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Designing with Dogs


We first met Ando at the North Charleston Humane Society in a sterile, white room. He stood sheepishly in one corner of the space. Calvin stood sheepishly in another (he didn't grow up with dogs). I sat on the floor, trying to coax the black lab mix to a treat in my hand. He took the bait and we decided we would call him Ando.

There were lots of clues as to what was in store for Ando's adoptive family. The writing was literally on the wall, on a bright pink flyer in his kennel, which was carpeted with the shreds of what had once been a bed and toy. The flyer said "BEHAVIOR WAIVER" across the top in bold lettering. The volunteer explained that this meant we wouldn't be charged for the adoption, an offer made to families considering a dog with "challenges." Ando's challenge was separation anxiety - severe separation anxiety - life altering separation anxiety, as it turned out. His file informed us that he had been returned to the shelter twice following episodes of "household destruction." We have a unique ability to gloss over the details when we are excited. We call it positivity. Our friends call it stupidity. We signed on the line and became Ando's new family.

Image Above: Ando, Caesar's Head, SC

Of course we brought Calvin's two seater sports car to the shelter that day. They wouldn't allow us to leave our new pup for a few minutes while we traded for a larger vehicle at home, probably fearful we would experience adopter's remorse and never return. No problem. We loaded 65 lbs of skittish black lab into my lap and made the fifteen minute drive home. I only sustained minor injuries.

Image Above: Ando, Bloody Point Beach, Daufuskie Island, SC

When we got him home, Ando was the picture of behavior - daintily sipping water from his bowl, curling up quietly at our feet, forming an instant and unbreakable bond with Calvin. We were so self impressed. It must have been the calm, therapeutic nature of our home that tamed the savage beast. Then, we made our first grocery store run. Separation anxiety is no joke. When we returned, the neighbors were gathered on the lawn, watching from the outside while Ando wreaked havoc on the inside. Not a drapery, windowsill, dish, or furnishing was safe. It was almost a total loss and started our family's years long relationship with the local doggie daycare.

Image Above: Ando and Calvin, Caesar's Head, SC

Zoe joined our family about a year after Ando. We found her repeatedly wandering in the road and offered to take her in if the family was struggling with her care. They gladly accepted the offer and Ando got a therapy dog. Zoe came with her own set of issues. The most notable was a paralyzing fear of all buzzing creatures. When the flowers bloom in Spring and the bumblebees grace the garden, Zoe's season of terror commences, replete with uncontrolled trembling at the suggestion of an outdoor jaunt. Bathroom breaks are forced. Walks are coaxed. Draperies must remain closed - lest a rogue bee sees the flowers reflected in our windows and taunts her with repeated attempts to breech the fortress of our home. Fireworks might as well be bees. Zoe spends the 4th of July weekend paralyzed in various corners of the house. Although we vowed never to allow dogs on the bed, we keep a durable throw nearby for nights like this. Snuggling seems to be the only cure for fireworks paralysis.

Image Above: Zoe, Snow Day, Marietta, SC

This crazy canine tag team has an incredible impact on how we live. Favorite fragile objets have fallen victim to the wag of a lab's tail. Unprotected upholstery has been marred by the paw print of a poodle. At times we worried that design and dogs could not coexist. They've taught us a lot about how to get creative when blending your space with your pets. I'm excited to share some of those lessons in the blog this week.


When we finally had the opportunity to plan and execute the renovation of our own home in Greenville, SC, Ando and Zoe's anxieties were a special consideration. We designed a floor to ceiling "magic window" to provide Ando with a place to watch the action in the back yard. The window helped tremendously with his separation anxiety and our daily doggie daycare needs ended. We also designed a wood lined bench nook, where Zoe could feel protected from the dangers of Spring.

Image Above: Zoe's Bench Nook, Cedar & Moss Conifer Pendant

With Ando in mind, I selected high gloss white cabinetry for our minimalist kitchen renovation. For a purportedly low maintenance breed, Labrador Retrievers shed a phenomenal amount and have an uncanny ability to track mud in the house. When I'm cooking, Ando is underfoot, especially if there is chicken or bacon involved. This means my low cabinet faces are in frequent contact with our shedding mud monster. Lacquered finishes are easy to clean with a damp cloth. White makes it easy to spot the areas needing extra attention.

Image Above: High Gloss White Cabinetry, KitchenAid Appliances, Cedar & Moss Pendants

There are a lot of schools of thought regarding flooring and floor coverings with dogs in the house. Zoomies and accidents happen at some point, so durability and ease of cleaning should be considered when making selections. Durable laminates are often recommended to pet owners but I prefer real hardwoods. When laminate floors inevitably become scratched, they look damaged. Hardwoods patina and grow richer with age, like an ancient European marble counter. Brick, terra-cotta, and cement tile are other great options and can be sourced in fantastic finishes from companies like Clé Tile. When choosing rugs and carpeting for our current home, I had to think hard about how to combat the efforts of the eight paws running around our house. I'm especially fond of this residential carpet tile product from FLOR, which can be used for area rugs or wall-to-wall applications. Squares can be spot cleaned or easily pulled up and washed in the sink. We utilized this product in two of our bedrooms and ordered extra squares to have replacements on hand in the event of irreparable damage.

Image Above: Carpet tiles from FLOR

I love Dash & Albert's Woven Cotton Rugs for homes with pooches on the go. They wear nicely, are easy to clean, and are not so precious/irreplaceable that a major disaster would break the budget. I have two of the Tattersall Woven Cotton Rugs in our own home.

Image Above: Ando, helping hold down plan sets so they don't blow away, Dash & Albert Tattersall Woven Cotton Rug

When it comes to designing with dogs, remember that it is possible to maintain a stylish home and accommodate your furry friends. The key is to take a realistic approach. An ounce of prevention avoids a ton of heartache. Consider durability and ease of cleaning. Consider the individual needs of your own special pup. Don't sweat the little stuff and don't forget to laugh. Life with dogs is a fraction more difficult but a lot more interesting.

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