Pets: Quality of life and safety is important to local pet owners when building, remodeling or redecorating
flickr photo by DPhiffer
In the wake of the recent tornado in Dexter, one of Scott McElrath’s clients, who was in the midst of an addition on his home, inquired to see if the Chelsea-based architect could include creating a concrete-reinforced room — a bunker of sorts — into the project.
The idea made sense in light of how destructive a weather pattern like that can be. But the lives intended to be safeguarded might take you by surprise: They were of the four-footed variety.
That’s right. McElrath’s client was concerned about the well-being of his pets in case of a tornado.
And why not? Pets are as much a part of the family as any other member, and they deserve to be safe comfortable as their human counterparts. The idea of designing or decorating one’s home with a pet’s comfort and safety in mind is a growing trend.
McElrath, president of Dangerous Architects has had other requests from clients to implement ideas to create a space that is not only functional and comfortable for all of its inhabitants, but also to ensure their safety.
Finding ways to enjoy the great indoors when you have pets is a quest that can range from lofty to practical.
Clients of Laura Marr Baur — a local interior designer — often express that they want to be accommodating to their pets while embracing elements of style.
“Many of my clients want or have window perches for their cats. But window treatments need to not be in the way of them,” says Baur, who is based in Ann Arbor and Dexter.
Every pet can appreciate a good view of the outdoors. Which brings up a good point: it’s important for any pet to be able to experience a view of the world beyond four walls. The ability to engage with the outdoodrs as naturally as possible but also safely is a must for cats, dogs, and even exotic birds.
That could mean windows that extend lower to the floor for optimal viewing to the outdoors, built-in doggie doors that lead to a safe outdoor area, to the size of a room — or even a change in how a space is heated.
McElrath noted that one client in Gaylord wanted radiant heat to be included in a dog pen area that was set aside for them in their garage, which was complete with a dog house with an “attic” area to store the pet’s food.
“The home had radiant heat, so we just ran the tubing from that out to the dog’s pen, and it worked well.”
Sometimes the ideas are more simple.
“Incorporating an area where a dog’s bowls can be accessible to the animal, but tucked out of the way in a kitchen, is high on the list of many people that I work with, but there are all sorts of unique ways that pet owners are willing to ensure the comfort and safety of their pets,” adds Baur.
McElrath echoes these sentiments. And a stimulating environment is a facet pet owners aren’t shy about requesting.
“A few clients have had cats and want a play-structure of sorts or even catwalks throughout their home to allow their pets to roam freely. The animals can perch and live in a way that is more in line with their natural instincts, but it keeps them — and wild birds — safe.”
The latter is a concept that has been a topic of discussion in the Ann Arbor community.
Ease of care, clean-up and durability are elements that the two professionals say that clients interject into the conversation when talking about remodeling or building plans.
Wood and bamboo floors are popular, as is easy-to-clean upholstery. What pet doesn’t appreciate a comfy couch?
Ann Arbor resident Karol Butcher knows a thing or two about life with pets and nice furnishings. As the owner of The Great Cover Up — a custom upholstery and soft furnishings business — as well as several cats and a large dog, she’s discovered a few things along the way when it comes to keeping things comfortable, fashionable and tidy.
“Buying really solid pieces of furniture and having them reupholstered every 15-20 years was the norm in generations past. Then the trend of picking up less-sturdy and lower-cost pieces was around for awhile. Now, going back to choosing quality pieces and hanging on to them is making a comeback.”
Butcher and Baur make a point to sit down with their clients to talk about what their everyday lives are really like. The wear and tear on the indoor environment is different for those without pets (and kids) than those that do have them.
And as both make clear, consumers can have their cake and eat it, too, these days. Today’s textile choice for the home are higher quality and more durable, and there are more of them that suit even the most rough and tumble pets. Best of all, they are easy-to-clean, too.
In choosing a textile for furniture, Butcher explains that there are a few things to keep in mind.
The abrasion test result and cleaning codes are just two of them.
“Commercial-grade upholstery has an abrasion test result of about 100,000. If you can find a residential textile that has a count of 30,000 or more that’s very desirable,” says Butcher.
The higher counts will help your furniture stand up to wear and tear from pets.
And, as many consumers might think, fiber content isn’t really a factor when it comes to wearabilty and pets. It’s more of a concern if environmental allergies are an issue.
As far as how easy a piece of upholstery is to clean, Butcher has advice on how to judge it by its label:
- S - means that it needs solvent-based cleaning (professional cleaning)
- W - denotes that water-based cleaning (something that a consumer can handle safely)
Some textiles say that both methods are acceptable.
If you’re choosing an upholstery that can be cared for by water-based cleaning methods, Butcher encourages consumers to grab a swatch of it, take it home and toss some coffee, orange juice or other common things that are spilled on furniture and see how easy it is to clean.
Ditto for wearability. Take a swatch and drag a heavy curved needle over the upholstery fabric (it mimics the effects of a cat’s claw) to see how well it can hold up to the wear and tear of a feline’s claws. This exercise can help you help avoid wasting money.
There are other ways to help keep the peace when it comes to pets and keeping your furniture looking nice.
Fleece throws are great to cover that ever-attractive spot on the couch or chair arms, they can be washed and replaced easily, and they hold up well.
“Cat trees and condos are a must for indoor cats, and my cats love them,” says Butcher.
“The really tall, sturdy ones are perfect. They give cats something to claw on, and when they are placed by a window, they offer a great vantage point. The use of catnip spray (an attractant) is important in keeping them attracted to the cat trees: it uses a positive approach as opposed to spraying deterrents on your good furniture.”
All three professionals indicate that in redecorating, remodeling or building a home with pets in mind, there really isn’t an increase when it comes to cost. Smart planning can even help save money in the long term.
In fact, they all make an interesting point: Because these elements aren’t an afterthought, they are easy to incorporate into the overall plan when recreating or re-purposing an indoor living space, making it affordable.