Cute as a button and always aiming to please, pets (a.k.a. “fur babies”) can be counted among life’s greatest joys. But, let’s be candid, pets can also wreak havoc on your interiors—hence the phrase, “gone to the dogs.” What’s an animal lover to do? Well, we’ve rounded up of some of the most stylish and pet-obsessed designers we know (their Instagrams are the dead-giveaways…) to learn how they’ve created gorgeous and pet-friendly spaces. Yes, it is possible! Read on for their swear-by tips.

Blue and floral armchairs with ottoman in front of brick fireplace with Boston terrier
Interior design by Madcap Cottage, Photo courtesy of Madcap Cottage

Step 1: Prep the Entry for Paws 

From tangled leashes to muddy paws, pets can do a number on your entry. To curb the clutter, use a console or dresser to stash treats and dog toys. When it comes to leashes, do as Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke of the brilliantly whimsical interior design firm, Madcap Cottage, do for their three rescues—Jasper, Weenie, and Amy Petunia—and opt for one in a rugged leather or beautiful fabric (or wait for Madcap Cottage’s dog leash line to debut later this fall!). You can display several of these leashes on a wall-mounted hook for easy grab-and-go living.


White lawson-style sofa, rustic wooden coffee table, and brown lamp around black marble fireplace with Australian sheepdog
© living4media / House & Leisure

Step 2: Strategize a Sleep Space (Even If It’s Your Bed!)

If your pet will willingly bed down on the floor, by all means reward them (and yourself!) with a super chic doggy bed. But for many pets, the going mentality is “my-bed-is-your-bed,” which means bedding and pillows take a major beating. To ward off the wear caused by her 11-year-old Golden Retriever, Gus, hopping into bed with her, Stephanie Ballard of Covet Living Interiors says, “I always use layers of whites, so I can bleach them if need be. That way, if Gus takes a tear through the woods and then jumps up to watch a movie with me, I don’t sweat it.”

Olive green armchair, wooden ottoman, and white loveseat in living room with black and white dog
Photo by Kate Mathis

Step 3: Upgrade from Utilitarian

Run-of-the-mill pet gear leaves a lot to be desired aesthetics-wise, which is why the men of Madcap Cottage look beyond the pet store. When it comes to dog bowls, Jason poses the questions “Who says you can’t use fun pieces of china?” And as Stephanie Ballard of Covet Living reminds us, don’t stop there—upgrade those dog beds too! “I’m currently having a new one made from a vintage Pendleton stripe blanket for our house in Crested Butte, Colorado,” she says. “The deep red color will hide stains; I can still launder it as needed; it adds to the mountain chic décor; and it’s WAY more fun!”

Moroccan pouf, round wicker coffee table, and wooden tuxedo sofa in living room with black dog
Photo by @clairezinnecker

Step 4: Choose Materials Wisely

As any pet owner knows, dogs and cats have more than just unconditional love to offer—they expel a ton of fur and dirt too. And while that’s bad news for your white linen sofa, there’s a host of other fabrics that will either hide or straight-up repel stains. With the help of our design experts, we’ve rounded up the best materials to consider below.


Leather might not be the first material you think of when it comes to choosing upholstery for seating that you’ll be sharing with pets, but figure this: you can wipe it clean, pet hair doesn’t stick to it, and it can’t be snagged. And even if your leather does get scuffed, it can easily be buffed out. And another pro? Cats often avoid leather, so long as they have another scratching option available.


“My dogs destroyed my last living room rug,” says Claire Zinnecker, mom to rescue dogs Monte and Emma, and owner of the Austin-based Claire Zinnecker Design, “So I opted for a hide rug in there and it has stood up to dirt, digging and all sorts of other animal craziness.” While Claire’s opted for an enviably cool, bohemian aesthetic in her own home (as shown in the photo above), a solid-colored hide will also work in a more traditional space if layered over a tightly-woven sisal rug.

White leather sectional sofa and abstract art with light brown dog.
Photo by Poppy Lynch

Outdoor Material 

Stephanie Ballard is a firm believer in using outdoor fabrics when it comes to decorating with pets. “The idea of putting outdoor fabric on indoor furniture tends to scare people because they think it won’t be cozy to sit on,” she says, “and that’s not the case. Some feel like velvet; some have beautiful woven texture –all allow you to be worry-free.” Stephanie personally recommends Perennials and Thibaut fabrics, if you’re thinking of going this route.

Patterned Cotton 

Jason Oliver Nixon endorses using printed cotton when trying to stave off wear from pets, calling it “no muss, no fuss.” As he points out, a highly-printed cotton will hide marks up until it can hit the wash. And when it comes to mud? Allow it to dry and it can be vacuumed right up. He also advises that both owners and pets be allowed wiggle room. Of his own house, he says, “We very much live in a house where nothing is perfect. It’s from a very Bunny Mellon school of design. It’s about creating an environment where nothing is sacred; it’s all about comfortable living.” Here, here!

Lead Photo by @clairezinnecker, courtesy of Claire Zinnecker Design


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August 23, 2017

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