Animal-decorated books like ‘Where They Purr’ explore new ways of living with our furry friends

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When my husband and I are ready to call it a day, one of us will loudly say, “Great beds!” which prompts our elderly Chihuahua, Herschel, to move from his living room bed (sort of a fuzzy little igloo) to his bedroom bed. There he stretches out on a memory foam dog mattress that costs almost as much as ours.

When it comes to animals, there are two kinds of people: petting humans and not petting humans. I fall firmly into the former and frankly don’t understand the latter. When Lady Danbury growled, “Not in my seat!” when Kate Sharma’s corgi, Newton, jumped into her bergère in this season’s “Bridgerton,” I chuckled. I would have given Newton a footstool to make hopping easier. (Herschel has a driveway in front of our bank.)

Silk brocade and paws may be asking for trouble, but a wave of beautiful pet decorations has not only made our homes more attractive, but also helps our pets feel better. Two new books, “For the Love of Pets: Contemporary Architecture and Design for Animals” and “Where They Purr: Inspirational Interiors and the Cats Who Call Them Home,” explore ways we can be more comfortable — and, in some cases, luxurious. – living together with our furry friends.

“For the Love of Pets” delves into dozens of products and projects from around the world that reflect the changes taking place in the pet decor market, especially a new consideration for the physical and psychological needs of our animals. A modular cardboard system from Taiwanese design firm A Cat Thing is inspired by the founder’s traumatized rescue cat, who sought solace in the dark niches of a simple box. Fetch House, from Washington, DC-based company CallisonRTKL, is a 3D-printed dog house that is custom built and inlaid with tennis balls.

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Architects have some fun too. As part of an earthquake renovation, Hitotomori Architects in Nara, Japan, added structural interior supports that could serve as walkways for the family’s felines (they even made it so the cats could move from room to room via the ceiling beams), and Calgary , Alberta, firm Studio North creates built-in wall corners for quiet, hidden spaces.

When I asked Phoenix cat style expert Kate Benjamin, founder of Hauspanther, “Is it too much to decorate for your pet?” her answer was a resounding “No!” Benjamin, a former marketing director for a baby supplies company, saw that market shift from nursery-style designs to luxury options and wondered why the same wasn’t happening in the animal world. “We have to design for our animals,” she says. “We need to understand their behavioral side so they’re comfortable and stress-free. Cats are small predators with natural instincts — to climb, scratch, hide, hunt — and if you act on that, you can help them live their best lives.” It’s a topic Benjamin, co-author of “Catification” and “Catify to Satisfy” with behaviorist Jackson Galaxy of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell,” knows well. Her design solutions for clients range from low-cost hacks to custom jobs that cost up to $5,000.

The pet decor tree extends to what we humans call “table top.” When Seattle-based industrial designer Jay Sae Jung Oh couldn’t find the right dishes for her dog Boo, she created her own collection and launched Boo Oh in 2018.) “I wanted simple, minimalist bowls, but could only find things with crazy images,” she explains, adding that she would hide her ugly old bowls when friends came over. “There was a lack of options in the market and I thought somebody has to fix this.” (I share Oh’s disdain for stupid bowls and have adopted lonely antique saucers for years at estate sales — they were the perfect size for my cats and work equally well for toy breeds.)

In the success of these boutique operations, major manufacturers have discovered a juicy treat. According to Pet Keen, a pet consultancy, the pet accessories market is expected to grow by $9.2 billion between 2022 and 2025. “Pet decorating has become more mainstream with social media,” explains Benjamin. “Ikea now has a whole section with some really great stuff.” Sauder, North America’s leading manufacturer of flatpack furniture, makes pet furniture, including a side table with a pull-out bed for owners on a budget.

Pet Keen also points out that 73 percent of owners report that their pets bring their families closer together. In that spirit of appreciation, Australian photographer Paul Barbera published ‘Where They Purr’, a sequel to his artist studio-focused book ‘Where They Create’. The book has luxurious interiors, but is focused on the cats that live in them. “One day I was photographing Swiss artist Olaf Breuning in the New York City loft where he lived and worked when I saw his two royal British Shorthairs on a table,” Barbera explains in his introduction. “Within this human realm the cats seemed like living, breathing deities; earthy yet mystical. I felt compelled to immortalize their elusive energy with my camera before the moment was over.”

What makes Barbera’s book so coffee table worthy is how charmingly it captures each cat’s eccentricities. While Winston Fluffybum likes to perch in the library window of his 19th-century Italianate home in Melbourne, Australia, neighbor Harvey Crafti prefers the living room sofa, from which he can admire his own likeness custom embroidered on an ottoman by designer Suzie Stanford. But there’s a pet denier in every group: Hercules, another Melbourne resident, wants nowhere to be more than his owner’s chest.

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“The world now has a better understanding of compassion, that these are sentient beings,” Benjamin says. “They’re part of our lives and it’s satisfying.” And what better way to express our gratitude for the joy they bring to our households than by giving them an indulgent little something of their own.

Maile Pingel is a writer in Los Angeles and a former editor at Architectural Digest.

Inspiring interiors and the cats they call home

Contemporary architecture and design for animals

Edited by the Images Publishing Group

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