News & Politics

Pet-Proofing Your Home

Strategies to keep cats and dogs from shredding your sofa,scratching your floors, and wrecking your window treatments

Love your pets and your beautiful home? The two don’t always get along. We asked local designers how to protect a stylish interior from the damage cats and dogs can inflict.

When buying upholstered furniture, look for heavy-duty fabrics. “Use outdoor products indoors,” says designer Barbara Hawthorn of Barbara Hawthorn Interiors in McLean. “They’re being done in so many beautiful fabrics.”

She recommends textile brands such as Knoll and Glant that are strong enough for commercial use but also soft. Indoor/outdoor fabrics from Chella Textiles are tough and attractive.

Debbie Wiener of Designing Solutions in Silver Spring says leather is a good choice: It’s scrape-resistant and doesn’t collect animal fur. She also likes Crypton Super Fabrics; they’re resistant to stains, moisture, and bacteria. You can buy the fabrics by the yard in suede, woven, or twill finishes or buy Crypton-brand furniture, including sofas, chairs, throw pillows, and pet beds.

Dee Thornton of Alexandria’s Houseworks Interiors recommends fabrics with patterns that distract from pet hair. “It doesn’t have to be super-busy; it can have a large pattern or even an overall pattern,” she says. If you prefer solid neutrals, try matching carpeting and furniture to your pet’s fur.

Cat owners should avoid fabrics that pets can sink their claws into. “Cats don’t seem to like velvet; they like tight weaves,” says Michael Roberson of Michael Roberson Interior Design in Arlington.

If you’re not in the market for new upholstery, consider protecting your furniture with slipcovers or having it treated to be stain, spill, and dirt resistant.

Floors can also show signs of pet-related wear and tear. Roberson advises steering clear of hardwoods with glossy finishes: “They scratch easily and show everything.” Hand-scraped hardwood—which has an uneven finish—masks minor surface damage.

When choosing tile, look for nonporous ceramics such as porcelain that won’t soak up bad stuff, or protect your tile with a coat of epoxy. For carpets, Wiener suggests choosing either a smooth, uniform texture or loose strands that aren’t coiled. “Something that’s looped is going to get ruined easily,” she says.

To keep curtains safe, choose Roman shades instead of long drapes. Consider automated shades; a remote control is a less likely target for pets than a dangling cord.

Giving pets toys can make a difference. “It’s a bored pet that gets in trouble,” Hawthorn says. If your cat is scratching your favorite chair, buy a scratching post.

If all else fails, learn to love the small flaws that show your home is shared by a furry family member. “In every beautiful home I’ve been in that has dogs, somewhere there is a scratch patch,” Roberson says. “It used to drive me crazy, but now it’s become a sign of a happy home.”

This article first appeared in the January 2009 issue of The Washingtonian magazine. For more articles from that issue, click here.