The outside world can’t be controlled, but our homes can be designed to be a place of rest for you and your pup

By Carina Thornton

2016 study by the National Institute of Mental Health estimates about 44.7 million adults suffer from a form of mental illness (including generalized anxiety and panic disorders.) The number represents over 18% of U.S. adults over the age of 18.(1) This isn’t a suggestion that a cozy blanket is a replacement for proper medical treatment but there are some simple joys we can bring into our homes and lives to relieve some of the day-to-day stress… and your dog can help.

It sometimes feels like a crazy world out there (like “build-a-blanket-fort”crazy). From struggling with anxiety or just recovering from a rough day, it can be a challenge to strike balance between participating in life and practicing self-care. The outside world can’t be controlled, but our homes can be designed to be a place of rest and retreat. 

Home is a place for gathering around the table, where Saturday mornings mean relishing in the comfort of freshly washed sheets with the lingering scent of burning candles, lemon Lysol, and Italian bakery bread in the air. Perhaps, as society becomes noisier and the world seems to shrink as it spins, the happiest place is often sitting at the table; gathering around the fireplace with favorite hounds and humans; enjoying the specialness of the comfort of coming home, sinking into your favorite chair, with your dog at your side. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone.

University of Missouri-Columbia research has found that simply petting your dog releases serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin: our “feel good” hormones. Snuggling with your dog also decreases your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Regulating cortisol levels can help control your appetite and reduce carb cravings.(2) Life without carb cravings sounds pretty good indeed!

Whether you have a chic DC condo or a sprawling suburban house, don’t feel that your home can’t be stylish, elegant, or put together because of your pet’s needs. With the right materials and considerations your home can be incredibly stylish and full of personality. 

Pet-friendly décor involves 4 aspects: Functionality, Safety, Comfort, Aesthetics. Let’s get started with a few tips on creating your perfect pet-friendly home.

1. Functionality 

This quote by William Morris gives great direction for getting started on the front of functionality: “Have nothing in your home that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” When considering items for your home, ask yourself if it:

•Is practical – will it actually do something?

•Is useful – will it help you achieve something?

•Does it save time, energy, money?

•Will it benefit your most valuable resources?

When doing Spring cleaning or larger home renovations, consider creating an organized and stylish area near the entrance door that houses leashes, outdoor-wear, baggies, etc. When planning, organizing or redesigning a kitchen or laundry room consider adding storage that specifically meets your pet needs: built-in dog bowls, leash/collar storage, dog food storage, even incorporating an easy to use pet wash station.

2. Safety 

Whether it’s for zoomie hour, new puppies, or your older and special needs pets, your home should have features that keep your pets safe: non-slip area rugs, inaccessibility to toxic products (cleaning products, bath products, foods like chocolate and peanut butter, etc.), and securely locked doors.

Speaking of zoomie hour, there’s no reason why you can’t display your favorite knick-knacks and still keep everyone and everything upright. There are a few ways to keep your fragile collections safe.

•Curios and cabinets: Consider enclosing Mommom’s favorite Hummel collection behind glass doors where they can still be enjoyed away from swinging tails and curious noses.

•Out of reach: Opt to shelving mounted higher than your pets reach, and if they are a jumper, even slightly higher. 

•Designer Trick: A little 3M double-sided tape on the bottom of lightweight knick-knacks or small plants can help keep items from toppling over in the case of accidental bumps and curious sniffing. Contact 3M or your furniture manufacturer before using on heirloom or painted pieces.

For safety and ease underfoot, choose good quality wool rugs – they are naturally stain resistant and repel liquid as do some synthetic materials like nylon and polypropylene. Laminate, stone, or painted concrete are beautiful choices and are easy to clean, but these flooring options can be slippery so add area rugs with non-slip backings.

3. Comfort (textures, lighting, lifestyle)

From upholstery to drapes, durable, stain resistant, fade resistant, non-pilling, easy-to-clean fabrics are a must for pet parents. Seek out products that are cozy enough to snuggle in but durable enough to clean regularly or toss in the wash. 

Manufacturers such as Crypton and Revolution Fabrics have lines of highly durable, stain resistant, and sustainably manufactured fabrics. Crypton has a fantastic warranty and will replace your fabric if it doesn’t stand up to their extensive list of possible stains. And always opt for Scotchgard or Guardian protection when investing in new furniture.

Use lighting to create the type of vibe and atmosphere desired: bright and energetic or soft and calming? There is no need to choose just one, incorporate as many or as few of these lighting types as desired:

Ambient Lighting: This is the light that brightens your entire room either naturally through the windows or via your main overhead light source. 

Task Lighting: Task lighting is exactly what it implies, a light over the stove, at the desk area, above the bathroom mirror, or any place else where focused lighting is needed to complete a task.

Accent Lighting: These cute little fixtures are strategically placed in the dark corners of a room to cast gentle light onto a point of focus.

Cable concealers and on-wall cord covers can keep wires out of view and out of the mouths of teething puppies and kittens.

4. Aesthetics (art and accessories that give you “all the feels”)

When it comes to non-essentials like knick-knacks: when cleaning them, ask a few questions: Does it make me feel happy? Am I feeling resentful when I do this? For example, picking up an my grandmother’s ceramic ballerina and caring for her – even though her toes have been cracked for 75 years – makes me feel grateful and nostalgic but picking up the random candle holders on my dining room table make me feel like they are just adding to my workload. Needless to say, my dining room table is now candle-holder free. Use a process like this to determine what stays and what goes.

If accenting with area rugs, pillows, or throws, avoid silks and opt instead for viscose which has a similar look and feel but is much more durable. There are gorgeous budget-friendly options that can add that pop of color or texture to any space but that can be tossed without guilt if a major accident occurs. 

When talking about “all the feels”, we can’t omit scent. Did you know that childhood memories linked to scent stay with people throughout life? Scent is an important way to indulge in as a thoughtful part of design. Whether it’s soaps and perfumes, candles or essential oils, scent has the power to instantly set the mood or spark a favorite memory. Choose scents that recreate positive memories (mom’s chocolate chip cookies, laying in the grass on a crisp fall day, the scent of the summer blossoms that drifted into your treehouse) or some of the more traditional, calming scents like lavender or jasmine. There are many ways to introduce scents into your home such as with your choice of laundry detergents, shower gels and shampoos, and of course by diffusing essential oils or burning candles (check with your vet before using essential oils and keep them out of reach of pets.) Don’t forget about fresh flowers and herbs as well.
Get creative with your own dog! From glass and ceramic sculptures to drawings, paintings, and of course photography, it’s easier than ever to use your own dog in your décor. Purchase or have a printer make wallpaper of your dog or your dog’s breed and add it as an accent wall near their pet station, or in the powder room, or wherever it will bring the most smiles.

Book a photo session to take fun, unique, creative photos of your pet and create a dramatic, whimsical collage on one wall in your space or incorporate into your family photo collage. A professional pet photography session and artwork can be custom designed around your unique home and your special connection with your dog. Pets bring laughter and love into our homes, the make us smile and laugh and bring so much joy into our lives, go ahead and add a little of that same energy into your décor. Use the connection with your dog to create your own special haven.

Carina Thornton is a self-proclaimed introvert. Rejoicing in creating peaceful home environments as a respite from the fast-paced outside world. She is also a master in pet photography as well as pet-friendly and pet-centric home design.