by Diane Sussman
Even though Fashion Statement No. 1 dictates that black goes with everything, Ruth Soforenko did not get her standard black poodle, Cyrano, because he matched the decor. "I chose him because he was his own design decision," said the Palo Alto interior designer. "The design of a poodle is a beautiful thing."
Yet while Soferenko's taste runs to the discriminating and beautiful, Cyrano's runs toward plastic chops, rawhide bones, squirrel parts, soggy rubber balls and squeaky shoes.
As any dog owner will tell you, dogs and dirt go together like white wine and brie. For reasons unknown to scientists, black dogs leave hairs exclusively on white fabrics while white dogs deposit hairs exclusively on black fabric. And all dogs dribble kibble, track mud, slosh drinking water, leave trails of soggy treats, expel fleas and shake water onto your dry cleaning after a rainstorm.
"Your house will never be as clean with a dog as without one," confirms Soforenko. "But it can still look good."
Other local interior designers with years of experience in design and dog ownership agree with Soferenko. Here are their suggestions for making your home an appealing place to both species.
Let's start with the sleeping area. Or better yet, the sleeping areas. Because let's face it, you can order all the L.L. Bean dog beds you like, your dog will want to be prone where you are prone; namely, on the bed, the couch or your favorite chair. "The best thing is to create a comfortable place for the dog wherever you are," said Soforenko. "We have a bed for him in the living room and dining room."
Redwood City interior designer Kit Davey allows her dog, Katy, to lie on the family bed--with protection. Davey has special "Katy sheets" she throws over the bed. "It blends completely, and I can take it off and wash it."
Other good ways to camouflage human furniture include Mexican or Indian blankets, attractive towels, cotton blankets or pieces of fabric. Bold patterns work best because they mask stains, said Menlo Park designer Steven Stein. "You can get the ecru bedspread, but I guarantee you in a few weeks it will look like a car washing rag."
If you prefer your dog to have his own bed, don't worry: It's not a proven fact that dogs have an innate preference for tartan plaid. "No study I know of has been done on this," said Stein, who rails against "having the equivalent of a giant tam'o'shanter in the middle of the living room."
"Designers for pets need to work on this," agrees Soforenko. "Cyrano has khaki covers on his beds. Cyrano would probably not sit on tartan plaid."
Stein did his (late) dog's bed in Southwestern colors and lined the bed in lambskin. "He loved it, and he looked just great in it."
Eating areas pose another set of design hurdles. Dogs tend to eat like their ancestors: noisily, sloppily and with no concern for the surroundings. If your dog eats on hardwood floors or pavers, set down plastic mats under his bowls to prevent water damage to floors. Davey uses specially made laminated mats decorated in a dog theme. "She also has a picture of a dog like her above her bowl at eye level."
But you needn't go that far. Any mats that are easy to clean will do.
Stash toys in a basket. Palo Alto resident Isabel Leon swears that her dog, Tony, returns his toys to the basket. "Of course, he is a poodle, so he is perfect," she said. Davey's dog is more believable: Katy takes things out and waits for Davey to put them back in.
Set up an equipment "spice rack" in a closet or by the front door for walking paraphernalia. Keep "pooper scooper" bags and any balls or Frisbees nearby.
Groom and comb the dog for fleas regularly. "Even if a clean house isn't your first priority, you do have to spend some time grooming," said Soforenko. "Even with a poodle."
To prevent her dog from tracking in dirt on her paws, Davey keeps a mat by the door for Katy to wipe her feet "Not that she uses it," she admits, "but it's awfully cute."
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