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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 11, 2006

More and more lucky pets get space designed just for them

By Stacy Downs
Knight Ridder Newspapers


Accessibility: Provide wooden steps up to beds or sofas so small dogs and elderly pets feel like part of the family. Also consider installing a ramp off the stairs to the backyard.

Flooring: Ceramic tile and vinyl are the best options to keep a floor tidy for dogs' mealtime. Keep hardwood floors sealed to help avoid urine odor retention.

Paint: Use a washable paint with a satin finish, instead of a flat paint, to keep walls looking fresh and clean.

Storage: Create pull-outs in kitchen cabinets with bins to store dog food.

Tables: Consider wrought iron for durability. If you go with wood, stick to beech, bamboo or teak, which are more scratch-resistant than other types.

Upholstered furniture: Patterns and tweeds are less likely to show shedding. If you like light-colored fabric, machine-washable slipcovers may be the way to go. Avoid adding skirts or ruffles on furniture because they trap hair.

Window treatments: Consider shades instead of heavy drapes that can trap pet hair.

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A nook off Mary Reed's kitchen features a tile floor with a drain and a hose coming out of the paw-print-papered wall.

If it's not obvious enough that this is a room made for dogs, the basket of chew toys gives it away.

"The room's been really great," says Reed, who lives in the Kansas City, Mo., area with her husband, William, and their two dogs. "With the hose, it's good for giving them a bath and/or keeping them there when they're sick. It's very easy to keep clean."

Reed designed the room when the home was built. Even though her dogs, Ranger and Kelsey, roam and sleep where they want, she envisioned a space that was their own, a combination of function and fun. A gated area provides an escape area for the dogs when the couple has guests.

"It's also great when we have visiting granddogs," says Reed, whose three sons all have dogs, too. "Sometimes they don't all get along."

In this age when canine couture fills an entire aisle at Target, more people are building, remodeling and decorating with their four-legged friends in mind. The trend is catching on strong with dog owners between 18 and 34 years old, according to the Nestle Purina PetCare Co.

That's because people are waiting until they're older to have children.

"It's amazing how much we have amended our lives around our dogs," says Annie Heck, vice president and development director for Wayside Waifs animal shelter in Kansas City, Mo.

A friend of hers with six dogs has them live in the breakfast room and sun porch. The big dogs live in one room, the smaller dogs in the other.

"She has stopped using two rooms of her house. I found that astonishing."

Heck has turned her own house upside-down for dogs. A year and a half ago she and her husband moved into a house freshly carpeted in white not a good fit for muddy paws or incontinent canines. They ripped out the carpet and installed laminate. But the vinyl flooring snapped because of a slight elevation in the floor. Then they installed a waterproof pad and a short-pile brown tweed carpet.

"It made our house look a lot better than it did before," says Heck, who has Gordo, a 9-year-old Gordon setter, and Marty, a 5-year-old English cocker spaniel. "Everyone's happy."

Remodeler Billie Deatherage routinely designs with dogs in mind. That includes choosing finishes and space planning.

"I've learned dogs are part of the family for sure," says Deatherage, owner of Deatherage Home Designs. "In the past people forgot about their dogs when they remodeled."

In kitchens Deatherage creates special cabinets for big sacks of dog food and hideaway doors for dog dishes concealed in the toe kicks. In mudrooms she'll design mini garages for storing dog crates, converting them into mini dog rooms.

Dog doors have turned high-tech. Some are activated by a sensory collar the dog wears, keeping intruder animals at bay.

"My aunt had a special dog door put inside her mudroom, which goes into the garage and to another door outside," says Kristen Daly, manager of Land of Paws, a Leawood, Kan., pet boutique. "She has a poodle and a Lab that can just go in and out as they please."

Barb Thompson once had a "hallway to nowhere" in her Kansas house. It had storage cabinets built in the wall but nothing else. So she and her husband, Web, converted the odd space into a room for their two golden retrievers.

Thompson hired Prairie Village interior designer Lynn Knewtson to paint a trompe l'oeil mural on the cabinets that resembled the outdoors.

The floor-to-ceiling paintings show scenery reminiscent of Nantucket, with old cottages, brick pathways, hydrangeas and two golden retrievers. One of the big cabinets is just for the dogs, filled with their food, treats and other gear.

The Thompsons' dogs, Chief and Otter, especially love the brick floor in their room because it keeps them cool in the summer. In the winter they sleep on blankets in the long, thin space, separated from the family room by French doors.

"Dogs like closed-in spaces because it makes them feel comfortable," Barb Thompson says.

Cats are different. They typically don't like to lounge in one place. Besides having a dog room, Reed also has a room in her horse barn for her cats, Spice Girl and Ruffian. It has several feline-sized couches as well as a few pieces of people-sized furniture. A tunnel of cat doors runs throughout the top level of the building.

"They like to crawl on the beams," Reed says. "And they like to be in the hay and with people. But their room is there if they want to get away."