One of my best memories of working at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts (and there are many!) is when our Marketing Director, Martha, asked me to help her decorate the new dog suites in Glen Allen. It was really fun picking out artwork for the theme of each room and finding just the right accessories and pet decoration to make each room warm and inviting. Our most important task was to make sure that the rooms were safe for our furry guests. The non-slip floors had already been poured, and the doors had been covered in non-splintering stainless steel. FRP panels were affixed to the walls for safety and ease of cleaning. Acrylic panels were adhered to the bottom portion of each window to prevent the unlikely occurrence that our guests could break a window. Televisions were placed on a shelf near the ceiling and electrical cords concealed. Even though our artwork was placed high on the walls so that it was nearly impossible to reach, we removed the glass from each frame and replaced it with acrylic, and then made sure the art was securely anchored to the wall. We placed decorative items behind the acrylic panels in the windows or on high shelves and made sure there was nothing dangling in our guest’s living space. There was a lot to consider to be sure that our guests could rest comfortably and safely during their stay.
Focusing on pet safety and comfort, as well as their effect on functionality, is generally not something we think about when we remodel or redecorate our homes. We’re usually more concerned with matching colors, measurements, and affordability than how these new furnishings and accessories will suit our furry friends. We would all agree that our pets are a very important part of our family. Let’s examine some of the ways that we could make our homes more comfortable for them, as well as make it easier for us to live with their not-so-meticulous hygiene.
Let’s pretend we are remodeling our home. We have a “blank canvas” … four walls and a bare floor. Generally, we would begin by painting, right? Does paint really matter? Yes, it does.
Painting, Wallcovering, and Pet Safety
Paint fumes from fresh paint can be too strong for our pets. The solvents in paint can irritate your dog and cat’s respiratory systems. At best, the irritants may cause only watery eyes, but symptoms can be much worse. Your pet could become nauseous or dizzy. Cats have a particularly sensitive respiratory system and paint fumes could not only irritate their eyes and nose but could trigger an allergic skin reaction. Certain types of cancers have been linked to paint fumes.
Here’s a new word for you (at least it was for me!): “Off-gassing”. Off-gassing occurs when organic chemicals (solvents) become trapped in the liquid of the paint during manufacturing and then are gradually released into the air after the paint dries. What does off-gassing release? VOC’s, Volatile organic compounds. VOC’s released into your home are potentially harmful to you and your pets. Off-gassing can last for more than a year after painting! We may not notice it after the first couple of days, but our pets definitely will.
Look for paint labeled “low” or “no VOC’s”. Unfortunately, paints that do not contain VOC’s may not be 100% safe for your pets, as they still could contain some nasty chemicals, but all we can do is the best we can do. That includes buying the most “eco-friendly paint”, providing good ventilation, and limiting your pet’s exposure to the fumes.
Okay, now that we’ve determined how to use paint as safely as possible around our pets, let’s get back to decorating. The main thing to look for when choosing a paint is to make sure it is washable. Scrubbable paint is even a better idea! Yes, there is a difference between the two. Scrubbable paint can take a lot more “abuse” than washable can. When your dog shakes off the weather just inside your front door, a washable or scrubbable semi-gloss can make clean up much easier. Look for scrubbable paint for your foyer, mudroom, hallway, or any other high-traffic area that will need cleaning more often.
Wallpaper is not the best idea when you have pets in the house. Although they too state that they are “washable”, they just won’t be as durable as a good paint. To add a nice pattern in rooms that need that special touch, stenciling is a great alternative (and really fun!). If you just can’t resist that beautiful wallpaper, use it in rooms your pets infrequently visit, or apply it above a chair railing so that it’s high enough to miss most of the dirt from your pets.
At Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, we use FRP – fiberglass reinforced plastic panels on the walls of our suites, our grooming area, etc… They are waterproof, durable, and sanitary. These panels would be perfectly suited for your laundry room or designated pet room but it’s really not the “homiest” option for the major rooms in your home.
I used to think that leather was the worst material to have on your sofa and chairs in a home with pets. It is expensive, and dogs and expensive things just don’t mix, right? But now I am convinced otherwise. Leather is a great choice for homes with pets! Easy, easy clean-up. Dust off hair, and damp cloth dirt. Done! You have to be comfortable with the surface scratches that will be noticeable on most grains of leather, as your furniture will certainly get marked-up overtime. But some types of leather even look better when it gets a little scratched up and rugged looking!
If leather isn’t the look you’re going for, microfibers rule. I was scared to death to use the recommended Windex on my gold microfiber sofa a few years back, but it was amazing! Read the manufacture’s label, though – don’t take my word for it! Microfiber is really comfortable and durable too. Any fabric with a tightly woven, smooth finish – like microfiber and Ultrasuede is great for pets.
You might also consider slipcovers for your living room furniture. Our Head Kibble-Counter at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts uses white cotton-canvas slipcovers in her home, and they work perfectly with all of her little furkids! If they become soiled, she just tosses them in the washer so her furniture is always fresh and clean. Slipcovers come in any variety of colors and styles. You could also consider using indoor/outdoor fabrics for your slipcovers. They are super easy to spot clean and resist moisture and most stains.
It goes without saying that hard flooring surfaces are healthier and easier to keep clean than carpeting. Tile is great and there are so many options: ceramic, stone, porcelain, slate, granite, even vinyl tiles. However, don’t get something that is too slippery. Choose one with a little more texture so that your pets don’t slip and slide as they try to walk. You may also consider installing a moisture-resistant pad underneath the flooring to provide protection.
Hard woods and laminate are good choices as well for pet proofing your home and come in a wide variety of colors and textures. If you choose to go with a wood floor, choose a harder wood. Soft woods like pine and fir do not hold up as well and will mar much easier. You will need to clean up any accidental puddles as soon as possible to prevent hardwoods from warping or staining. Area rugs will add coziness to your overall look. Just make sure they are anchored to prevent slipping. Oh, one more thing… think about putting runners on the stairs if you have hardwood floors. Pets have a hard time going up and down the stairs when there is nothing to grip to.
Concrete is being used more and more as flooring in modern building. Pores in the concrete are sealed with a protective film making it the ultimate pet-friendly surface. Urine or any odor or stain cannot penetrate and is easily washed away. Not only that, but it will not harbor nasty insects like fleas and mites. And concrete is nearly scratch proof. It can be dyed or left with a natural finish. And what’s way- cool is, you can heat concrete floors for blissful radiant warmth! The floors in the suites, kennels and cottages at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts are heated, which keeps our guests oh-so-comfy.
In defense of carpeting, it’s the best thing for my older dog. He doesn’t slip at all, and it’s softer on his little joints. And if clicking nails on hard surfaces annoys you, it’s best to get carpeting. If you prefer carpeting, we have some great suggestions:
- First of all, stay away from berbers or any type of “looped” fiber. Claws can get caught in the loops causing a painful injury (not to mention that you’ll be left with a snagged carpet).
- Choose stain-resistant carpeting for easier clean-up.
- Wool is better than a synthetic fabric and is actually more stain resistant.
- Natural fiber carpets like sisal, seagrass, or jute are so nice, but they do not do well if there is any moisture is present.
- Consider re-positionable carpet tiles so that when a tile get soiled, you can simply pull it up and replace it with a brand new tile! You can get really creative in your design too!
- Here’s that word again… “off-gassing” is a problem with carpeting, probably more of a problem than with paint. And our poor little pets are on that floor – breathing those VOC’s – all day long. Fortunately, there are alternatives, just like in paint. Look for carpet manufacturers that have received the “Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) Green Label Plus program certification to ensure that your carpet meets a high standard of non-toxic, indoor air quality.
Duvet covers had to be invented by someone with pets. They’re like a wash-n-wear slipcover for your bed! And you have a world of colors and textures to choose from! Just make sure they are not dry-clean only, or you’re going to spend a fortune at the cleaners.
Also, consider using a waterproof mattress cover on your bed if your pets sleep with you. Accidents can happen. Waterproof mattress covers are much nicer than in years past. You won’t feel like you’re sleeping on a plastic sheet. They are made of a soft, quiet fabric now. The waterproofing is also good for preventing dander and possibly even fleas and mites (Ew!) from making their way to your mattress.
CHOOSING YOUR FURNISHINGS
Since we just covered bedding, let’s talk about the bed itself. Are you thinking about buying a new bed? If so, think about the fur-baby that sleeps with you. My husband and I went from a tall, iron, poster bed, to a low-profile platform bed so that our aging fur-baby would not hurt herself if she slipped off the edge of the mattress. Just something to keep in mind…
Have you noticed that bed skirts and couch skirts tend to attract dog hairs? It’s best to have exposed legs on your furniture to avoid “hairy skirts”, and also because they’re easier to clean under.
This may sound crazy, but when choosing colors, think about the color of your pet’s fur. The most extreme example would be not to buy a white couch if you have a shedding black dog. But – not so drastic – if you have a yellow lab, you might pick a similar hue for your floor or upholstery. It will help hide hairs. Patterns in your flooring or upholstery are also good at disguising hair and stains too.
Have you seen those elegant window treatments that pool on the floor? Not a good idea, for obvious reasons. Those pools of fabric would end up being nothing but a pool of dust bunnies and dog hairs, right? Shades or blinds that can be easily dusted is your best bet.
If you have fragile collectibles, don’t invite disaster by displaying them within reach of your pets. Trinkets and mementos would be safer on a high shelf or in display cabinets.
Their Own Space
One of the nicest things you can do for your pets and their pet decor is to make them their own private space. Holiday Barn Pet Resorts‘ Southside Manager, Glenda, added an entire room for her dogs when she built her new house. Dog rooms are one of the fastest growing trends in home building. Glenda says her dogs enjoy lounging in their own space, even when the door is open for them to come and go into the rest of the house. If designating a room for your pets is not feasible, some kind of cubby-hole just for them is very sweet. If the best you can do is a crate, cover it will a nice fabric so that it feels like a “den”, then furnish it with fluffy blankets and his favorite toys.
Once you start thinking about making your world safer, cleaner, more fun, and more comfortable for your pet, you will gain a whole new perspective on decorating your home.