FURniture, FURnishings and ReFURbishing

Designing for our canine, feline companions

Today’s hottest influencers in interior design don’t know how to use social media or indoor plumbing – for them, a great post is one they can pee on.

They’ve no specialized knowledge, authority or insight into the principles of design, are largely thought to be colorblind, and prefer napping over tweeting. Yet with a single wag of their collective tail, they’ve helped grow a $100 billion industry.

Nearly every household on Bainbridge Island includes at least one of these mega-influencers. A recent meme on Facebook posed the question, “Tell me you’re from Bainbridge Island without telling me you’re from Bainbridge Island.” The top answer? “When my pet goes missing, 500 people go looking for it.”

Case Study: Last month I presented a client with a furniture layout for her living room. I anticipated the typical, “Oh, that’s perfect. Why didn’t I think of that?” response, but with a shake of her head she dismissed the new arrangement, “No can do, Walter won’t like it.” Walter is a labradoodle.

Undeterred, I used my most authoritative designer voice and pointed out the wasted space, awkward circulation pattern and missed opportunity to orient the room to its natural focal point, which was the fabulous fireplace.

She glanced in Walter’s direction, who was sitting on the sofa with a certain elevated air about him which seemed to say, “That’s right; you’re doing great honey.”

The said to me: “Walter prefers sitting next to the window and looking out at the world as has been his habit for years. I’m afraid moving the sofa would simply be too stressful for him at this time.”

Lining furniture up against the wall is downright Victorian. Feeling an irresistible urge to drag the sofa to the “better” location and demonstrate the wise ways of my winning design, I made a slight move in that direction but Walter gave me the side-eye and his hackles shot up. Piloerection is the technical term for a dogs’ hair going up but in my profession, the lingo is “pillowerection” as in don’t-dare-move-my bed lady. With pressure from the client and Walter, it was back to the drawing board for me.

Case Study: In this instance, I played the newly created role of Forensic Designer, you will need to have majored in interior design and minored in forensic science to be proficient. As part of the design process for my clients’ Seattle condo, I spent two hours with a magnifying glass comparing individual strands of cat hair side by side with carpet fibers. Within a tolerance of two shades, I was able to ensure the cat’s hairs would not be noticeable among the fibers. My client was thrilled, and I suppose I was able to live out a weird true crime fantasy of sorts.

So integral to the condo’s color palette was the cats’ fur that for the duration of the project I carried a sealed Ziplock containing a tuft of his hair. While I found the severely monochromatic palette disturbing to my practiced design sensibilities there was no denying I’d fallen, victim. I was now wearing head-to-toe Vishnu, which is not by the way, a fabulous new couture house. The cat’s name should come as no surprise, in Hindu Vishnu is the supreme being who creates, protects and transforms the universe — and as it turns out, also the living room.

Observation: It’s their house, you just live in it. From built-in dog washing stations to “catios” lifestyle trends for our homes now extend to pimped-out pet products, and Fluff’s style game better be “Fancy Like” for total lifestyle coordination. To achieve Fluff Daddy bad and bougie style, be prepared to provide a list of desired creature comforts to your architect, contractor or designer.

Fluff Daddy will expect his digs to be on par with yours, and this is best achieved if addressed in the early planning stages. As a designer, I have a comprehensive file of pet resources at my fingertips.

Special thanks to my chihuahuas Tula and Milo for their contributions to this article. I’m not saying they lorded over my keyboard but I’m not saying they didn’t either. They’re pesky err, persuasive, persistent, perfect little influencers with big ideas, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Denise Stoughton, an interior designer living and working on Bainbridge Island, writes a column monthly for this newspaper; contact her at