By Rachel Joiner
Pet hair in your sofa cracks. Bones and toys scattered everywhere. That comfy but not-so-pretty dog bed in the corner. It’s no secret that living with pets can take its toll on a household, and your home can quite literally go to the dogs in a short amount of time. How many of us have looked around the house and wondered, “Where does my space come in? The one that looks like that room in Southern Living?”
Of course, sharing your life with a beloved animal companion is well worth the compromises made to our living environments—but that doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself in the clutter. Now more than ever, there are so many pet-friendly design options that help to create harmony between the two and four-legged members of your house.
The ancient Chinese system of feng shui is an art of placement based on the belief that the flow of “chi”, or energy, permeates both our inner beings as well as our outer environment. It teaches that the placement of objects in your environment have a significant positive or negative impact on the inner chi and the overall wellbeing of those living there. After all, have you ever noticed how relaxed you feel walking into a beautifully decorated hotel room, while you may feel a wave of stress as you walk into your overly cluttered den? Or how a certain wall color creates in you a particular mood of calmness, energy or warmth?
We want good chi within our home, which consists of uplifting energy that benefits the wellbeing of both human and animal inhabitants. To avoid bad or stagnant chi, feng shui teaches the arrangement of objects within a space to promote flow and light, and to represent the five elements which bring harmony to our private world: water, fire, earth, metal and wood. Simply put, the system works off the notion that living with rather than against nature promotes a positive living experience, and we can all incorporate this into our daily lives—even with a house full of furry ones.
“From what I have observed with my own dogs and those of clients, dogs know good feng shui. They are extremely sensitive to energy and their favorite places in the house will be the most auspicious areas of the house,” writes Tisha Morris, author of 27 Things to Feng Shui Your Home.
With this in mind, I’ve collected some great design and décor ideas that will help you find beauty and balance in your home that will work for both you and your Fido friend.
Cleanliness as Design
Dogs and cats are active, positive forces that create moving energy in our homes. They, like us, represent the fire element. The most important thing is to keep them this way: positive and active. This can be as simple as making sure they are walked every day to release their own pent-up energy, and to make sure your shared environment is clean, accessible and harmonious.
One of the keys to achieving positive chi flow is to de-clutter your home, and that goes for the space along the floor where pets tend to spend much of their time. We all get behind and allow clutter to take over at times, but putting strewn clothes, shoes, books and toys in their proper place restores a sense of peace and calm within the home and also alleviates the temptation for your pup pal to chew that new pair of heels. If you have a toy hog among your canine pack, then you’ll understand that a dog can be much like a toddler, quickly covering your home in toys and bones. Purchase a toy chest or large basket to store your pet’s favorite things in and pick up unused items throughout the day. Another option: keep your pet’s toys hidden away and only give one or two at a time, switching them out every few days. Not only will it help keep your home free of the clutter, but your pooch will be excited to see toys he has not played with in a while, keeping him all the more interested.
In the same way, give some consideration to the other items in your pet’s life. A litter box in the bathroom may sound like a logical idea until you step fresh from the shower into tracked litter on your shower rug, so try to find an out-of-the-way place that will better suit your lifestyle as well as one that will be quiet, easily accessible and secure for your cat. The corner of a laundry room or spare room is ideal, but if you’re tight on space, consider purchasing or creating a litter box cabinet or table that can neatly house the box in a corner. Add a couple of potted plants nearby and on top to disguise your pet’s potty in a more positive element. The key is not in having a large, open space but in being creative with the space that you do have.
When designing or redecorating your living space, one of the most important decisions you will make as a pet guardian is your flooring. After all, that carpet that looked so beautiful on display at the store may not rock your universe once it has seen its share of pet accidents, shedding and playtime. Choosing flooring with your pet in mind can be costly, but the right choice could save major headaches down the line. Hardwood floors are ideal for homes with pets and symbolize the wood element of feng shui.
Says Carrie England, co-owner of Nashville-based CKE Interior Design, “Hardwood floors with a durable finish are warm, resist stains and can be cleaned easily. And, most hardwoods can be refinished in the event that your pet’s claws scratch the flooring over time.” Ceramic tile or concrete flooring (both earth elements) are also good options for pets since they are easy to maintain and clean, and since pet hair does not accumulate in tough-to-get spots like with carpet.
England’s business partner, Kristina Eckert, says, “Wall to wall carpeting is not ideal as it will absorb dirt and accidents. If carpet is your preference, carpet tiles are a great option as individual tiles can be removed and replaced. Low pile carpets will help reduce the amount of fur and are easier to clean up if accidents should happen.” And, if you do prefer carpet in your home, be ready to invest in a high quality vacuum to tackle the pet hair, such as the amazing Dyson Animal.
Keeping towels handy by the door in a rack, chest or drawer is a simple way to help cut down on the mess your pet tracks in from the outdoors. This way, you can catch your pooch pal as she comes in to check her paws for mud and other debris before she has a heyday in your living room. If you have a mud or laundry room, perhaps choose to make this area an animal station where you keep leashes, extra food, shampoos, toys and paw towels all in one central and convenient location.
Although the practice of feng shui typically suggests that pets should not get on furniture intended for the people of the house, I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one who often throws this rule out the window. While keeping your pets floor-bound certainly helps keep things cleaner and can help establish boundaries, there is sometimes just no way to say “no” to a furry cuddle session on your favorite couch.
If your pets do enjoy your furniture, avoid fabrics such as silk and velvet, which can be difficult to clean. Instead, opt for a Microfiber or Ultrasuede fabric that is super easy to clean and resists scratching and fraying. Since there is no pile, pet hair does not work its way into the fabric and instead can be easily brushed or vacuumed off. A favorite among interior designers is the synthetic fabric Crypton, which is stain and bacteria resistant and doesn’t pick up pet odors. As an extra precaution, England suggests applying Scotchguard to upholstery to further fight stains and dirt that your pets may track in.
Of course, if you’re on a budget and need to give a quick facelift to your living room’s look, consider a slipcover. They’re affordable, come in a variety of sizes and colors and are easy to take off and wash when necessary. “Removable pillow and cushion covers are also ideal and can be washed as needed,” suggests Eckert. “You can toss it in the wash before company comes over to get rid of any stains or pet hair.”
If your animal family is limited to one pet or similarly colored pets, choosing sofa or chair colors similar to your pet’s coat can camouflage a small amount of pet hair. After all, a tan fabric works great for a blonde dog, but will show proof of your black lab right away. By keeping this in mind, you can “hide” hair to the casual visitor and tackle the de-furring process later.
And what of the kitty who is convinced that your armchair is a scratch pad? Keep in mind that cats love to sink their claws into high-pile and woven fabrics, which is another great reason to go with a Microfiber type upholstery. However, it’s also important to provide your feline friend with a proper scratching post—one that is high enough for him to really stretch upward on, and also sturdy enough so that his weight does not topple it over. Our favorite is the Purrfect Post, which is not only the ideal scratching post for cats but also features a beautiful, neutral design that complements any home décor.
There are several factors in selecting and positioning the right bed for your animal companion. Following the earth symbol of feng shui, a yellow or earth toned bed would offer you a sense of stability and help with training an obedient dog. Look for a bed with ample cushioning, and take into consideration your pet’s size, personality and health. An older dog with arthritis will benefit from an orthopedic foam bed, while a smaller dog or cat may like to cozy up in a fluffy “nesting” bed, like the Organic Bumper Bed from West Paw Design. If your pet usually snoozes fully stretched out, choose a large rectangular bed with plenty of space for sprawling out; likewise, if he prefers to curl into a ball, a round bed or triangle corner bed may be a perfect fit.
Of course, you don’t have to sacrifice your pet’s comfort or your sense of style when it comes to choosing a bed. There are a wide range of styles and price points available, from the super stylish and pricey (such as the Pet Revolution Contour Deluxe Bed and the Kitty Pod above) to the mid-priced and pretty (like the Sweet Bloom Bed from Jax & Bones) to the fun and affordable (we love the red bandana and pop art portrait beds from Dogzzzz). A nice slipcover is also a great idea for pets that shed and/or tend to get dirty, as you can wash it time and time again. It’s also a wonderful way to freshen up an old bed with a new look. We love the slipcovers from Molly Mutt!
In terms of bed placement, many guardians choose to let pets sleep in the bedroom, where dogs can feel like part of the family “pack”. While you may prefer to share your bed with your furry friends, it’s not always an option for couples or for people who suffer from allergies. A nice bed in a secure corner of your room makes for a nice sleeping spot and keeps your pet feeling connected to you. That said, if you do allow pets on the bed, consider a protective bed cover like the one from PawsOff to keep your bed clean during your pet’s daytime naps.
Of course, if room allows, you may wish to offer another bed in a den or office area as well. For feline family members, a tall cat tree with multiple sleeping levels offers a sense of security and comfort through its vertical element. Consider placing a soft cat bed or sleeping mat (like the SleepyPod Crater Dot) atop a dresser or desk or near a window to give your cat a lofty snoozing spot and an interesting vantage point. We especially love the ingenious Cat Clouds from The Refined Feline, as they allow your kitty to try out various heights along your wall, much like sleeping on a tree limb.
While it may vary by your own individual preferences, feng shui advises against placing any bed (pet or human) in direct line with the door, or under a window—both of which are thought to create vulnerability to negative chi. Instead, face the ends of your bed toward a beautifully colored wall.
If your pet is crated at night or while you are away, try softening the cage with a piece of wood and some pretty fabric. Affix the wood to the top of the cage (giving you an instant tabletop) and drape the fabric over the wood and sides of the crate. This can look suspiciously like a piece of furniture if done correctly, and it gives your pet a feeling of being in a “cave” of safety. Choose a spot where your pet will feel like he’s still a part of the family (i.e., a den or bedroom rather than the laundry room). Once used to the idea, many dogs actually prefer to crawl into their “den” for naptime versus climbing on your favorite sofa or chair.
Everybody knows feeding time is important in an animal’s world, just as it is in ours. The most important thing to remember is to ensure that your pet’s feeding station and the area around it remains clean and clear. Many pets prefer to eat in a quiet, secure spot, so avoid placing bowls in a high-traffic area. A corner of your breakfast nook or kitchen can work well, especially with a cabinet modification that places feeders into the nook under a breakfast bar, for example. Also, you can incorporate one of the five elements into your dishware for your cat or dog. A ceramic bowl represents earth or you can choose a metal dish to add that particular symbol.
A good feeding station should have easy-to-clean and durable bowls, but that’s not to say that you always have to go with the standard stainless steel dishes. Get creative in incorporating the feeding station into the design of the rest of the space. There are plenty of beautiful options available, such as Trendy Pet’s Asian-Style Feeder.
If you have a large dog, raising the feeding station can help prevent hip or back ailments, as the larger breeds tend to have trouble with those joints. You can purchase a raised food stand or make one of your own. A favorite website of England and Eckert is catsplay.com, which features “great looking modern pet furniture that can be incorporated into traditional or modern decor.”
The Importance of Space
It’s hard to resist picking up another stray kitten or a wandering dog, and by all means, you should do what you can. But before you bring another pet into your home, take the time to really consider if you have enough space for another family member. Even if you have the time and resources for multiple pets, the amount of space you inhabit is crucial when deciding how far to expand your critter family.
Just like us, animals need their own space. When cramped into close quarters, pets may develop territorial issues leading to anxiety, fighting and overall disharmony. Having a big heart is what makes you a great advocate for animals, but don’t let your heart outsize your house. Know your space limitations and stick to it, and the next time a stray friend comes your way, work to find her a loving family with the space to take her in. You’ll not only help keep the peace among your existing pets, but you’ll also feel calmer and happier in an uncrowded and balanced environment.
Create and Enjoy
Like with any art form, when designing with pets and feng shui in mind, it’s helpful to know the rules and also to be able to stray from them when it makes sense for you. Get a feel for what creates a feeling of peace and wellbeing within you, whether it’s a particular color scheme, a tidy living room, a hair-free bed or a hidden potty station. Do whatever makes you feel positive about your home environment and take cues from your pet pals as to what makes them feel relaxed, too. With a little forethought and some creativity, your home can be a place of harmony and solace for all members of the family!
Rachel Joiner is a freelance writer, publicist and the drummer for The Joiners. She shares her home with her husband, Taylor, and their great white wolf dog, Gonzo.