Design goes to the dogs: from dog showers to cat climbing frames pets are taking over London home interiors
They say pets are the heart of a home, but increasingly they’re also its small, furry creative directors.
Pet-centric interior design (dubbed “barkitecture”) is on the rise. Pinterest reports that interest in “pet furniture” has more than doubled in the past three months, while searches for “luxury dog rooms”, “cat wall furniture” and “dog showers” are also on the up.
This might be inevitable following the explosion of interest in luxury pet food, products and clothing over the past decade.
British annual expenditure on pets has risen by 270 per cent since 2005, reaching new heights in the pandemic when the share of households with an animal rose from about 41 per cent in 2019 to 62 per cent in 2022.
Influenced by pets
“Pets are a big priority for many of my clients” says London interior designer Emma Neame. On a recent Streatham project, one client even let her dog pick the fabric for curtains on the enormous kitchen windows.
“We were flicking through the book and the dog just put his paw on one. I’m relieved to say it was a good choice,” she says.
Purpose-built dog showers — where pooches can be rinsed off after a muddy walk — are also increasingly popular: “We’re installing them on almost every project these days” says interior designer Emma Hooton of Studio Hooton.
She says clients request them at different heights, depending on the size of the pet, and there are even special showerheads to “give the dog a lovely massage”.
Charlotte Bata of Teddy London recently installed a shower for her dog in her London utility room, cleverly tucking it into a corner that would otherwise be wasted space: “We used leftover marble mosaic tiles from our master bathroom,” she adds.
For those who don’t want a full-blown shower, interior designer Kate Guinness says she installed an oversized sink in a west London home, specifically for washing the owner’s dog.
Non-slip or scratch-proof floors are also popular with dog and cat owners.
Interior designer Sophie Pringle of Pringle & Pringle recently helped pick out terracotta tiles for a client’s kitchen floor, “specifically because they aren’t so slippy for dogs”.
Neame has also noticed clients with animals veering away from real wood flooring to high-end composite alternatives like Karndean, which is designed to be pet-proof, or Antico luxury vinyl: “It looks like wood, you don’t need to maintain it and it’s easy to clean.”
But it’s not just dogs having an impact on home design. Neame recently built a utility room/office around a client’s guinea pig.
For interior designer Zara Cowen of Huxley Home, a client’s cat was the priority when it came to the sitting room shelves in her Notting Hill apartment.
“This cat was queen of the household so we decided to turn the bookcase into a climbing frame, with holes in each shelf allowing her to climb up and escape the dog.”
Sleeping nooks for dogs or cats integrated into joinery are a space-saving solution for London homes, with Neame noting clients even opt for low-VOC paint to protect their animal from harmful fumes.
Pet label MiaCara sells a wall-mounted unit designed with Danish studio Hans Thyge & Co that’s part-stylish bookcase, part-elevated cat playhouse.
Some renovators with mogs are also finding creative alternatives to the eyesore cat flap.
When Tori and Tom bought their fixer-upper home in Southfields, they fell in love with the architect’s detailed brickwork design for the kitchen extension.
“It would have been offensive to then install a naff plastic pet door,” says Tori, “so we came up with the idea of integrating a ‘cat tunnel’ that would run through a built-in brick patio bench.”
The result is an “elaborate but discreet” solution.
Ideas for renters and homeowners
According to data gathered by rental platform Movebubble, searches for rentals allowing pets doubled after the first lockdown in 2020.
In July 2022, the Government published plans for “pets in lets” legislation, forbidding landlords from imposing a blanket ban on tenants keeping pets.
Though changing the flooring or drilling a cat tunnel isn’t normally an option if you don’t own, there are some deposit-saving design solutions for pet owners.
If you’re allowed to paint, Kate Guinness suggests using a hard-wearing emulsion in a darker colour on the lower half of walls in high-traffic areas to disguise scuffs.
Placement of furniture can make a big difference too.
Sophie Pringle suggests putting a small end table by your sofa to stop the fabric catching hair when your pet brushes past, or protecting your furniture (without putting a grubby towel down) by getting a dog sofa topper from the Lounging Hound, which can be made to fit the seat cushions in a range of machine-washable fabrics.
Or try Charlotte Bata’s brand The Teddy Bed for a (washable) boucle option which can be made to match your interiors.
If you have a curtain-climbing cat, Emma Neame says hanging ones which have a leading edge (or border) in a velvet fabric that “prevents sun damage but also stops cats climbing up it.”
Velvet is also a good option if you’re accessorizing your rental with cushions as cats don’t generally like clawing it, she adds.
If your place has a loop pile carpet (a cat claw magnet) or a soft wooden floor vulnerable to scratches (pine is especially bad) covering as much of it with a washable non-slip rug from somewhere like Ruggable, whose founder Jeneva Bell was inspired to set up the brand after her dog ruined her brand new rug, can help.
Kate Guinness also recommends getting an oversized doormat for your entryway to filter mud.
On May 20-21, architects will compete in the second annual Barkitecture contest, spearheaded by Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, part of the “Goodwoof” festival at Goodwood House in West Sussex.
Last year’s winner, Bonehenge by Birds Portchmouth Russum, is a beautiful oval, Accoya wood kennel with a skylight and water-capturing system.
“This may not be an opportunity for us to solve the housing crisis,” says McCloud, “but it will greatly contribute to human and canine relations.”