When we ask potential clients about the makeup of their family, it is always useful if they include their pets on the list. While goldfish and a parakeet don’t require much special design attention, dogs and cats do.
Houzz.com recently published a report on a pet survey it has taken. Besides confirming that pets generally make people happy, it also pointed out that dogs and cats create housekeeping problems with fur/hair issues and the tracking in of dirt and mud. A lot of money is spent on pets these days, with 22 percent of dog owners and 14 percent of cat owners spending more than $1,000 per year on their furry friends.
When updating their existing mudroom, this family took the needs of their animals into consideration in everything from the space planning to the design of the cabinetry.
But when it comes to a home remodel, does it make sense to spend money to design for pets? Well, as in all things, moderation is in order. There are some simple design accommodations you can make if pets are an ongoing part of your family that will make your home function better.
The first area of concern relates to storage. Pets are a bit like children in that they accrue “stuff,” which will need to be dealt with in your home. This includes bags or cans of food, toys, leashes, carriers and kennels, to name a few. The larger the pet, the more impact its “stuff” has on your daily life. If you have a large dog and therefore buy 40 or 50 pounds of food at a time, storing these bags in a storage room in the back corner of your basement is not a convenient solution. If you are adding a new mudroom, make sure you design the space and/or the cabinets to handle the storage of ongoing supplies.
Feeding is another area of concern. Besides the prepared food being handy, pets need a dedicated space for their bowls. Many of us can attest to the problem of bowls placed inappropriately in a circulation route, such as in the kitchen area. Even the smallest bump can send water and kibble all over the place. Additionally, not all pets are neat eaters. They often leave drips of water and bites of food on the floor in the general area of their bowls. If a convenient, out-of-the-way space can be identified for pet meals in the design process, life will be better for all involved.
Some pets can be trusted to eat sensibly while others are gluttons that will eat anything and everything they can. This can be more of a problem if there are multiple pets in a home. A cat may stretch its mealtime throughout the day, unless the dog gets hold of the food — in which case it may be inhaled in seconds. Therefore, for peaceable living, pets may need to be fed in different places or at different levels. This sort of arrangement should be considered during the design phase of a home remodel.
Containment is another challenge relative to pets in the home. If you would not like a pet to always have the run of the house, then plan ahead and create an area in which it can be contained. The mudroom comes to mind, but it could be a larger space such as the kitchen and family room. Wherever it may be in your home, make sure you place a door of some kind where needed to avoid the overuse (or use) of annoying baby gates throughout your home. In addition, some people crate their dogs when they are gone or during the night. If you are remodeling, plan a permanent, built-in space to keep the crate rather than sticking it in the corner of the family room or entry hall.
The materials you choose for your home remodel will be affected by whether you are a pet owner. Flooring is especially critical in terms of strength in the face of nails and water and mud that will be tracked in.
The Houzz article had several people comment that they wash their dog’s paws every time it comes in from outside. Wow! That is dedication to cleanliness. If you are going to those lengths, you surely need a dog shower. Usually placed in the laundry or mud room, this consists of the bottom half of a regular shower, meaning a shower pan (usually about 3 feet by 3 feet, depending on the size of dog) with a tile surround that goes up about three feet, and a hand-held shower head instead of a wall-mounted shower head. This allows for the cleaning of pets near an exterior door where they can be washed without traipsing through the house to the bathtub. Placing the shower pan on the floor works well if you have large dogs that are hard to lift. For medium or smaller dogs, you may want to elevate it somewhat so you don’t have to kneel on the floor every time you need to spruce Fido up a bit.
A dog shower is useful for other purposes, too. With a bar installed above it, it is a great place to drip-dry laundry or wet coats. Muddy boots can be easily hosed off and left to dry, along with soccer balls and camping equipment. If you need to wash off the dusty leaves of an interior plant, the dog shower is your answer.
Other design issues include the placing of a window so an animal can see out without having to climb on the sofa, special hiding spots or climbing opportunities for cats, installing dog/cat doors, and the ever-popular question of where to put the litter box.
For many of us, animals are a necessary and permanent part of our lives. Keep them in mind when you are designing your remodeling project, and both you and your pet(s) will be glad you did.
Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com