High-End Design Is Going to the Dogs—In a Good Way

With home renovations and decor overhauls that prioritize Fido’s needs and perfumed pooch products from a 12th-century fragrance house to paws-itively extravagant fine dining, pet-centric design is getting conspicuously fancier.

A kitchen designed by Martha O'Hara interiors includes custom cabinetry to store food and water bowls out of sight. Credit: Martha O'Hara Interiors.

In a recent Instagram post, splurgy British paint brand Farrow & Ball shared an aspirational shower photo; it featured Shaker-style cabinets done up in the brand’s self-described “moody” mustard-yellow paint, complementary toile wallcoverings from 19th-century wallpaper brand Morris & Co., hefty brass cabinet pulls, and magnificent stone flooring that wouldn’t look out of place in a 16th-century abbey. The photo—which amassed more than 30,000 likes, well over triple the usual for the brand—doesn’t show a human’s status-shower, but a Weimaraner’s.

The shower is the centerpiece of a utility room designed by Stephanie Sabbe of Nashville-based firm Sabbe Interior Design for House Beautiful’s 2021 showhouse. “This is actually the laundry room/potting room/craft room and it also just happens to include a dog washing station,” Sabbe tells Surface. “It’s hands down the hardest-working room in this house, and whoever lives here is going to be in here a lot. People should ask themselves, ‘why wouldn’t you use all the pretty things in this space?’”

While her internet-famous dog shower was commissioned for a showhouse, Sabbe has recently noticed an upward trend in homeowners asking her for pet-related design features: “In the past year, I’ve designed a kitty litter box cabinet, built-in dog crates, and multiple dog showers,” she tells Surface. “A client with pets is having slipcovers made out of the same material we used to upholster all of their furniture; they want it covered but they do not want to sacrifice the pattern.”

Left: Farrow and Ball shares the dog shower Stephanie Sabbe designed for House Beautiful's show house. Right: Another residence by Martha O'Hara Interiors features a dog shower in the mud room.

Though the room in question is more of an all-purpose chore den than a dedicated doggie spa, Sabbe’s statement is a reflection of a growing market segment that wants to bring the indulgent touches from their own self-care routines to their pets. At Martha O’Hara Interiors, senior designer Gabriela Laboy made sure to include a custom cabinet in the kitchen plans with the express purpose of tucking food and water bowls out of sight. For another home, the firm added a pet shower station to the mudroom.

With high-end pet grooming products, brands like Santa Maria Novella, an Italian fragrance house that predates the Renaissance, are taking the urge to splurge on pets to the bank. The brand offers a $20 white musk pet deodorant, along with a $40 rose and orange blossom dry shampoo. The likes of Santa Maria Nolla and Aesop, which offers a $40 pet shampoo redolent of lemon rind and tea tree leaf, have put pet products in their rotations for some time now.

Jane Wagman, a co-founder of upstart pet grooming line Pride and Groom, is pushing for the category to mirror humans’ highly customized beauty rituals: “Different dogs have different needs,” Wagman told Town and Country, “from whether they have fur or hair to whether they have an undercoat to whether they have dandruff or dry patches.” The brand offers various grooming products tailored (or, tail-ored) to dogs’ coats and skin types.

Dogue, a patisserie in San Francisco, serves artisan treats and a tasting menu for pets. Credit: Dogue.

Earlier this year, Peter Scott, chief executive of the American Pet Products Association, told the Wall Street Journal that Americans spent more than $100 million on pet toys in 2022—artisanal grooming products and dog-centric home renovations notwithstanding. According to Scott, 70 percent of U.S. households own a pet. Meanwhile, newly released data from the National Center for Health Statistics suggests “families are smaller and people are waiting longer to have children than in years past.”

According to survey findings from the American Pet Product Association, some of the cost savings from delaying—or opting out of—parenthood are instead being showered onto people’s furbabies. “It’s the humanization of pets,” Scott says. “We’re seeing more young people who may not be ready for a kid, but they are ready to come home after work and take care of a dog or a cat.” And on special occasions when a quiet night at home won’t do—be it a pet’s birthday, adoption anniversary, or even a dog wedding—pet parents can now order “pupcakes,” or a $75 chef-prepared tasting menu from paw-tisseries like Dogue for their furry friends.

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