| Animal House Style |
By Julia Szabo
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Whether you call them pets or the more politically correct "companion animals," now is an exciting time to be sharing your home with furred, feathered, or finned creatures.
The Delta Society, an organization dedicated to improving human health through therapy and service animals, has sponsored studies proving conclusively that contact with animals affects human wellness in substantially positive ways, including lowering blood pressure. Call it the laying-on of paws: Currently, scores of Americans have first-hand experience with the healing power of pets. It's estimated that some 64 million Americans are cat owners and about 62 million are dog owners. This doesn't include the millions of dogs and cats that go unaccounted for; the legions of people who share their homes with birds, ferrets, fish, rabbits, and other domesticated species; or the people who live with several different species of animal in one home. Whether you do the math or lose count, this country starts to look like a veritable animal kingdom!
That's a fact that helped many disgruntled voters get through the nail-biting year-2000 presidential race, as animal lovers took comfort in the knowledge that both candidates seemed to genuinely care about their family pets. If the Pledge of Allegiance's concept of "indivisible" took a beating with all that recounting, at least most Americans figured that regardless of the election's outcome, we'd still be one nation under dog.
As our appreciation of pets grows and we recognize just how valuable their friendship is to us, we are repaying the favor by making special accommodations for them as never before. Some of the world's most stylish people are creating pet-friendly interiors as attractive as they are comfortable. Whether traditional or modern, minimal or hyper-decorative, these interiors have one thing in common: Each room is approached as a communal nest for humans and animals-the four-legged residents' needs are not a decorating afterthought. Fashion designer and filmmaker Todd Oldham speaks for a fast-growing contingent of pet lovers when he says, "I designed my apartment to be my dog's home too. I made sure to design everything to be comfortable for her in every way, so we'd both be happy with the result." After they have taken a peek into Todd's home, and the homes of many like-minded animal lovers, I hope people will be inspired to be kinder to the animals they already know and the ones they may meet in the future. It's a fact that an elegant decor inspires us to take better care of our homes. I also believe that incorporating our pets' needs with our furnishings helps us to be kinder to all creatures: mongrels as well as purebreds, animals domesticated, wild, and ranched. And the kindness we put into practice can only be good for us, our communities, and our environment.
We Americans love feathering our nests, and we're now in the midst of a home-improvement boom. Television programs like Antiques Roadshow educate us about vintage treasures, while The Learning Channel's Trading Spaces lets us in on the well-guarded trade secrets of the country's top interior designers. At the same time, mass-market companies such as Banana Republic, Crate & Barrel, Ikea, Pottery Barn, and Target offer great design at affordable prices, inspiring and enabling us to create beautiful, functional interiors on even the tightest of budgets. And wouldn't you know, some of today's most compelling home-furnishings advertisements feature animals, from Baker's poetry-in-motion cavalier King Charles spaniel to Home Depot's rescued family of ducks to Marvin's sleepy bassett hound to George the cat, mascot of the now defunct Furniture.com. Restoration Hardware always features dogs in its catalogs; Kroin Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, makers of faucets, fixtures, and washbasins, recently ran a charming print ad that gave star billing to a yellow caique parrot. The Mitchell Gold Furniture Company's spokesdog is named Lulu; she's Mitchell's own English bulldog. Frankly, if you did a before-and-after story revealing a stylish interior with pets and the same interior without, you'd probably think that the petless version was missing something.
That's what Christina Grajales, an expert on midcentury modern furniture, discovered after adopting a mutt named Billie from the Humane Society of New York. It's hard to compete with the pristine beauty of Christina's choice (and very sought-after) Jean Prouvé furnishings, but the effervescent Billie manages to give the decor a unique personality that money and provenance cannot buy. Or consider Anya Larkin's splendid living room. With furniture by Donghia, Todd Hase, and Christian Liaigre; a plush Tibetan wool rug by Veedon Fleece; and gold-and-pewter-flecked wallpaper of Anya's design, it's as stylish as it can be. Or is it? Add Anya's beloved smooth-coated chow chow, Chloe, to the picture and you've got a much richer, more densely layered visual feast. Forget chinchilla bedspreads: Chloe's blue pelt makes her look like the most sumptuous luxury good in the world. She's a living, breathing "fun fur."
Excerpted from Animal House Style, by Julia Szabo . Copyright (c) 2001 by Julia Szabo. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.Back to top