Projects range from a few hundred dollars to thousands.

This outdoor cat enclosure is among the more unique design requests that the design team at Harrell Remodeling has worked on in recent years. (Photo courtesy Harrell Remodeling)

From “catios” to pooch porches, designing personal spaces for pets to relax or play isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that seems to be gaining momentum with animal adoptions on the rise. According to the American Pet Products Association’s 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey, 70% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 90.5 million homes. That’s up by 3% from last year.

Gloria Carlson, senior designer at Harrell Remodeling in Palo Alto, said when it comes to petcentric homes, she has seen it all: Customizing homes to create safe spaces for four-legged family members is a regular part of her job.

During her eight and a half years at Harrell Remodeling, she and the design team have worked on everything from simple spaces to hide a litter box to floor plans with enough room to accommodate refrigerated storage for pet food.

“It’s a lot of very specific things,” said Carlson, who estimates that she and the team work on about five pet-related projects in the Midpeninsula area each year.

“For a lot of people, their pets are their children.” Gloria Carlson is senior designer at Harrell Remodeling in Palo Alto. (Photo courtesy Harrell Remodeling)

Almost all the designs, she clarified, have been part of a larger home remodel and have ranged from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.

“Someone comes in and says, ‘I hate the litter box being in the middle of the floor, and now that I’m starting from scratch and remodeling, I want to solve this specific problem.’ For a lot of people, their pets are their children, and they have the means to invest in special things — pullouts in the kitchen and built-in water feeders that can be hooked up to a water source.”

Carlson said no two projects are the same.

“Pet friendliness is really custom,” she said. One of the more unique projects the design team worked on incorporated the homeowners’ love of hockey and their cats. The project, led by designer Sara Jorgensen, was a catio — an outdoor enclosure designed to confine cats while allowing them to safely experience being outside — which included floor-to-ceiling metal webbing with the San Jose Sharks’ logo emblazoned in the center of the installation.

The project also included a bathroom design that incorporated some cat-friendly features, she said.
“The owners loved to take baths, and the cats always hopped on the edge of the tub, so we built a deck that was for the cats,” she said.

Carlson said she currently is working with Jorgensen on remodeling a kitchen that includes a number of features specifically for the homeowners’ cats.

“They’re putting in toe-kick pullouts so cat feeders can be pulled out, the cats can be fed at a low level, and then (the feeders) can be pushed back in,” she said.

Carlson said most design projects are not as elaborate as these. Many pet-friendly inclusions, she said, are “just touches” that might not even be noticeable to most people.

Outside of catios, most projects she’s designed for cats include creating custom cabinets to house litter boxes and shelving on which cats can climb and perch. Dog owners often have sought spaces to organize toys and leashes and dog bed pullouts that can be pushed away when needed. One client, Carlson said, requested that the shower be redesigned to assist the homeowners with bathing their canine companions; another had a Dutch door installed to seclude their pets from the rest of the home without completely isolating them. Another project, she said, included remodeling a kitchen and garage in a home with exotic pets: a lizard, iguanas, parrots and snakes.

The homeowner told Carlson that her husband kept dead rats to feed to his pets in the same freezer as the rest of the family’s food. Carlson incorporated a separate refrigerator for pet food in the remodel.
Pet-friendly designs should be something that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional.

Homeowners should think about their pets and their individual needs, as well as specific problems that need solutions when reaching out to contractors. “Ask yourself what the frustrations are and what problems you’re trying to solve, and then try to address those individually,” she said.

“To me, the most fun is solving the unique situation,” Carlson added.

Tips for creating a pet-friendly home
Thinking about creating a personal space at home for your pets? Gloria Carlson, senior designer at Harrell Remodeling in Palo Alto, shared some recommendations homeowners should consider before embarking on a pet-friendly remodel.

Ask yourself questions
According to Carlson, it’s important to consider both your pet’s needs as well as your own needs. She encourages homeowners to think about things like where their pet sleeps, what their storage needs are and how animals are bathed at home. When designing a space, these are usually the things that designers seek to address, she said. Considering these questions will help you create a custom space that eliminates pain points.

Think about materials
When considering the inclusion of pet-friendly features in your home remodel, Carlson said don’t forget to incorporate materials that are durable and easy-to-clean. She said scratch-resistant flooring is one of the bigger features to consider when looking at materials being used in your remodel.

Make safety a priority
Keeping pets safe and secure when visitors arrive is another consideration. Is a separate pet-friendly room needed, or will separators that keep animals away from guests a preferred option? “Most pets need to be securely separated at some point,” she said. “Is that with doors and other planning or a crate within a room?”

Incorporate features into a larger remodel
Since pet-friendly inclusions are often part of a larger remodel, Carlson said homeowners should see these projects as an opportunity to improve an obstacle within the home. “Most often people aren’t doing a kitchen remodel for their pets,” she said, “but it can be something that in some way solves pet-related issues.”

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