1. If painting is part of your remodeling plan, look for paints that are no or low VOC. These chemicals are put in paint to help it dry faster and inhibit the growth of mold and bacteria. Paint can off-gas for up to 18 months after application; off-gassing is the “new paint” smell we notice after we paint. These toxins can affect breathing by increasing the risk of upper respiratory infections, allergies and certain types of cancer. For easy clean-up, use a washable semi-gloss in areas where your animals spend a lot of time, such as favorite sleeping spots near walls, on windowsills, etc.
2. If you have a cat, avoid textured wall coverings such as grass-cloth. These are invitations for cats to scratch. Vinyl wallpaper off-gasses, so look for wall coverings made of paper or any other natural fiber. A great tip is to put bead board/wainscoting on the bottom third of the wall and paper above it.
3. For flooring, think hard surfaces. They’re healthier and easier to maintain because they don’t trap animal hair, stains and odors the way carpet does. Most commercial carpeting off-gasses, which is even more of an issue with animals than with people because they’re so much closer to the floor than we are, and spend a lot of time lying or sleeping on or near it. Tile, bamboo, hardwood, or rubber flooring are healthier options. If you must have carpeting, stay away from large-looped Berbers; claws can get caught in the loops, causing potential injury and snagging the carpet. Or consider area rugs. They’re easier to keep clean and are less expensive than wall-to-wall carpeting. Make sure area rugs are anchored with rug grips or a piece of heavy furniture to prevent animals (and people) from slipping.
Tip: When picking a flooring color, choose one that matches your animal. If you have a golden retriever, for instance, a similarly-hued floor surface will help hide shed hairs. Patterned flooring helps disguise stains and looks cleaner longer.
4. When looking for animal-friendly fabrics, choose those that are tightly woven and can resist tears and rips. Fabrics with a smooth finish, such as leather, ultra suede and micro fibers, are extremely durable, odor resistant and easy to clean. And since leather is smooth, it won’t be as tantalizing to cats looking for a place to sharpen their claws. To maintain it, just wipe animal hair off with an electrostatic duster or damp sponge. Leather is also very forgiving when comes to scratches – just be careful of actual punctures. Patterns and textures will help hide stains and hairs. If you wish, buy extra fabric to make matching pet beds, placemats and floor pillows. Or purchase one of the many attractive pet beds available today – they come in a range of styles and colors.
5. If buying new furniture isn’t an option, get slipcovers! They come in a variety of colors and styles and are easy to keep clean since most are machine washable. Use slipcovers constructed of indoor/outdoor fabrics; they are resistant to fading and mildew and come in many stylish patterns and colors.
6. Stay away from vertical blinds, pooling drapery, or anything with ornate tassels and long cords. These can lead to strangulation and are an invitation for play, which means they’ll soon start to shred and unravel. Sheers and shades don’t collect dust and animal hair like long, heavy drapes do. Fabric shades, café curtains and valances are great choices for animal-friendly homes. Mini-blinds are a no-no and should be kept out of reach of animals to prevent chewing and/or strangulation. They can get bent beyond repair when they block a curious animal’s view of the outside world.
7. Multi-functional furniture is essential when designing with animals in mind. Leash holders can be used to hold towels for muddy paws as well as dog-walking equipment. Storage bins can store toys, extra blankets, bed covers and doggy sweaters. A baker’s rack or shelves in a mudroom or back hallway can serve as a handy animal center – everything is in one place and easily accessible.
8. Crates or beds should be kept in a draft-free spot that’s out of main traffic areas. Or consider an animal cubby, a special niche that gives him his own “den” to sleep in or for privacy. Cubbies can be incorporated under vanities or cabinets. When outfitted with a micro fiber cushion, your companion can relax in an out-of-the-way spot while still “watching over” his territory.
9. Ramps should be considered for navigating stairs and furniture. They help reduce back and joint injuries and are beneficial for small dogs, elderly animals and disabled and/or injured animals. Stairs can also be purchased in segments to make an easy transition for small or handicapped animals.
10. If a total remodel isn’t in your budget, make the best use of your current space. Fr example, a laundry room can be transformed into an all-purpose animal room for feeding, sleeping or litter box placement. Remember to have proper ventilation to keep the space odor-free! A dog showers, from a hand held nozzle to a complete “spa”, can also be added to a laundry room or mudroom. All you need is easy access to a water source. It’s also a good idea to have wall tile or another washable surface up to 42” for the “shake off” that occurs after a bath or a rainy day walk.
Home Design for Seniors
Just like people, elderly animals require special consideration when it comes to home design and planning. Older animals tend to gain weight and experience hearing loss and impaired vision, increased elimination and reduced mobility. They also tend to have a thinner coat with thicker skin. Ramps can be installed if stairs are an issue and mobility is limited, while elevated food and water bowls make eating and drinking easier. Bedding should be placed in a dry, warm place that is draft free. Where impaired vision is an issue, rearranging furniture and redecorating can cause stress and confusion. Help your animal by using runners as a pathway to guide him to his food, water and the door. Keep his nails short and put non-skid matting under rugs to prevent slipping and injury.