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Paving the way for even more glamorous living for the little darlings

Pet furniture has come a long way from carpeted cat towers and lumpy dog beds. Locally pets are spoilt beyond imagination with pet hotels and pet furniture becoming the norm.

Gone are the days when you thought you were lucky if a restaurant gave you a bowl of water for your darling. Now some restaurants even have menus for your pets.

For discerning pet owners who treat their cats and dogs as family – in some cases better than family – designers are creating stylish, even glamorous, furniture.

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 pet stores and pet boutiques, and there has also been an increase in fancy pet-product websites. An army of pet experts, behaviourists 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.

In Los Angeles, for example, the place of the rich and famous pet, you can buy the new Crystal Clear Lotus Cat Tower by the Refined Feline, with three platforms for lounging and a hideaway hole at the bottom lined in white faux fur – for a mere $5000 (about R70000).

And now you and Buddy can catnap or watch DOGTV on matching tufted Chesterfield-style Wayfair Archie & Oscar sofas; his is a $399 miniature version of yours in faux-leather scaled with similar nailhead trim and turned legs.

The Archie & Oscar faux leather Cornelia Dog Sofa ($399.99) is made to hold up to 80-pound dogs. Picture: Wayfair

None of these products, however, guarantee your beloved pets will keep their paws and/or claws off your favourite velvet couch.

Jackson Cunningham, founder of Tuft + Paw, recently returned from Italy where he was seeking partners to develop designer cat furniture. Products made by his three-year-old company appeal to fussy feline owners with sleek grey scratch towers and retro birch litter trays.

“Making pet furniture is 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 Labradors and kitty cats? Here are some trends you’ll see on Instagram and pet blogs, not all available locally as yet.

Space-saving furniture

Space is a problem for pet owners in urban areas. In 2017 Ikea’s Scandinavian-style clean lines and affordable prices introduced its Lurvig line of furnishings for pets and it made sure the pieces fitted in with what was already in their collection. For example, the Lurvig cat house ($10.99) is a cosy 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. “People in apartments 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 remodelled her house, she wanted to keep the furniture simple and clean, but she also wanted a place in her living room for Oliver, her one-year-old Bengal cat, to hang out.

“He jumps on everything, so I wanted something up high, but it couldn’t be tacky as it was in the living room.” She bought a 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.”

B&B Kustom Kennels’ Double Doggie Den is designed for a two-dog family and is crafted to look like a stylish piece of furniture. Picture: B&B Kustom Kennels

Mini human furniture

Last year, Wayfair launched the Archie & Oscar line of pet furnishings with nearly a thousand pieces, including a grey rattan domed cat lounger and a white Chippendale-style dog gate made of chew-resistant wood.

“We conceptualised a lot of the product to resemble 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 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.

Double-duty furniture

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 grey, 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 Henrietta Cat Tree provides a jumping area and hideaway for your cat and a faux tree for your living room.

High design for stylish owners

Refined Feline’s Crystal Clear Lotus Cat
Tower. The brand also sells a wooden
version.
Picture: TheRefinedFeline.com

It used to be that cat poles, condos and towers came only in a few colours, “and none of them matched your decor,” Phil Cooper says. Now there are many more choices.

“Cats, like dogs, have 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.)

Seen on Insta is Walmart’s new pet collection from Drew Barrymore’s Flower Home which includes a brown wicker cat bed with whisker detailing that will accommodate “tiny kittens to full-grown cats up to 20kg”.

And for those who like to shut up their pets at night in cages in the kitchen, there are sophisticated solid wood kennels in a variety of sizes and colours. 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 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.

Salk is working on another book for Rizzoli due out in 2020 about designers and a dog’s life. “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.”

Washington Post and Home writer

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