More Americans than ever now have pets. And while it’s totally okay to be totally obsessed with your dog, your house doesn’t need to feel like a kennel. Enter “barkitecture,” the design movement that incorporates custom, good-looking pup spots that don’t stick out like sore thumbs. That means no kitschy wooden signs or over-the-top paw-print patterns.
“Make the space functional for the pet while incorporating attractive fabrics, wallpapers, and hard-surface materials that fit with the overall aesthetic,” says Erica Burns of DC’s Erica Burns Interiors. “Don’t hide that it’s a room for your pet, but keep the colors and materials within the same vibe of your home, as opposed to pet-specific.”
Here, a series of design-savvy Washington dog owners show three ways to incorporate stylish, pet-friendly “barkitecture” in your human abode.
Hosing It Down With Dog Showers
While working on a client’s addition in Potomac, Burns decided that the family’s new downstairs laundry room would make the ideal spot for a dog shower, too. Working around a window in the room, the designer carved out a bathing area for her client’s two pups—Coco, a Bernedoodle, and Fergie, a cockapoo. The washing station features a Kohler Purist hand shower and white Architessa subway tiles lined with gray grout—whose dark shade requires less maintenance to keep it looking grime-free.
While she wanted the space to be practical, Burns didn’t want it to feel too utilitarian or out of place with the rest of the home. Hence the wood flooring and the lighthearted yellow-green print on the walls. “We wanted to do something fun, so we found this Pierre Frey wallpaper that’s just really happy,” she says.
Meanwhile, as the dog mom of black Labs who love dips in the Potomac, Sara Raak, an interior designer and owner of SKG Designs, was done with sudsing down Martha Washington and Roosevelt (a.k.a. “Rosie”) in the yard. She needed an indoor space in her Alexandria home where she could bathe the dogs year-round. So Raak gutted her existing laundry room to create a pet-spa-meets-mudroom. The laundry sink was swapped for a wash station with an oil-rubbed-bronze hand shower and faucet from Signature Hardware, plus tile from Floor & Decor—a gray hexagonal mosaic on the floor and white ceramic tiles lined with turquoise-tile trim on the walls and sides.
Pops of rainbow hues were nonnegotiable. “I wanted it to be an extension of the rest of our whimsical and colorful home,” says Raak. Hygge & West wallpaper with a turquoise bird motif covers the ceiling and is topped with matching glass pendants from Shades of Light, while gray-and-white ikat-inspired porcelain tile is underfoot. The flooring, from the Annie Selke and Tile Shop collaboration, is textured to mimic the look and feel of a hooked rug. Across the room, the dogs’ food and essentials are tucked away in a cabinet, which is covered with a chevron butcherblock slab that doubles as a catchall.
Getting Cozy in Sleeping Nooks
When designer Elizabeth Reich of Jenkins Baer Associates was adding a new mudroom, laundry room, and family room to a Clarkesville home, she transformed the empty space under a stairwell—which is outside the mudroom and leads to the upstairs bedrooms—into an apartment for Duchess, a German shorthaired pointer. The petite alcove measures three by three feet and can be accessed via a small door cut into a tongue-and-groove-paneled wall painted with Benjamin Moore’s “Blue Note” in a semigloss sheen. Reich covered the sleep space’s interior in a cream-and-silver Arthouse wallpaper splashed with a dog print. “[We wanted to] make it really cozy,” she says. Outside the pad sit an antique Turkish rug from Etsy and a Noir Furniture bench for the biped household members.
In her Warrenton home, Casey Sanford, owner of Casey Sanford Interior Design, created what she calls a “studio” for her red-fox Labrador puppy, Odell. She removed a base cabinet to create an under-the-counter opening in the laundry room, where Odell’s custom memory-foam bed can be found upholstered in Kravet outdoor fabric with a Romo taupe contrast welt. A pillow made from Kerry Joyce Textiles’ Petite Fleur fabric and a throw blanket from Grandin Road round out the nook, which can be hidden behind deer-patterned Schumacher cafe curtains.
The farmhouse-chic vibe continues elsewhere in the room: The floor is slate tile, the walls white horizontal shiplap planks coated in Sherwin-Williams “Alabaster,” and a canister of treats and a basket of toys and leashes sit on white-oak counters milled by Sanford’s father in Mississippi. A muted antique Oushak runner, a Visual Comfort hand-rubbed-brass flush-mount ceiling light, and a framed portrait of a one-year-old Odell, commissioned by a friend, top it all off. “Odell is a big part of our family,” says Sanford.
Keeping Food Stylish and Out of Sight
Rashida Banks, an interior designer who lives in Southeast DC’s Fort Davis neighborhood, wanted to turn the coat closet in her rowhouse’s formal entryway into a built-in storage cabinet for both human and canine essentials. She bought a stock base cabinet from Home Depot, removed its toe kick, and replaced it with a drawer she built out of medium-density fiberwood. The pullout drawer sits low to the ground and now conceals dog bowls for Jax, a boxer/pit-bull mix, and Chase, an American-bulldog/pit-bull mix. The rest of the cabinet drawers house more dog gear as well as odds and ends. Above it, Banks still stores coats behind a door she built from poplar and clear polycarbonate roof paneling, which mimics the effect of reeded glass.
The structure is painted in Benjamin Moore “Heather Gray,” as are the walls, giving the add-on a custom built-in look. “I used to have dog things everywhere,” Banks says. Luckily, her pups are fans of the new and improved system. “Anytime we walk over there and open up a drawer, they literally come running over because they know it’s their area.”
On the Catwalk
So you’ve invested in a “barkitecture” project. That means it’s time for an equipment upgrade befitting your pet palace. Forget run-of-the-mill plastic bowls and tired squeaky toys—here are eight pieces of gear for your stylish BFF (best furry friend).