It sure is a dog’s life, with dog ownership soaring since the pandemic began as people realise they can keep pets while working from home. Our canine companions have become more than just pets – they now share every part of our homes.
“Dogs are very much considered a member of the family, with the design for them sometimes playing as big a role as the design of the children’s spaces,” says Róisín Lafferty of Kingston Lafferty, who has designed dog baths with integrated beds alongside them as part of many of her boot-room and utility-room designs. She is currently working on at least three such projects.
She’s not alone. Designer dog bowls, coats and collars are only at entry level to a whole new world of pooch pampering.
At the most extravagant end is the work of Brooklyn-based decorator Delia Kenza who fronts Barkitecture, a madcap TV show that dreams up over-the-top dog kennels to match the decor in the homes of their mainly LA-based owners.
One challenge saw Kenza design a kennel to house an owner’s two very different-sized dogs: Norbert, a teacup-sized therapy creature of 1.6kg with its own Instagram account, that physically couldn’t climb stairs, and its larger “brother” who towered over the tiny dog. The two-storey kennel was fitted with a ramp to allow Norbert to access both levels. In another episode Kenza hangs a dramatic crystal chandelier in the kennel to match the Hollywood glamour of the owner’s lounge. The only discernible difference was that the canine version featured bone-shaped crystals.
Irish dog owners are also channelling such inclusive thinking. Owners trading up or doing a big refurbishment are factoring in luxuries such as underfloor heating in outdoor kennels, dog bed shelves integrated into the designer kitchen, and even dedicated showers in the utility room to facilitate regular grooming and dialling down of the doggy smell.
“Dogs sell,” says Ronan Carey, owner of bespoke joinery and kitchen company Newcastle Design. On its Instagram feed, “a picture of a pooch will see a jump in activity of as much as 40 per cent, especially if that pooch is a puppy”.
“Requests to design a specific space for the family dog have increased 50 per cent since the start of lockdown. A luxury shower or wet room is another popular request,” Carey explains.
At its most basic, this usually features a ceramic shower base and a hand-held shower-head with a niche or shelf for grooming products. Some are as sleek as their owners’ wet rooms and have stone-panelled sides. An off-the-shelf option is the Vasca by Italian outfitters Nic Design. It comes in a range of cool colours from the sunshine yellow pictured to soft greens and teal blues (from €4,900 at Tilestyle).
And dog beds are sprucing up too. While a simple “upgrade” could be the addition of Ikea’s children’s circus tent (€15), around a dog bed, dogs enjoy their own crate or corner – but it can sometimes take up valuable floor space. Lovers of design are opting to incorporate beds into their built-in units, says Conor O’Kelly, a designer at Noel Dempsey Kitchens and Interiors. They have incorporated them into a kitchen island where the dog sleeps behind sliding wire-fronted pocket doors or in tall floor-to-ceiling cupboards in the utility room in the void above the skirting.
Collette Ward also favours the island location. She pads hers with washable foam upholstered in a removable and washable fabric, to keep dog odours to a minimum. She also sells a velvet-lined, Louis XIV-style design (from €395) for the dog that sleeps in the sittingroom.
Tibetan terriers Kanga and Assie are allowed on the sofas at the Dublin 14 home of Niamh Leeney, managing director of Narnia Nursery School. It’s a breed that is not supposed to shed, she says, but they do, so she counters their moulting with washable throws on the sofas. A storage cupboard is stacked high with throws so that she can rotate their washing and drying.
She grooms the dogs herself and is in the middle of a refurbishment that will include a gooseneck tap in a deep-set sink in the utility room to facilitate bath times. She also recommends investing in timber floors as they are far easier to keep clean than carpets.
Many dogs are given the run of the house but a dog gate, similar to a toddler’s gate, stops her pair heading upstairs to the bedrooms – well, most of the time. “They have their own beds in our bedroom,” she confesses.
Some seriously spoiled dogs have their own soft-upholstered sofas, says Mary Ryder of Sandyford-based Curated, who has just sold one of her upscale settees to a client for her pet Vizsla’s exclusive use.
The Italian-designed Filip – with moveable back rests – was covered in cotton, removable and washable covers, in a flat weave to minimise scratching (from €1,980). “Go for a mid-tone colour because dark colours show up light-coloured hair and light colours show the dirt,” she advises.
Dilly is an Irish terrier who’s very much at the centre of Ally Bunbury’s home. Being “almost human”, she seizes every opportunity to clamber up to a higher level (kitchen table or back of sofa) and make eye contact. It prompted the family to create a Dilly-bench which doubles as a raised base for Dilly’s bed and a seating area for humans where she can enjoy tummy rubs. “It’s a win-win for everyone,” says Bunbury.
Elevating pooch living quarters to a whole new level is Architecture for Dogs, an exhibition running at Japan House in London. It features designs for different dog breeds put together by Muji creative director Kenya Hara.
The dog-themed collection includes a ramp for dachshunds by Atelier Bow-Wow; a glamorous, backstage Hollywood-style mirror for poodles by German industrial designer Konstantin Grcic, and juicy steak-shaped rugs by Chinese firm Mad Architects.
To keep separation anxiety to a minimum should you ever return to the office, there’s always a Wanmock, a canine hammock by Japanese firm Torafu Architects, also at the show. The bed is made from an owner’s old T-shirt or sweater stretched across the frame so that the smell and feel of the fabric will comfort pooch. The design is mainly for smaller dogs weighing less than 8kg.
An interesting element of the Architecture for Dogs show is that many of the design blueprints can be downloaded and replicated in the comfort of your own home, for a fee. Now there’s a lockdown project with a difference.