And as the pandemic forced us into isolation, we increasingly turned to our pets for comfort. In fact, ABS data reveals Aussies spent 35 per cent more time with their animal companions in 2021.
It’s perhaps no surprise then that the latest Pinterest Predicts report has identified “barkitecture” (or “animal-first architecture”) as a growing trend, with large numbers of pet owners prioritising their furry and feathery friends when remodelling or redecorating their homes.
Searches for luxury dog and cat furniture are up significantly, and items such as dog showers and feeding stations; cat condos and climbing walls; luxury guinea pig hutches and rabbit runs are all some of the ways owners are spoiling their animal friends.
When Bonnie Hindmarsh, of the wildly successful Three Birds Renovations team, was planning her dream home, a laundry with a purpose-built space for washing her family’s much-loved dogs was top of her wish list.
“I’ve always wanted a dog bath for our British bulldogs. It’s too messy in the bathroom, too cold outside and so, I thought the laundry was the perfect place,” she says. “What it needed was a lip where the dogs can get in but the water can’t get out. And you need to have a tap that can move around.
“We measured the dogs and played around with the design to get it just right – and I love how it turned out,” Hindmarsh adds.
The result was a laundry that is both practical and pretty and where washing clothes can take place alongside the Hindmarsh family’s pooch preening activities.
If Melbourne-based designer Fabiana Loschi’s inspiring collection of handcrafted pet houses and play-centres are anything to go by, the era of the basic backyard doghouse may be well and truly over.
“The concept of ‘pet architecture’ or ‘pet furniture’ is relatively recent, but has grown hugely over the last decade,” says Loschi. “It’s not only wanting pieces that bring pleasure to owners and their pets but also valuing designs that incorporate sustainably sourced materials more than ever before.”
“Pets are such an important part of our lives these days, they are no less special than any member of our family. We love to spend time with them, we want to see them happy, comfortable and living their best life,” she adds. “What’s better than furniture that fits their personalities and fulfils their needs, while also fitting their owner’s lifestyle and home’s interior aesthetic?
“And in the era of social media where we want every aspect of our life to be picture-perfect, accessories for our pets are no different. Pet owners want durable, original and beautiful items for their pets, as much as they would for themselves or for their kids.”
Tara Solberg, interior designer and founder of Few & Far and Indigo Love, is passionate about the joys of pet ownership. She cheerfully admits to being “one of those people who decided they needed a dog during a pandemic when puppy prices went through the roof and waiting lists were torturously long.”
After welcoming Moby, a red mini-groodle, into the family in mid-2021, Solberg had a hard time finding dog beds and accessories that looked good, matched the style of her home and, importantly, were functional.
She says, “I’ve always adored one-of-a-kind and unique pieces and I didn’t necessarily want anything that was specifically dog-themed that would clash with our existing interior. So, I decided to improvise.
“I love using large floor cushions as dog beds, so I had some made in Turkey from old pala kilims. I’ve also got some woollen Moroccan pouffes that can be used in a similar way. It’s about thinking outside the box and being creative.
“Adding beautifully carved wooden hooks in the hallway also creates a statement piece where you can hang hats, coats and … you guessed it, dog leads! They become ‘part of the furniture’ and are always at hand when you’re ready to head out,” Solberg adds.
Ceramic bowls that match the kitchen decor, easy-care timber floorboards and hard-wearing vintage rugs that both look great and camouflage stains are also part of Solberg’s dog-friendly decor.
“However you choose to adapt your home for your new furry family member, it’s important that you have fun and get creative. Doubling your TV cabinet as a crate could work as a big space saver, and there are other innovative solutions like bowls built into kitchen counters hidden by a cabinet door or ‘dog rooms’ built in nooks under the stairs,” says Solberg.
“There are so many different styling opportunities you can introduce that still fit your decor when you get a pet.”