A Place to Paws: Tips for Creating the Perfect Pet Room

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When Terri Shavers remodeled her New Mexico home, her dogs got a room of their very own. Goodbye, mudroom. Hello, pet room—complete with a dog shower, automatic doggy door, and a water bowl that refills automatically (though her border collie still prefers to drink from the toilet).

“We added them to our remodeling plan because the dogs own us and they told us to,” she laughs.

Shavers is far from alone in creating a pet-first space in her home. From builders offering pet suites to interior designers turning unused spaces into pet paradises, rooms in many homes are literally going to the dogs (and cats). Because, hey—you have a favorite room in your home, so why shouldn’t your pet?

So if you’re thinking about joining the pet room revolution, here are a few things to consider.

  • Why create a pet room?

    pet room built in bath

    Because your pets are part of your family. They can go wherever they want in your home, but there are times when they’ll be most comfortable in their own room (just like your kids). Pet rooms are great if you’re at work and still housetraining your puppy. They also provide a sanctuary for older pets that need more rest—so you can be as loud as you need to without disturbing them. Plus, you can give pets a time out from each other while providing a cozy place to relax. Or, they just want a room where they can play fetch on a rainy day.

    Pet rooms are also great for when company comes.

    Designer Shannon Ggem’s clients use their pet rooms when they have friends or family over, and when plumbers or electricians are at their home. “It’s a quiet place for the dogs to feel safe,” she says.

  • What do you put in a pet room?

    No matter how fancy or functional you make it, a pet room allows you to keep all your pets’ stuff in one place: a bed; a basket of toys; storage for food and meds; bowls; and hooks for leashes. Easy access to water is essential. And, so is a spot for lounging and looking outside.

    Then, you can focus on the extras. Interior decorator Susan Hayes created a dog room for a Mansion in May project that featured a handcrafted metal dog bed, a fireplace, and a most regal painting of a dog. Nice, if you have a mansion. But if you don’t, Hayes suggests creating rooms that are livable.

    “Pick fabrics that stand up to pets,” she says. “Keep it simple and functional. But simple doesn’t mean it can’t also look great.” Hayes suggests warming up the room with carpet and making sure it and everything in the room is easy to clean.

    Another great addition is a dog-wash station, says designer Carla Aston. “Whether it’s a tiled shower area or a large, deep sink for smaller pets, having a place to bathe an animal that’s not where you wash dishes or yourself is fabulous,” she says. “I’ve had clients whose dogs love to dig and roll in the dirt—my own included—and need a daily rinsing. Don’t forget the hook for attaching the leash so they don’t escape their bath!”

  • Where do you put a pet room?

    Like Shavers and her converted mudroom, think of how you can repurpose an existing room. When Ggem revamped an LA home for an empty nester couple, she transformed an unused bedroom into a dog/yoga room. She used cool blues and greens for the bed and bowls, taking the doors off a built-in desk and installing a dog door underneath, and lining the shelves with dog snacks and yoga blocks. There’s even a bust of a bulldog for good measure.

    Also, remember your pets won’t stay young forever, so choose a room with aging in mind. “Right now, my shower is upstairs, and it’s getting hard for my mastiffs to climb up there,” says pet lover Sea Stipe. “I wish I’d put carpet in the pet room. As the dogs get older, the hard floors are hard on their hips, and they slip while struggling to get up.”

    Pet rooms should provide easy access to the outdoors, as well. “I always install pet doors that I can easily hide,” says Ggem. “Because I’ve seen a lot of pet doors, but I’ve never seen a beautiful one.”

    Look for rooms full of natural light that don’t get too hot or cold.

  • Won’t a pet room smell?

    Not if you create it with pets in mind, using washable fabrics, carpet and cushion that reduce pet odors, and luxury vinyl flooring that’s a cinch to clean. Ggem has designed pet rooms with doors leading to an outdoor structure that houses the litter box. “One family’s pet accessed the door by jumping onto a nightstand that led to what used to be a henhouse,” she says. “When the homeowner changed the litter, he did so outside, at counter height.”

    And lastly, wash all bedding and linens in a simple mix of an oxy-powered laundry detergent and a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar.

From mudroom to mutt room. Want flooring that can really stand up to a pet room? We’ve got that.

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