What is ‘Barkitecture’? Pet-friendly design trend is on the rise

man with a drill making furniture with dog by his side watching

Alice Piper

Posted April 28, 2022

As pet ownership booms, ‘barkitecture’ and pet-friendly design is rapidly growing in popularity, and even a consideration for prospective home buyers.

Australia has one of the highest pet ownership rates worldwide, and no pet is more popular than dogs. In fact, the nation has experienced something of a pandemic dog ownership boom, with one million additional dogs introduced to households since 2019.

Whether you welcomed your furry friend from the pound, or through a breeder, chances are you’ve had to make some adjustments to your home as a result - and why wouldn’t you when a dog can bring so much fun, love, adventure and happiness into a home.

This is where ‘barkitecture’ (or ‘animal-first architecture’) comes into play, as a growing number of pet owners, particularly dog owners, consider and prioritise the needs of their pets when remodelling their homes.

Associate Director of Sam Crawford Architects, Gabrielle Pelletier, says the firm is seeing a growing number of home designs incorporating pet-friendly elements.

“We’re incorporating it more, which is why I've done research to understand pet psychology and behaviour, because if I am aware of what causes them stress and what animals need to be and feel safe, I can consciously incorporate home elements that will work for both human and pet”.

What is ‘barkitecture’?

‘Barkitecture’ is a concept that’s about incorporating pieces of home décor into your house that not only please the owner and suit the interior aesthetic, but suit the needs, personality and desires of your pet.

However, ‘barkitecture’ isn’t just about the decorating of your home, it’s also about thinking of functionality and durability when renovating or remodelling, even if you don’t have a pet.

“Whenever we’re doing a design for a family that doesn’t have a pet, I try to incorporate elements that are still pet friendly, because there is a high chance their will end up with one in the future or sell the home in the future to someone who does,” says Pelletier.  

jack russell dog running down floor boards in a hallway

Floorboards are a pet-friendly alternative to carpet and make cleaning up a lot easier. Image: Getty

How does pet-friendly design work?

Pet-friendly design often starts with flooring - will stains such as your pet’s backside business or muddy paws be visible and hard to clean on carpet?

When remodelling, pet owners may opt for floorboards instead, as stains are more easily cleaned up, making them more durable and functional, but still aesthetically pleasing. If you’re still set on having some carpet, hard-wearing rugs still look great, but hide those nasty marks.

“If the owner has a pet, we always make recommendations with materials like floorboards, and landscape design, so nothing with grass seed heads that can get stuck in dogs' noses, or anything that is poisonous,” says Pelletier.

“Things like ledges for cats to laze in the sun, gates so dogs can’t get out, and a very common request is not having gravel for cats as they think it’s kitty litter, and not having smaller rocks if the owner has a dog because they might eat them,” she adds.

‘Barkitecture’ - if you live in a small home or apartment - might also mean getting creative with storage space, like doubling the TV cabinet as a crate to save space, or water bowls built into cabinets, or even a ‘pet room’ built into nooks under the stairs.

When it comes to the décor side of ‘barkitecture’, it’s all about embracing your pet’s toys, beds and blankets. While once upon a time you might have hidden away these things when guests came over, now it’s about being a little more creative with how you display them, like wicker baskets for the toys, for example. 

dog being washed with soap suds all over its face

Installing a dog wash station in your laundry is a stylish addition to any pet-friendly home. Image: Getty

'Barkitecture' and pet-friendly design tips

Create a specific pet-friendly space

Creating a ‘glam corner’ of sorts for your pet, such as a cosy nook with their favourite toys and a plush bed, can make them feel comfortable and add to the aesthetic of your home if you choose pet furniture that reflects your own personal style.

“When it comes to the psychology of pets, they need a space that is located at a higher level, where they can look outside, retreat, and feel safe,” says Pelletier.  

“You could have wall mounted bookshelves for a cat so they can jump up and look outside, and for a dog, they need a space where they are around you and can watch you do things, so the end of the kitchen joinery is a great space".

Add a dog wash station into the laundry

Washing the dog can be a messy business, especially if they’re a bigger breed, so adding in a dog wash station to the laundry can be a stylish and functional solution to the problem.

Look for a wash station that has a lip, so it’s easy for the dog to get in, but hard for water to get out. You’ll also need a detachable tap hose, and if you want to get really fancy, a hair dryer too.

“Laundry wash stations are fantastic, and we’ve designed one recently for a client, but if you've got limited space in your laundry, they’re not always practical,” says Pelletier. “A handheld shower head can be just as effective for washing your dog and you don’t need to find any more space.”

Use that window seat to conceal a pet bed

These days, many fur babies are inside pets, and they sleep indoors too. If you’re not a fan of having a pet bed on display, use a window seat or a hidey hole to fashion a little alcove where they can sleep during the night.

Use ramps to make stairs easier

If your dog breed has little legs, like a Corgi or a Dachshund, they might not easily be able to walk up a flight of stairs in the home.

Consider adding a ramp to partially cover the stairs both in the interior and exterior of the house, or perhaps even build it into the joinery - improving the pet-friendliness of your home when you go to sell.

Find furniture that doubles as ‘their space’

With many specialised pet furniture brands on the market, it’s easy to find something to match the aesthetic of your home, while also giving your companion somewhere to rest, sleep or play.

Look at a side table for example – many of them have cut outs where cats can get in the bottom of the table, using the space as their own, and therefore not taking up any extra room in the home.

“There are so many options when it comes to finding furniture that is both functional for you, and for your pet,” says Pelletier. “It’s just about taking the time to shop around and really think about what you need for your life, and how it can also fit into your pets needs too”.

With pets as important to us as any other family member, this year and beyond will see us catering to their needs (design and otherwise) more than we ever have before. Because after all, it’s not just you who deserves a luxurious home makeover, your pet’s interior spaces are just as important. 

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