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Designing for Pets Without Sacrificing Style

The art of interior design is not only about creating spaces that are beautiful to look at, but that help people live their best lives. While having a pet might seem at odds with maintaining a high style interior, the professionals know that designing for pets doesn’t require sacrificing on savoir-faire. With thoughtfully chosen materials and an understanding of what pets crave for coziness, designers can create visually stunning interiors that perfectly suit the pet-lover’s lifestyle. Here are some tips for how to design impeccable interiors for clients who have a fashionista’s eye but need a sensible, pet-friendly solution.

It’s All About the Materials

The most important factor in designing for clients with pets is selecting suitable materials. From fabrics to flooring, designing for pets requires a researched approach. If your aesthetic is sleek, glossy, and monochrome, be prepared to substitute your traditional go-tos with four-legged friendly alternatives. Velvet and silk are fabrics to avoid as they collect pet hair; however, microsuede and indoor/outdoor synthetic fabrics work as wonderful substitutes that do not pick up debris and are easily cleaned. Instead of quick-to-mar patent leather, try high-end synthetic pleathers instead. Wood floors can work well for pets, but high gloss finishes do not hold up well against claw marks. Wood laminate is a more durable alternative, and tile is even better. If monochrome is the way you design, be sure to select a shade that closely matches the coat of the pet who will be accessorizing the space. This way, as the dog or cat sheds, its hair won't stand out in stark contrast to the interiorscape.

If you’re flexible in your aesthetic, designing for a pet is much easier when you can incorporate variety and depth in your choice of textures and colors. For starters, leathers with a natural patina are very pet-friendly, and luxurious to boot. Options for wood flooring open up as well, as hardwoods with wide groove grains are ideal for pets since they naturally swallow scratch marks. So long as a hardwood species, like oak or mahogany, and a medium-low gloss finish is chosen, most wood floors can be maintained by pet owners who are devoted to cleaning messes in a timely fashion using wood-friendly cleaner. Most textured (bouclé excluded) and patterned fabrics and rugs work well for pet owners, since they hide the inevitable stubborn stain. If jute and sisal are your typical go-tos for an earthy, grounded floor covering, try a polypropylene version that is easy to clean, since natural fibers tend to promote marking behavior amongst cats and dogs.

Carpets and area rugs are sure to be favorited by furry friends, but there are tricks of the trade to make sure floor fabrics can last. For highly trafficked floors and lived-in spaces, like the family room floor, make sure to choose patterns that can blend in the inevitable stains pet life begets. Also, keep in mind that looped carpets and rugs will be more susceptible to damage from pet claws. Remember to add a rubber backing or pad under every rug to prevent slipping. If you are planning to install wall-to-wall carpeting, use an antimicrobial, moisture-resistant pad underneath to protect the floor. While your regular course of action may be to treat carpets with a chemical to make them stain resistant, be careful to choose products proven to be safe for pets. Also, be thoughtful about choosing rugs and carpets that can be vacuumed on a regular basis and can withstand vigorous spot cleaning. Delicate fabrics do not make good floor coverings for pet-friendly homes.

When a Pet is a Pièce de Résistance

There is a difference between designing pet-friendly interiors and designing interiors inspired by a pet. Let your client’s beloved furry friend be your muse, and think about ways to build spaces for the pet into the framework of the home. If you are designing for construction, be sure to include perfect sized nooks for the family pet in the millwork plans. You can even go a step further by designing pet doors that connect different rooms in the house. If you are designing from the ground-up, the possibilities are endless. Also, be sure to find out where the pet likes to settle down for naps, and incorporate dog beds and pet pillows that match the decor in that space. You can even incorporate stepping stools in places where a pet needs to climb to reach its favorite resting place. Customize the pet furniture using the same fabrics and color story you have chosen for the space.

An easy way to match your interior to your pet is to use metal accessories like chrome and stainless steel on furniture. Not only does metal discourage pets from chewing and scratching, but the reflective quality of metal will subtly mirror the color of the pet’s coat. The more you can integrate the pet into the design of the home, the better.

Tips for Keeping Up Appearances

Truth be told, maintaining a pristine interior when living with pets will always present a challenge. Help your clients by integrating the less glamorous necessities of pet ownership into the overall design scheme. For example, including indoor/outdoor mats at each exterior threshold will facilitate clean paws. If possible, go a step further and include a mudroom type of space in the plans where a pet can get a thorough cleaning before diving into the divine living room sectional.  

Of course, accidents will happen, so plan ahead. When ordering furniture, buy extra fabric to make slipcovers or even just thin cushions to use as pet covers that can be easily removed for cleaning. Advise your client to keep the pet’s nails clipped and coat brushed to reduce the occurrence of scratching and shedding.


Also, be sure to keep safety top of mind. Design spaces for garbage that are hidden or that can be securely closed. Kitchens need food storage that is out of reach for pets, and bathrooms/storage closets need spaces for cleaning products to be locked safely out of harm's way. Diligently check for choking, strangulation, electrocution, and suffocation hazards. Window treatment cords need to be short and preferably without loops. Wires and electrical cords should be covered. Lastly, research cleaning products that are not only safe for the high-end materials and furniture you are bringing into your clients home, but are non-hazardous to a pet’s health.


An interior designer who is a master of creating beautiful, cozy spaces for pets and their owners is sure to be in high-demand. Designing for pets doesn’t require sacrificing on style, so long as you have a researched approach to achieving your aesthetic with sensible plans and materials. Use these tips to add pet-friendly interiors to your design repertoire, and watch your portfolio flourish!

Janna Chanoux
Janna Chanoux
Although Janna’s been trying to persuade us since day one, we still don’t have an office dog. She graduated from Kutztown University in 2015 with a degree in business administration and joined the Design Manager team right out of college. She loves having the opportunity to learn more about technology and interior design on a daily basis. Janna doesn’t like “yard games,” but we force her to play them with us anyway (spikeball is our thing). What she really likes is making meatless versions of her favorite foods (she’s a vegetarian), binge watching TV series, trying new makeup, and going on walks with her dogs.

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