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Design for Living with Animals

I love animals. Arnie and I have a happy household filled with them as equal family members. In fact, I don’t think life would be too much fun without critters around.

Of course, there are a few design challenges to consider when you live with pets, especially aging ones who may have health problems or issues.

In many cases, living with pets as comfortably as possible comes down to proper material selection. Some rug and upholstery materials just don’t hold up well to animal hair, dander, and the occasional “accident.” And to be blunt, animals – like my senior dogs and cats in general – tend to throw up a lot, which is easier to clean off of some materials than others.

I can’t believe some people are still putting wall-to-wall carpet in their houses. Those carpet fibers will hold dirt and allergens forever and you really can’t get them completely clean. People with allergies and asthma should avoid carpeting even if they don’t have pets in their homes. I prefer natural wood or concrete floors for their beauty and their ease of upkeep.

In deference to our aging animals’ issues, Arnie and I gave up using fancy area rugs a long time ago. But I’ve missed the space-defining characteristics and color possibilities of area rugs and runners. I recently decided to find another option. I considered some high-quality, man-made fiber rugs that are easy to clean and won’t stain. But I wanted something even easier. So I decided to design a couple of linoleum rugs to try in our house.

Linoleum – not to be confused with vinyl flooring -- is a wonderful material. An old, time-tested product, it was invented in the mid-1800s and is generally made of linseed oil, cork dust, wood flour or sawdust, and pigment. My favorite brand is Marmoleum by Forbo with fantastic colors to choose among.

I needed two rugs: a runner to define a small library nook and to serve as a place to dry off wet dogs when they come in from our outdoor courtyard and an interesting area rug to define a roughly square breakfast room space with a round table.

Using Forbo’s amazing color palettes, I drew the design for the runner and a hexagonal area rug for the breakfast room. I sent both layouts to Laurie Crogan of Crogan Inlay Floors in Los Angeles. She’s a phenomenal artist and craftsperson who hand fabricates linoleum rugs for clients all over the world. Her rugs are beautifully constructed with the tightest seams you’ve ever seen.

Our new rugs came in a few weeks ago and we love them.

The moral of this story: Linoleum rugs are a great option for having interesting floor coverings with pets in the family.



​As for upholstery fabrics: If you have certain furniture that your pets enjoy as much as you do, ultra-suede is a miracle fabric. You pretty much can’t hurt it, depending on which brand you choose. So use the high quality UltraSuede or Alcantara brands.

We chose UltraSuede for dining room chairs that we bought from Montis, a furniture company in the Netherlands, almost 20 years ago. The day after they were delivered, we met with a contractor who promptly dropped his red ink pen on one of them, leaving a huge red gash! We applied a soapy dish towel to the stain and it disappeared immediately.

Since then we’ve had many pets who’ve liked to lounge in those chairs and they still look great. None of them have been as messy as that contractor, though.


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