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Decorating Ideas: Making a Pet-Friendly Home

From flooring to furniture, snag some great ideas here for creating a pretty pet-friendly environment.

Written by Debra Steilen
  • Bruce Buck

    If you’re looking at this slide show, you’re the type of person who can’t imagine living without a dog or cat. But nor do you want to compromise your sense of personal style in order to accommodate your four-legged friends. Thankfully, you don’t have to. Just consider how you really live, then design and furnish your home in pet-friendly ways. Keep clicking through to find out how.

    Interior Design: Mary Foley & Michael Cox

  • Michael Partenio

    Choose Durable Floors

    Pets, paw prints, and piddle: You need hard-surface flooring to keep pet-occupied rooms in tip-top shape. Choices such as laminate flooring, stone or ceramic tiles, or painted concrete might be easier to keep clean and stain-free than carpet. Such floors are also cooler in hot weather, an important consideration for pets with thick or long fur.

    Tip: Polished planks or tiles can be slippery, especially for older dogs and cats. You may need to add area rugs or rubber mats for safety’s sake.

    Read more about hardwood floors on the next slide.

  • Brian Jordan

    Pets and Hardwood Floors

    So you think you (and your dogs) want a hardwood floor? Keep in mind that hardwood scratches and dents more easily than laminate flooring, stone and porcelain tiles, or concrete. You need to clean up puddles right away to keep hardwood planks from staining or warping.

    Still, it’s hard to beat wood’s traditional beauty. So if you pick planks, choose harder woods such as oak or mahogany. Stay away from softer, easier-to-dent woods such as pine and fir. And protect high-traffic areas with rugs.

    Tip: Preserve hardwood floors by trimming your pet’s nails regularly and keeping toys (which encourage activity) in another room.

    Learn how to choose pet-friendly area rugs on the next slide.

  • Mark Edward Harris and Michael McCreary

    Add Slip-Proof Area Rugs

    You already know how area rugs enhance a room. But area rugs also protect floors from claws and stains. They muffle the sound of dropped dog toys and thumping tails. They offer pets comfy spots to snooze. And they protect your pet (especially senior dogs and cats) against slipping on polished floors.

    From a pet-owner’s point of view, the best area rugs feature patterns with a multitude of colors that draw the eye away from dirt, stains, and pet hair. All-wool rugs (the more lanolin, the better) do a great job of resisting stains, but some synthetics can be taken outside and hosed clean. Check the rug label for details.

    Whichever option you choose, include a no-skid pad or double-sided tape beneath the rug so Fido and Fluffy can run safely through the house. An alternative: Anchor the area rug with heavy furniture placed on the edges.

    Tip: Neutral-color sisal or seagrass mats are durable enough to stand up to pet traffic, and inexpensive enough to toss when they lose their looks.

    Interior Design: Timothy Corrigan

  • Greg Scheidemann

    Neutral Territory

    Neutral-color sisal or seagrass mats are durable enough to stand up to pet traffic, and inexpensive enough to toss when they lose their looks.

  • Werner Straube

    Install Cat- and Dog-Friendly Carpet

    Why choose (or live with) wall-to-wall carpeting when you have pets? Let’s be honest; dogs and cats spend a lot of time lying around doing, well, nothing. When the carpeting is wall-to-wall, they get lots of options for naps. Plus, carpeting is safer for pets because it offers a nonslip surface for moving about. And for your sake, carpet is a good choice because it absorbs sound and eliminates the clicking of claws on a hard surface.

    In terms of aesthetics, you’ve probably figured out that light-color carpets will showcase pet stains and hair. Instead, look for darker earth tones or multicolor patterns to mask the debris that goes along with owning a dog or cat. You may even want to match the color of your carpet to the color of your pet’s fur. Not sure which hue to choose? Take a look at your sweaters. The one that hides fur the best should guide the color of your carpet.

    Choose a stain-resistant low-pile carpeting to make it easier to clean up accidents. Avoid continuous loop carpet that can unravel when caught by a claw. And install an anti-microbial, moisture-resistant pad for long-term durability and to protect the floor beneath.

    See the next three slides for more carpet tips.

  • Greg Scheidemann

    One Tile at a Time

    Repositionable carpet tiles (such as FLOR) create the look of wall-to-wall carpeting or area rugs, but with fewer maintenance issues. Keep in mind you can easily remove a FLOR tile for cleaning or replace a section of tiles without having to replace the whole rug. Order or borrow lots of samples to check out which texture, pattern, and color suits Max or Fiona best.

  • Carpet-Cleaning Tips

    Extend the life of your carpet by keeping your pet’s claws clipped to avoid pulling up carpet fibers. Vacuum regularly to rid the carpet of hair and other debris. Brush your pets often to keep their hair from reaching the carpet. And keep a bottle of non-toxic pet-specific cleanser on hand to remove stains and odors before they have a chance to set. 

  • Kim Cornelison

    Beautifully Blended

    For less time spent vacuuming, choose carpet and/or area rugs that coordinate with your pet’s fur. The same thing goes for upholstered furniture.  See the next three slides for advice about choosing upholstery.

    Tip: Get a cat-scratching post to discourage clawing on carpets, furniture, and drapes. Place the post close to Felix’s favorite scratching spot.

  • John Bessler

    Fashionable Furnishings

    Your goal is to choose upholstery fabrics that create less work for you. Think carefully before you buy chairs and sofas covered in velvet or chenille (they’re magnets for pet hair) or delicate fabrics that can be easily ruined by pets. If you want to use silk, reserve it for window treatments instead of furniture. Surprisingly, tweed can also be a nightmare to clean because pet hair gets caught in its uneven surface.

    See the next slide for fabrics that suit households with pets.

    Design: Janet Simon

  • John Bessler

    Choose Paw-Safe Fabrics

    For easier-to-clean options, choose denim, canvas, or sturdy synthetic options such as Crypton super fabrics (shown). The latter resists the stains, moisture, odor, and germs that go hand-in-hand with owning pets. Microfiber or microsuede fabrics (such as Ultrasuede) look great, wear well, and can usually be cleaned with soap and water. Indoor-outdoor fabrics resist moisture, UV rays, and most stains.

    Note: This pet-friendly room features a Queen Anne sofa upholstered in drool-resistant “Hound-in-the-Round” Crypton Super Fabric and “Adopt Me” wallpaper (with drawings of shelter dogs) by Tyler Hall.

    Interior Design: Eric Cohler 

    Also enjoy looking at “Decorating Ideas: Animal Magnetism.”

  • Werner Straube

    Fur-Toned Fabric

    Decorating around your favorite furry friend can help mask pet hair, so every time Whiskers hops up on his favorite sofa you don’t go running for the lint roller. Choose fur-toned upholstery for best results, and then dress it up with fun accent pillows in easy-to-clean fabrics. 

  • Lauren Rubinstein

    Leather: Pros and Cons

    Leather is also a good choice for a pet-owner’s furniture because it’s durable and easy to clean. But leather is not indestructible. It can be punctured by big claws, and those holes can be tough to repair. Leather can be scratched, too, so make sure you’re comfortable with the natural patina that is sure to develop. For best results choose top grain, semi-aniline leathers; those hides are dyed through and then treated for additional protection.

    Check out the next slide for more upholstery tips.

  • John Bessler

    Patterned Picks

    You won’t be surprised to hear us say, “Avoid white!” when it comes to upholstery. Instead, choose tightly woven upholstery fabrics with patterns, textures, and darker colors that help camouflage stains and pet hair. Not sure which pattern works best? When ordering furniture, bring home several fabric samples and use them to “pet” the dog or cat. The winning sample is the one that does the best job of disguising your pet’s hair.

    Interior Design: Christopher Hyland

  • Gordon Beall

    Stylishly Safe

    The heart wants what it wants. So if you must have delicate designer fabrics, invest in washable slip covers made from heavy fabric such as canvas or denim. Many designers swear by white slipcovers that can be washed—and bleached—if needed. Take the slip covers off before company comes—if desired. Or try and strictly enforce a “no-furniture” rule for your pets. (Good luck!)

    Interior Design: Gary McBournie

  • Jean Allsopp

    Temporary Measures

    If Gordie ignores your pleas to stay off the furniture, place throws on the cushions or chair backs where your dog or cat is most likely to lounge.

    Tip: Be prepared to act immediately if a pet eliminates on the carpet or barfs on your favorite chair. Keep a stash of cleaning rags and enzymatically formulated cleaning products (especially for use with pets) in easy reach of likely rooms.

  • Ron Blunt

    Protect Walls with Paint

    Pets, like kids, can do any number of things to damage walls. Pets like to rub up against walls as they pass by. Dogs with jowls can spray a wall with drool by shaking their heads. Cats may be tempted to scratch a wall papered in beautifully textured grass cloth. So add pattern, if desired, with all-over stencils;  save your favorite wallpaper for rooms that the dog and cat seldom visit.

    Instead, paint your walls in beautiful colors and keep paper towels ready to wipe away slime. Semi-gloss-finish paint is a great choice for rooms that see lots of activity and moisture (think kitchen or bath), while satin- or eggshell-finish paint make elegant choices for living areas. If you still covet a matte finish, make sure you choose a washable flat paint.

  • Michael Garland

    Dress Beds in Washable Fabrics

    Admit it. You sometimes share your bed with a furry four-legged bundle of joy. Help protect that bed against the inevitable hair, tracked dirt, and accidents that will happen if you let your dog or cat sleep with you. Duvet covers work better than bedspreads or quilts in this situation because the former can be removed and washed whenever needed. Choose sturdy sheets in a medium shade or multi-color pattern that can hide a little pet hair between washings. Protect the mattress with a moisture-resistant mattress pad.

    Tip: Is your dog too old or too small to hop up into bed with you? Consider a mini-staircase or a ramp to make it easier for Barney to reach the top of the mattress.

  • Bruce Buck

    A Few Words about Keeping Rooms Clean(er)

    • Choose couches and chairs with exposed legs instead of skirts that attract pet hair and dust bunnies.
    • The same goes for window treatments. Long drapes that pool on the floor will collect pet debris, so you may want to choose Roman shades or simple, easy-to-clean wood blinds instead.
    • Brush your pet regularly to prevent fur from collecting on floors, fabric, and furniture.
    • Wipe paws clean—especially during inclement weather—to protect susceptible furnishings from stains.
  • Colleen Duffley

    Keep Collectibles Safe

    You already know this is true if you live with a Golden Retriever, a Chocolate Lab, or any other big dog. One sweep of its mighty tail and that collection of figurines on your coffee table will go flying. The same goes for breakables that stand in the way of cats that clamber where they shouldn’t. So either stick to collecting sturdy cast-iron treasures, or display your fragile favorites from within the relative safety of a china cabinet or hutch.

    Interior Design: Randy Korando and Dan Belman

  • Craig Dugan

    Create a Pet-Friendly Entry

    Your goal: To create an entry way or mudroom that stops grime at the door. Choose flooring (see slide No. 2) that’s impervious to dirt and easy to wipe clean. Paint the wall with semi-gloss, satin, or egg-shell paint for protection against spatters. Any soft furnishings should be stitched from stain-resistant fabric. Install wall hooks to keep leashes tangle-free. Include a cabinet or set of bookshelves where you can store all your pet supplies: spare collars, outdoor apparel, treats, dog food, medicine, and toys. Keep an old towel handy for wiping muddy paws clean before your pet has a chance to track dirt through the house.

    Wintertime Tip:  Keep a bucket handy for filling with warm water and thoroughly cleaning paws that may have come in contact with ice melting products.

  • Peter Krumhardt

    Provide a Window View

    Both cats and dogs (especially those that spend most of their lives indoors) will appreciate the entertainment value of a large window overlooking the street. You may need to place suitable furniture below or alongside a window to make that possible. Make sure you’re able to close off the view with a window treatment or external shutters in case your pet barks excessively at the mail carrier or other pets seen “trespassing” on the property.

    Tip: Make sure any screens or bars are properly installed to prevent escape—or accidents—if the window is open. 

  • Werner Straube

    Create Special Spaces

    Dogs like their own dens as much as teenagers like their own rooms. Cats love to perch and climb. If you aren’t crazy about ready-made dog crates or climbing trees, incorporate these features into your room’s design. Find a space for your dog’s bed beneath cabinetry (shown) or under a window seat. Build or custom-order an MDP cat perch painted the same color as your room’s architectural trim.

    See more tips for pet spaces on the next slide.

    Design: Rosemary Merrill

  • Adam Albright

    Think Vertically

    Although Fluffy sleeps A LOT, she’ll also be interested in an elevated spot to nap or view her surroundings. Add a stylish cat tower, or build in climbing opportunities through securely wall-mounted shelves (shown), partial walls, and deep window sills. 

  • Janet Mesic Mackie

    Beautify the Dog Bed

    For Belle’s sake, choose a dog bed that’s large enough to accommodate her frame comfortably. For your sake, choose a dog bed that complements your décor—with stylish upholstery fabric that’s easy to keep clean.

    Tip: Belle will appreciate having more than one bed—especially when it’s hot outside and her usual bed gets too warm. Consider giving her multiple options.

    Interior Design: Stephanie Wohlner

  • Adam Albright

    Creature Comforts

    • Choose a round coffee table or one with rounded edges to save Bowser from getting bruised as he chases the cat.
    • For the sake of your floors and glass-front bookcases, provide a safe space where your pet can play with treat balls and toys.
    • Cats typically need less human companionship than dogs, and like to seek out quiet spots to be on their own. This might mean hiding beneath the couch or snuggling inside a cat condo. Make sure you offer your cat places to spend alone time.
    • Both cats and dogs often look for warm—or cool—spots to rest. So they will often hang out on or near the heating/air conditioning ducts. Keep that floor space clear for your furry friends that can’t add or shed clothing to accommodate temperature change.
  • Greg Scheidemann

    Decorator-Friendly Furnishings

    You love your pet, but may not want the look of plastic dog and cat paraphernalia to intrude upon your beautifully styled rooms. Consider furniture-style designs, whether in the form of a DIY dog-feeding station made out of a two-seater bench (shown), or mission-style toy chests and more from (for Arts-and-Crafts style homes). Choose dog crates integrated into furniture by Amish crafters at Get a French Country canopy pet bed at or a traditional-style mahogany cat litter-box cabinet from

    Above all, enjoy your pet and resolve to laugh the next time you step on something unexpected.