It's gotten easier to have a house full of pets without sacrificing the home decor you want.
Interior designer Vern Yip, a judge on HGTV's "Design Star" and a dog person, says new technology has led to a variety of stylish AND pet-friendly home-furnishing options.
"The furniture and home-decor industry has really rounded the corner and come to realize that this is a way of life for a lot of people," Yip says. Durable, easy-to-clean paints, antimicrobial stain-resistant rugs and more mean that a beautiful home and a furry pet are no longer incompatible.
Here, Yip and two other interior-design experts — Betsy Burnham, founder of Los Angeles' Burnham Design, and small-space expert Kathryn Bechen — offer some tips:
Many pet owners today "are designing a space around their animals," Burnham says. "Most of the time, I hear, 'Oh, we've got dogs and a couple of cats and three kids, so please be mindful that we can't have anything too precious.' Then there are these really specific requests, like, 'I'd like a built-in dog bed in my island in my kitchen.'"
Often, the planning starts with the biggest elements: walls and floors.
Paints have become much more pet-friendly (and kid-friendly) in recent years: "There are a lot of paint companies now that have flat paints that are wipe-able," a feature previously offered only with glossy paints, Burnham says.
Flooring options have also expanded: Wood flooring companies have developed finishes that resist scratching, Yip says. Ceramic tile designed to look like stone flooring is another practical option.
"It used to be, a few decades ago, that if you put down a ceramic tile floor, it just looked like ceramic," Yip says. This tile "looks like stone, but unlike stone it doesn't absorb urine or other things if your dog has an accident."
And don't forget the little things: If your pets are very active, minimize the number of items on tabletops and put more fragile things on higher shelves, especially in small rooms, Bechen says. Add a lidded basket or storage ottoman to stash pet toys when guests come over.
Fabrics that can withstand life with pets used to be rough and often unappealing to touch, Yip says. Now, you can find stain-resistant and antimicrobial fibers in a range of styles and soft textures. Burnham suggests looking for textiles made with a finish called Nanotex, which makes the fibers stain-resistant and waterproof.
If you have cats, it's also helpful to choose fabrics that are smooth. "We sort of embrace leathers and flatter weaves so that the cat can't get their claws into it," Burnham says.
Leather is also a good choice because it's durable, and it can look even more attractive with a bit of time and wear.
Bechen suggests avoiding very light-colored fabrics if dark pet hair will frustrate you (or very dark fabrics if your pets have light hair). Print patterns are less likely to show pet hair than solids are, she says. And it helps to keep an attractive throw blanket on your pet's favorite furniture, and then remove it when guests come over.
"You'll notice a lot more hair and cleaning with animals in a small space," Bechen says. "It's all condensed."
It's a luxury to have a room devoted to pets, or to have a large enough mudroom to create a sort of pet bedroom. But Yip says that's becoming more common.
When guests who aren't comfortable with animals come to visit, a dedicated room gives pets "a space that's theirs, that they can retreat to that doesn't feel like punishment," Yip says. Even if the space does double-duty as an office or laundry room, you can create a secure area for a pet by keeping their bed, food dishes and familiar toys all in one place.
Get creative by adding something to entertain your pet (Yip's dogs have an aquarium to look at), and create a sleeping space they'll love.
"Cats love to climb," says Bechen, so cat owners can add a shelf around the perimeter of a laundry room or mudroom and put their cat's bed up there. It creates a perfect perch for the pet to feel safe while surveying the room.
Litter boxes can also be creatively upgraded: Bechen suggests choosing one with a decorative cover. Her favorites are designed to resemble tiny, painted houses.