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Designing with Furry Friends in Mind

With more travelers choosing to take road trips for their vacations this summer, many will consider taking their furry friends along with them. InspireDesign spoke with Dorothy Willets, principal of Willetts Design and Associates, for her thoughts on pet-friendly design.

Why is it important for hospitality to have interior design that is pet-friendly? I think at this point in our world, the question is actually, “Why won’t it be important for the hospitality market to cater to their clients’ best friends?” At the high-end level, five- and six-star hotels, pet-friendly amenities have been available for a while now. But as more and more people travel with their pets and feel that their pets are an integral part of their family, the rest of the hospitality industry needs to get on board. With COVID, the hotels will find themselves competing for people who will want to feel safe and at home, and a large part of that feeling can be provided by allowing their customers to bring their pets.

What are some of the basic elements of pet-friendly design? When designing a room to be pet-friendly, many of the usual design decisions that are made would also cover anything you may need to take into consideration for pet design. In other words, or maybe just less words, durable and easily cleaned fabrics and carpeting—not too light, not too dark.

I’ll share a great fabric tip—I use a lot of outdoor fabrics on interior furnishings. Many of these can be bleach-cleaned and they tend to be tough as nails. And with new technology, people will not know the difference based on the feel or look of the fabric. That being said, dogs can smell over bleach. So, when cleaning up a mess, make sure to provide an enzymatic stain and odor remover. Pets also tend to “knead” and circle around on a cushion before laying down, so for upholstery, like a chair or sofa, fabrics like a boucle, that pull easily, would be a poor choice.

For the pets, I like to add a few custom dog beds, maybe a cozy cat cave, size-appropriate chew toys, water and food bowls, with a spill tray underneath, and potty pads or bags in case of emergencies. Also, try to eliminate any spaces where a pet may get stuck between furniture pieces, and make sure to secure and tie up any cords that a pet could pull, chew or get tangled up in.

If there is a pool area or beach area that may be available to the clients’ pets, make sure that there are clear and obvious ways for the pet to get in and out safely. Dogs do not have the same depth perception that adult humans have. They do not see steps in pools the same way we can. They will drown if they don’t know how to get out. Like children, the rules should be no beach or swimming without supervision.

For cold climates, drying the salt off of paws is important. So, in either instance, having pet towels available at entries for cleaning and/or drying would be a nice touch and help keep entryways cleaner.

When providing a designated outdoor area for pets, provide overhead protection from the elements. Grass is nice, but doesn’t hold up as well as synthetic turf. But in warmer climates, synthetic turf will get hot—not as hot as asphalt, but uncomfortable for a pet’s paws. Providing some sun protection for both pets and owners will be appreciated by all.

If you are a good pet owner, your pet is a big responsibility and provides an incredibly rewarding relationship. As a hospitality provider, anything that you can do to help and/or encourage responsible ownership and show that you relate to and appreciate the value your clients place on their furry family members will benefit everyone in the long run.

1 Response
  1. Thank you, Dorothy! As a two-pet family, our dogs are an integral part of the family. Whether we are bringing them with us to visit our college student, or to see our out-of-town oldest child, we look for hotels that will accommodate ALL of us. And we’re not unique.
    I hope the rest of the industry soon sees your vision and our need.