Home design projects increasingly taking pets into consideration


After moving into their Great Hills home eight years ago, Beth and Mark Wright decided it was time for a remodel.

As they started the process, they focused on making the space better for everyone in their family – especially their 3-year-old golden retriever, Jazzy.

“We always knew we needed a place for our sweet little girl,” Beth Wright said. “We don’t have any children, so she’s like our child.”

After finding inspiration for a built-in dog nook on design site Houzz.com, the couple discussed the idea with design firm Austin Impressions.

“We actually brought our dog with us when we were doing the design selection so they could measure her,” Beth Wright said. “We wanted them to realize how important she is in our lives, since they were going to be designing and building a spot for her.”

Now more than ever, homeowners are making an extra effort to incorporate their pets into their building and remodeling projects. From built-in water and food bowls to specialized pet entryways, Fido and Fluffy have never felt more comfortable at home.

“People are really looking for a space that is convenient, where they can have their pets adjacent to their everyday living space but also blend in,” said Amanda Stephenson, owner of Design Studio 2010. “They disguise the design so it’s not obvious that it’s a space for housing an animal.”

Stephenson recently remodeled a laundry room for a client that incorporated a built-in litter box and dog crate.

“Most pet owners hold a very special place in their heart for their animal,” Stephenson said. “They give them the thought they would for their kids’ bedrooms. These particular homeowners have a big heart and care for their animals in a very loving way. We wanted to give them a special retreat.”

Although it may seem like adding in pet-friendly features would also add to the cost of a project, that’s not necessarily the case.

“A lot of items can be done at a very minimal expense,” Stephenson said. “It was the same cost to put a door on the face of the cabinet as it was to make a decorative opening for a pet. We had plenty of space for storage within the laundry room to where we still had the function of a utility room but made it a multifunctional space.”

Valerie Malone, marketing director for Austin Impressions, said the company was happy to go out of their way to fit Jazzy’s needs.

“That’s really what our business is known for,” Malone said. “It’s the collaborative process, co-creating with homeowners by first really getting to the essence of their lifestyle in those initial planning interviews. That’s what we do really well. In this case, that was integral – the importance of their dog in their family life.”

Because the Wrights had decided to remodel the house while still living there, they did encounter some challenges.

“We had to teach Jazzy not to be scared of all the plastic,” Beth Wright said. “She started getting to be where she knew all the guys that worked at Austin Impressions, and she would look forward to going downstairs to see her buddies. It definitely helped that they liked dogs.”

After about eight months and numerous revisions, the remodel was finished and Jazzy was introduced to her new nook.

“I was afraid that after all this work and thinking about her that she would have absolutely no desire to go in it,” Beth Wright said, adding that they would have converted the nook into cabinet space had Jazzy not liked it. “I was completely delighted that she likes it as much as she does. We would sneak home and sneak in the door to see if she was using it. We would be so excited to see her there. That’s her spot.”

The Wrights kept Jazzy in mind for other details of their remodel as well. For example, they picked an area rug that would hide shedding and a hardwood floor that would not be impacted much by heavy paws. She said the most important thing in doing a pet-friendly remodel is to think about the animal’s particular wants and needs.

“What’s going to work for them as they get older?” Beth Wright said. “What does she like to do? Does she like looking out the window? Does she need to be in the center of everything? Know your pet.”

With pets continuing to hold important places in homeowners hearts, Stephenson said we can expect to see even more animal-friendly amenities in homes in the future.

“People have always had pets and are always going to,” Stephenson said. “Finding new ways they can embrace their animals in their interior design when they’re custom building a home is where we’re heading.”


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