Decorating with Dogs in Mind

This is Scarlet.

When I first got Scarlet I was living in an apartment that I had painted white. At the time, I had some very colorful furniture (think teal couch, pink patterned chairs), and I wanted them to have a clean, minimalist backdrop against which to pop, so I had my apartment painted white (as an aside, while I knew most apartments were painted a neutral color, I was disappointed to find my apartment was painted a neutral beige instead of a neutral white, and I think my painters were confused about why I was making that particular switch as well).

So here I am living in my white apartment with my white bedding and my white rugs, and I impulse adopted a dog. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great decision because I love the way she rolls on the bed after she wakes up in the morning, and I love when she thinks she is a lapdog (at 50 pounds of muscle, I assure you, she is not), but I hadn’t necessarily thought about the details of what having a dog meant for my apartment. In short: it meant changes, changes that became multiplied when I met Gus.

This is Gus

Dave got Gus as a puppy, and after 6 years together, he wasn’t wild about having to share Dave with someone new. After finally winning him over (a process I felt took way too long), Dave and I were ready to move in together (no, seriously, that’s how long it took Gus to like me).

Learning what I had when Scarlet first came into my life, as Dave and I moved in together, I knew with two dogs we would want to make some design changes to deal with two times the fun.

All that to say, if you plan to decorate a room or a house that you share with one or more dogs, I found these things to be most helpful when going through the process:

1.      First things first. Where is your dog going to be? In some rooms more than others? Laying in your bed acting like they own the place? Depending on where you dog will be, those are the places you want to decorate differently than the others. For example, if I live in a traditional style house with a formal living room and a den off the kitchen, I may choose to paint my formal living room a lighter color that shows less dirt, such as this or this, knowing that the dog and I won’t actually be spending that much time there. We will likely be in the den, watching Netflix on the couch, in a room painted a darker shade, such as darker blue or green. In short, the places you and your dog will be are ones that you want to show less wear and tear, and darker shades will help.

a.     1a is also pretty critical, and that is, where is your dog going to be when entering your house? Wherever you and your dog are going to enter and exit, you want to make sure you have some space and materials allotted for all of their leashes, toys, etc. and you have somewhere to store a towel or something to dry your Scarlet or Gus off in inclement weather (because you really don’t want your wet dog all over your furniture, regardless of how much you’ve tried to prepare it for them, see #2). If you have a mudroom, I am very happy for you. I hope it contains things like this or even a built in such as this. If you do not have a mudroom, or the space for larger storage items in a mudroom, I feel your pain, since most Baltimore row homes don’t. That being said, you are probably going to want to designate an area by your door (or at least as close to humanly possible to your door) for storage items like baskets with or without a lid (depending on your comfort in potentially seeing items sticking out the top) to store towels and toys and hooks for leashes. Having a place for your dog’s items makes it easier to keep from feeling like your dog is taking over your house, especially if, like our dogs, they can’t do things like this.  

2.     Do you allow your dog on the furniture? Dave and I are suckers, so we do. You don’t have to, and that’s ok too. That being said, the type of furniture you get will depend on if your Gus or Scarlet will be joining you there and what type of dog they are.

a.     If you have a dog that sheds or has dark hair, I would recommend fabric furniture in darker tones with a woven fabric (woven fabrics are more durable than a microsuede or leather that will show any and all imperfections), and also with removable covers for washing. This is a great choice. Now don’t get me wrong, before you invite the neighborhood over, you’ll have to do some vacuuming and lint rolling, but on a day-to-day basis, you can rest easy by not having to see the pet hair on your furniture. Now, that being said, if you find yourself leaning more towards hospital levels of cleanliness, I would recommend doing the opposite and buying a lighter sofa, still in a performance fabric of a tight weave, so you can see and remove all pet hair as soon as possible as soon as it happens. While it may be a more stressful long-term solution, if you are committed to that type of maintenance, it is the right choice for you.

b.     In a bedroom, if you let your dog on or under the covers (yes, an interesting habit I learned about as Gus likes to sleep under the covers; naturally, Scarlet has picked up this habit from her big brother), you will want to buy pet-friendly materials here too. Things like jersey and cotton (even flannel if you like extra warmth) are sturdy enough to deal with your dog’s nails and lack a texture such as ruching or raised patterns that can get caught on your dog’s claws and cause runs or snags in your nice bedding.

3.     Let’s talk about your floors. Floors make sense, your dog walks on them, but which ones are the best ones to deal with your dog’s claws?

a.     There are a multitude of floor types out there, but for these purposes, I’m going to focus on wood. You may find yourself in a situation where you are redoing your floors because they are scratched or old or you just don’t like them anymore, and if you have a dog, you don’t want to replace them with something else that will easily scratch. The two best options for you are bamboo, not a wood at all but a grass strengthened through the manufacturing process, and maple. We have bamboo floors in our house, and I cannot recommend them enough. While our wide plank boards are hand scraped, there has been zero scraping from our dogs. The downside of bamboo though is that when you are having them installed, you or a friend will need to be very strong because the layers make nailing into it very difficult. Regardless, choosing either of these two options will be a great long-term solution for your home.

I’m sure there are going to be more dog-friendly tips to come, and no doubt Scarlet and Gus will appear regularly on the blog, but really, how could they not? There’s no discounting their presence in our lives, and by extension, our home.