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NKBA Trend Report: Keeping Pets in Their Place

4/4/2014 4:00:00 PM
Article by Holly Berecz
The family pet dines right alongside the family in this Bridgeport, CT home by CK Architects

If you’re like many of the 82.5 million-plus pet owners across the U.S., that place is right alongside the family! The 2014 National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) Design Trends Survey points out that pets are having a dramatic impact on home design—especially the kitchen.

With pet ownership at an all-time high, architects, builders, and designers are feeling the influence of our four-legged friends. In 2012, the American Pet Products Association estimated that 68 percent of U.S. households had pets. This is up from 62 percent in 2010. And spending on these pets has also reached record levels. In 2012, folks spent $53.33 billion on pets, up from $41.2 billion five years prior.

Why the sudden shift toward a pet-centric society? Well, in January a Wall Street Journal article attributed this, in part, to the trend of Americans delaying getting married and having children until later in life. They claim that people are turning to pets for constant love and companionship.

Regardless of the reason, one thing is certain…people consider their pets to be part of the family and they want them near at all times. In fact, they've begun requesting special places designed specifically for their four-legged friends, found amongst the areas where the family spends time. Since the kitchen serves as today's "command center" many of these areas are being incorporated right into kitchen cabinetry. Laundry rooms are another area where specialized "pet centers" are being configured, including everything from bathing and lounge areas to hide-away pet food cubbies and drawers.

Designers are seeking creative ways to sensibly, yet stylishly, integrate pet-friendly elements into cabinetry projects. The NKBA reports that dozens of its members are designing kitchens that accommodate cats and dogs, with elements from day beds and feeding stations to litter box cabinets and doggy faucets.

For Shannon Ggem, ASID of Malibu, CA, designing for pets isn't new, or uncommon. "I actually can only think of a few projects where I haven't been asked to work in a pet station," Ggem explains. "I have pets, so I think I attract clients with pets. I hope that the stray dog hair the lint roller missed helps sell my services. It's branding," she says, adding that meeting her client's pets is one of her favorite parts of the job.

uptown country kitchen rustic kitchenEven this cozy cabin kitchen by Shannon Ggem has its own area for the family dog.

Ggem designed a place for the family pup even in this miniscule Malibu cabin. With no extra room to spare in the tight quarters, it just made sense to design a dog-centric area. "There couldn't be a stray trash barrel or dog bowl around," says Ggem. She's designed entire rooms for pets in some of the larger homes she's worked on. One included a "vanity" with the food below and a twin bed on a low platform for the dog, and another involved transforming a powder room into a private pet suite. She's gone so far as to even drill holes into recessed panel doors so that dogs could get a peek of the action outside.

Especially common in new construction, the key to successful pet designs is twofold: blend in with the rest of the space and offer convenience. Here are a few more tips from the experts on designing spaces suited just right for our furry friends:

• Remember to use pet-friendly surfaces and fabrics. For example, polished marble floors can be slippery, especially for damp paws.

• Instead of a base cabinet, consider installing a door with open slats to create a custom nook in the middle of a cabinet run. The more open, the better; as we all know our pets like to keep their eyes on us.

• Incorporate pull-out food and water dishes to avoid tripping over (and spilling) pet food as you work in the kitchen. Just be sure they’re the appropriate height for your pet.

• If your pet’s a free-feeder, a pull-out food station might not be the best solution. Create a little niche under a counter where the dog bowls will fit. If you have a smaller pet, you can avoid wasted space by incorporating a drawer or shelves above. This way, the dog bowl is less obvious yet completely accessible.

• Pull-out recycle bins and trash containers make great dog food storage areas.

• Under an island is a great place to create a customized dog bed. If your pet follows you like a shadow, he can still feel close to you while you work.

• Use deep drawers for stashing toys, leashes, towels and treats.

• For smaller pets, consider placing a bench above a built-in kennel. Hang hooks above for stashing leashes and a jacket for cooler weather walks.

• When creating an indoor toilet area for cats, be sure to consider both accessibility and ventilation. Tuck litter baskets into a base cabinet with a cutout or flap-style door.

One word of caution, however: The NKBA reported that some of the four-legged clients included in their findings are on the finicky side—and not just the cats! Maria Stapperfenne, CKD, CBD, of Tewksbury Kitchen & Bath in Whitehoue Station, NJ, and the 2014 NKBA president-elect, mentioned that one of her projects involved creating a special place for "Major the Dog." Only, unfortunately, "Major" wasn't wild about the end result.

Remember, the kitchen's primary function is still that of a workplace. Keep pet areas in perspective and don't get carried away. If your client has multiple pets, they may want to encourage them to share!

Have your clients requested pet-friendly areas in their projects? What's the craziest design you've ever done for a pet? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

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