- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

The terms “barkitecture” and “petitecture” embody how architecture can be adapted to accommodate pets in a home. While most pet owners don’t take their love of animals to the extreme, where they have a whole home designed around (or for) their pets, many consider the comfort of their animals when selecting products for the home or looking for a new place to live.

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 62 percent of households in the United States own a pet. Dogs and cats rank as the most popular household pets - followed by fish, birds and small animals, such as hamsters.

Lucy McCausland is the owner of AKA Spot in Arlington, a boutique that sells high-end accessories and groceries for pets. She has observed that more people are adapting their homes - and cars - to include pets in their lifestyle.

“The trend is growing, even in a slow economy,” Ms. McCausland said.

She said dog beds are the top product people want to make their homes more pet-friendly. Many of her customers have multiple dog or cat beds throughout their homes.

Brad White, founder and president of Midnight Pass Inc., sells upscale pet products in Washington-area pet stores, including beds, dog loungers and designer pet gates. His Massachusetts-based company even sells a Murphy bed that folds up to conceal the pet’s bed when it’s not in use. It is available in mahogany, black or white and costs $279.

Ms. McCausland said there also are “cool” beds for the summer and “warm” beds for the winter as well as indoor and outdoor pet futons.

She said some of the unique pet products on the market follow trends in the furniture industry, allowing customers to pick fabrics based on their home’s color palette.

“For instance, many dog-bed companies provide a swatch book that shows all the different fabric options available. [The process] becomes the same as picking out a sofa or curtains,” Ms. McCausland said.

Jane Huelle, owner of the Dog Spot in the District, said she has seen just about everything - from extravagant cat climbers to custom jungle rooms and dog crates that look like designer furniture.

“If you can think of it, they make it,” Ms. Huelle said, citing items such as pet safety ramps for pools, boats and automatic water fountains.

She said some pet owners go all out with extravagant rooms designed just for pets. They have custom, handmade furnishings and closets to hold the pets’ clothes.

“There are a ton of fashionable doggy gates that allow you to keep your pet in one area of the house,” Ms. McCausland said. “Some of the gates look better than most furniture.”

Dog and cat bowls or feeders also are being customized. Mr. White said designer ceramic bowls with the pet’s name on them, along with a stand to reduce neck and back pain, are becoming popular purchases for pet owners.

Other high-end items include faux mink coats for cold-weather outings, day beds for afternoon naps and designer bird cages, according to the APPA. There are products for aging dogs, such as steps or ramps (to be placed by a bed so elderly dogs can easily go up and down).

People also are using pet photography to decorate their homes. Ms. McCausland mentioned Amanda Jones, a Massachusetts photographer who specializes in creating pet portraits and charges $1,400 per session.

“People are spending with reckless abandonment on their pets,” Mr. White said.

He adds that 10 years ago, trade shows had about 500 manufacturers of pet products but now there are about 1,200 manufacturers.

The APPA estimates that this year, $45.4 billion will be spent on pets in the United States.

Realtor Elisabeth Salchow of RE/Max 100 in Fort Washington is the proud owner of horses, dogs and cats. She often works with clients who own pets as part of the Pet Realty Network (www.petrealtynetwork.com), a Web site that helps link pet-friendly real estate agents to pet owners in the process of buying or selling a home.

“Generally, pet ownership is growing in leaps and bounds. More than half of my clients own pets,” Ms. Salchow said.

She said sellers should try to eliminate any pet odors, which ranks as one of the most difficult problems when selling a house.

The first requirement when looking for a home that is suitable for the safety and well-being of small animals, she added, is a location on a road that isn’t heavily traveled. A fenced yard also is an attractive feature for pet owners. The last house she sold had a dog run in the backyard, which helped make the sale. Often, owners install pet-access doors so animals can go outside at will.

“Owners with very short-legged dogs, such as dachshunds, may be concerned if there are too many steps in the house and opt for a split-foyer-type home,” Ms. Salchow said.

Other factors to consider when buying a pet-friendly home is to ask about leash and registration laws, the number of animals allowed and the type of animals that are permitted in the area. For example, Ms. Salchow said, it is illegal to own a pit bull in Prince George’s County unless you can provide proof you had the dog before 1997.

She said pet owners often look for properties that are situated more privately or are secluded so they don’t have to worry about their pets bothering neighbors.

“Potential homebuyers who have no connections with animals often refuse to look at a home if there are dogs or cats present,” Ms. Salchow said. “I believe disclosing the presence of pets upfront is the best way to attract potential purchasers.”

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