When my husband and I are ready to call it a day, one of us will loudly say, “Big beds!” which prompts our elderly Chihuahua, Herschel, to move from his living room bed (a fuzzy little igloo, of sorts) to his bedroom bed. There, he stretches out on a memory foam doggy mattress that cost nearly as much as our own.
When it comes to animals, there are two kinds of people: pet people and not pet people. I fall firmly in the former and, quite honestly, don’t understand the latter. When Lady Danbury growled “Not on my chair!” as Kate Sharma’s corgi, Newton, jumped into her bergère in this season’s “Bridgerton,” I let out a chuckle. I’d have given Newton a footstool to make the hop easier. (Herschel has a ramp for our sofa.)
Silk brocade and paws may be asking for trouble, but a surge in good-looking pet decor has not only made our homes more attractive but is helping our pets feel better, too. Two new books, “For the Love of Pets: Contemporary Architecture and Design for Animals” and “Where They Purr: Inspirational Interiors and the Cats Who Call Them Home,” explore ways in which we might more comfortably — and, in some cases, luxuriously — coexist with our furry friends.
“For the Love of Pets” delves into dozens of products and projects from across the globe that reflect the changes happening in the pet decor market, especially a new consideration for the physical and psychological needs of our animals. A modular cardboard system by Taiwan design firm A Cat Thing was inspired by its founders’ traumatized rescue cat, who sought comfort in the dark recesses of a simple box. Fetch House, from Washington, D.C.-headquartered firm CallisonRTKL, is a 3D-printed doghouse made to size and inset with tennis balls, melding easy grab-and-go playtime with a dog’s need to den.
Architects are having some fun, too. As part of an earthquake retrofit, Hitotomori Architects in Nara, Japan, added interior structural supports that could double as catwalks for the family’s felines (they even made it so the cats could move from room to room via the ceiling beams), and Calgary, Alberta, firm Studio North creates built-in wall nooks for quiet hidey spaces.
When I asked Phoenix-based cat style expert Kate Benjamin, founder of Hauspanther, “Is it too much to decorate for your pet?” her answer was a resounding “No!” A former director of marketing for a baby-gear company, Benjamin watched that market shift from day-care-like designs to upscale options and wondered why the same wasn’t happening in the pet world. “We need to design for our animals,” she says. “We need to understand their behavioral side so they’re comfy and stress-free. Cats are tiny predators with natural instincts — climb, scratch, hide, hunt — and if you cater to that, you can help them live their best life.” It’s a subject Benjamin, co-author of “Catification” and “Catify to Satisfy” with behaviorist Jackson Galaxy of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell,” knows well. Her design solutions for clients range from inexpensive hacks to custom jobs that run up to $5,000.
The pet decor boom extends to what we humans call “tabletop.” When Seattle-based industrial designer Jay Sae Jung Oh couldn’t find the right dishes for her dog, Boo, she created her own collection, launching Boo Oh in 2018. (It also includes leather harnesses, leashes and uber-chic poop bags.) “I wanted simple, minimalist bowls but could only find things with crazy graphics,” she explains, adding that she would hide her ugly old bowls when friends came over. “There’s been a lack of options on the market, and I thought, someone needs to fix this.” (I share Oh’s disdain for silly bowls and for years have adopted lonely antique saucers at estate sales — they were the perfect size for my cats and work equally well for toy breeds.)
In the success of these boutique operations, big manufacturers have spied a juicy treat. According to pet advice company Pet Keen, the pet accessories market is expected to grow by $9.2 billion between 2022 and 2025. “Pet decor has become more mainstream with social media,” explains Benjamin. “Ikea has a whole section now with some really fantastic things.” Sauder, North America’s leading flat-pack furniture company, is making pet furniture, including a side table with a pullout bed for owners on a tight budget.
Pet Keen also points out that 73 percent of owners report that their pets bring their families closer together. In that spirit of appreciation, Australian photographer Paul Barbera published “Where They Purr,” a follow-up to his artist-studio-focused book, “Where They Create.” The book features luxury interiors but is focused on the felines that inhabit them. “One day, I was shooting Swiss artist Olaf Breuning in the New York City loft where he lived and worked, when I spotted his two regal British shorthairs lounging on a table,” recounts Barbera in his introduction. “Within this human realm, the cats seemed like living, breathing deities; earthly yet mystical. I felt compelled to immortalize their elusive energy with my camera before the moment was gone.”
What makes Barbera’s book so coffee table-worthy is how charmingly it captures each cat’s eccentricities. While Winston Fluffybum likes to perch in the library window of his 19th-century Italianate home in Melbourne, Australia, neighbor Harvey Crafti prefers the living room sofa, from which he can admire his own likeness custom-embroidered onto an ottoman by designer Suzie Stanford. But there’s a pet decor denier in every group: Hercules, another Melbourne resident, wants to be nowhere more than his owner’s chest.
“The world has a better understanding of compassion now, that these are sentient beings,” says Benjamin. “They’re a part of our lives, and it’s fulfilling.” And what nicer way to express our gratitude for the joy they bring our households than to give them an indulgent little something all their own.
Maile Pingel is a writer in Los Angeles and a former editor at Architectural Digest.
Inspirational Interiors and the Cats Who Call Them Home
Thames & Hudson. 239 pp. $50
Contemporary Architecture and Design for Animals
Edited by the Images Publishing Group
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