Pet decor books like ‘Where They Purr’ explore new ways to co-exist with our furry friends

When my husband and I are ready to call it a day, one of us will call out, “Big beds!” which leads to our elderly chihuahua, Herschel, moving from his living room bed (a kind of fuzzy little igloo) to his bedroom bed. There, he lays down on a dog-friendly memory foam mattress that costs almost as much as ours.

When it comes to animals, there are two kinds of people: people with pets and people without pets. I fall firmly into the first and, honestly, I do not understand the second. When Lady Danbury growled, “Not in my chair!” As Kate Sharma’s corgi Newton jumped onto his bergère in this season’s “Bridgerton,” I giggled. She would have given Newton a stool to make the jump easier. (Herschel has a ramp for our couch).

Silk brocade and paws may be asking for trouble, but a rise in attractive pet décor has not only made our homes more attractive, but it also helps our pets feel better. Two new books.for the love of pets: Contemporary Architecture and Design for Animals” and “where they purr: Inspirational Interiors and the Cats Who Call Them Home”, explore ways we could coexist more comfortably, and in some cases luxuriously, with our furry friends.

“For the Love of Pets” delves into dozens of products and projects from around the world that reflect the changes taking place in the pet décor market, especially a new consideration of the physical and psychological needs of our animals. A modular cardboard system of Taiwanese design firm A Cat Thing was inspired by its founders’ traumatized rescue cat, seeking solace in the dark corners of a simple box. Search house, from CallisonRTKL, a company based in Washington, DCISis a custom-built, tennis-ball-inserted 3D-printed doghouse that combines easy grab-and-go playtime with a dog’s need to make a den.

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The architects are also having fun. As part of an earthquake retrofit, Hitotomori Architects in Nara, Japan added interior structural supports that could double as catwalks for the family cats (they even made it so the cats could move from room to room via ceiling joists), and Calgary, Alberta, firm Studio North create recessed wall corners for quiet, hidden spaces.

When I asked a Phoenix cat style expert Kate Benjamin, founder of Hauspanther, “Is it too much to decorate for your pet?” her response was a “No!” Benjamin, a former chief marketing officer for a baby goods company, watched the market shift from nursery-like designs to luxury options and wondered why the same wasn’t happening in the world of pets. “We need to design for our animals,” she says. “We need to understand their behavioural side so that they are comfortable and stress-free. Cats are small predators with instincts – climbing, scratching, hiding, hunting – and if you take care of that, you can help them live their best lives.” It’s a subject Benjamin, co-author of “certification” Y “Catify to satisfy” with behaviourist Jackson Galaxy of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell,” knows this well. His design solutions for clients range from cheap gimmicks to custom work costing up to $5,000.

The rise of pet decoration extends to what we humans call “table”. When Seattle-based industrial designer Jay Sae Jung Oh couldn’t find the right dishes for his dog, Boo, he created his collection, launching Boo Oh in 2018. (Also includes super-chic leather harnesses, leashes, and poop bags.) “He wanted simple, minimalist bowls, but I could only find things with crazy graphics,” she explains, adding that he would hide his old ugly bowls when friends came over. “There has been a lack of options in the market, and I thought, someone, needs to fix this.” (I share Oh’s disdain for silly bowls and years have adopted lone vintage saucers at estate sales – they were the perfect size for my cats and work just as well for toy breeds.)

In the success of these boutique operations, the big manufacturers have seen a juicy treat. According to pet advisory company, Pet Keen, the pet accessories market is expected to grow by $9.2 billion between 2022 and 2025. “Pet decorating has become more mainstream with social media,” explains Benjamin. “Ikea now has a whole section with some cool stuff.” Sauder, North America’s leading flat-pack furniture company, is making pet furniture, including a side table with a fold-out bed for owners on a tight budget.

Pet Keen also notes that 73 per cent of owners report that their pets bring their families closer. In that spirit of appreciation, Australian photographer Paul Barbera published “Where They Purr,” a follow-up to his book focusing on the study of artists, “where they create.” The book features luxurious interiors but focuses on the felines that inhabit them. “One day, I was photographing Swiss artist Olaf Breuning in the New York City loft where he lived and worked, when I saw his two majestic British Shorthairs resting on a table,” says Barbera in his introduction. “Within this human realm, cats looked like a living, breathing deities; earthy but mystical. I felt compelled to capture her elusive energy on camera before the moment was over.”

What makes Barbera’s book so coffee table worthy is how charmingly it captures the eccentricities of each cat. While Winston Fluffybum likes to perch in the library window of his 19th-century Italianate home in Melbourne, Australia, neighbour Harvey Crafti prefers the living room sofa, where he can admire his custom-embroidered image on an ottoman by designer Suzie Stanford. But there’s a pet-decoration denier in every group: Hercules, another Melbourne resident, wants nothing more than to be on his owner’s chest.

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