothecary jars but I needed more ideas so I took to Insta-stalking some people with enviable homes—and pets—and asked for their best tips.
A Great Looking Bed is the First (& Easiest) Step
Louisville, Kentucky designer Natalie Officer of Natalie O Design, whose family includes two pups, feels your pain. "With that unconditional love comes dog beds, sofa blankets, bowls, and shedding...and shedding, and more shedding," she says. "So, keeping your home beautiful and pristine is completely out of the question." But the good news, she says, is you can find functional items you'll also love.
These cozy beds from Harry Barker get Natalie's vote. They're sturdy, simple—and, of course, comfy for your best friend. Dark blue is nice but we think the leopard print is fun, too.
Liz Kamarul, a "go with your gut, follow no rules designer" (and inveterate traveler) bought some colorful globally-inspired poufs at Flea Market Fab for herself but the dogs took over so she went with it, she says. (I mean really, who could say no to this ball of fluff?)
Emily Blanchard, a Rhode Island home decor influencer and lifestyle blogger, loves her vibrant dog beds from Fi and Mimi. "They're attractive, affordable, and basically one giant pillow cover so if your dog ever has any accidents on it, it comes right off and is machine washable!" she says. (Her sweetie Opal approves.)
Styling kitties and little doggos can get their own digs in these "perfectly Instagrammable" teepees recommended by Lizzie Benson, a creative lifestyle blogger and personal assistant to her enormous ginger cat, Scully.
Turns out there are more options than the boring stainless steel and saccharine cutesy bowls found at most pet shops. I almost want to get a cat just so I can pick up these whimsical cat-face bowls Lizzie found on Amazon.
Liz likes this straightforward bamboo feeding station (good for cats or dogs) from Amazon "because it's stylish and doesn't slide around all over the floor," she says.
And for a splurge, Natalie goes for these Helen Levi stoneware bowls that "don't scream DOG or CAT."
About Those Litter Boxes
Deborah Jacobs, an Indianapolis designer and Airbnb superhost, could not stand the typical plastic litter boxes (and the rest of the run of the mill cat necessities) so she found something for her family's cats a little more suited to their home's style, she says. With an emphasis on raw and natural materials at home, these cool wooden boxes on Etsy—which can actually serve as beds, climb-up props, scratching posts and litter boxes (with a simple litter tray inside)—are perfect. And in keeping with the natural look, "sisal rugs are the best scratching posts around," she says. "The cats love digging their claws in and can't really damage them."
A Home Within a Home
If your dog is like mine and enjoys his chill time in his den (aka crate), but you're not so keen on a black wire monstrosity in your living space, Natalie has a couple finds. These modern Kooldog houses might not exactly be the most affordable option but, oh, aren't they an improvement over the pet-store crates? And speaking of expensive (but incredible pieces) the handcrafted Gimli Travellers (below) were born of the designers' frustration with the ubiquitous standard crate.
Those Toys Aren't Going to Put Themselves Away
Fess up: you may spoil your creatures. That's ok; why have a cat or dog if you're not going to buy them way too many toys? You have nice things to house your treasures; so should they.
Take a cue from Danielle Newman, a Midwestern mom and career commitment-phobe with a love of bold, eclectic, affordable design, who swears by bolga baskets from the farmer's market to stash her 74-pound pup's toys. "I love them because they're small and the handle makes it super easy even for the kids to carry around and help clean up," she says.
And even the toys themselves can become a colorful touch, Deborah says. Cats obsess over simple bunchems," she says, and the humans don't mind seeing them laying around the house.
Now that we know there's a world beyond the pet store, what are your favorite functional—and pretty—finds for your furry family?