Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Homes of the pet-obscessed
Pet-lovers these days aren't just tweaking their homes to accommodate their animals; some aren't happy until their entire home is a pet playground.
The good news is that being a barking mad bloke or a crazy cat lady is getting a lot more stylish.
Architects, interior designers and furniture makers are increasingly moving into the lucrative market of the pet-crazed.
If you'd like to build a dog-house with airconditioning, heating and hot-and-cold running water, American websites are a goldmine for pet-pampering tips.
Photos of the Walker's cats in their pussycat paradise. Photos from The Cats' House book by Bob Walker.
There are also some brilliant examples from Japan.
They may be zany, but these websites also offer some stylish solutions to common pet problems; and with a bit of ingenuity, they won't cost the earth.
Pet furniture, for example, no longer needs to be an afterthought or an eyesore, while pet-friendly features can be attractive and tastefully integrated into your home.
Taking things a little further, why not try some bespoke furniture - and don't forget to add pet requirements into the architect's design brief for your next reno or build.
Scratching posts and "cat house" hidey holes have moved from kitsch eyesores to the status of real furniture.
Visitors to your home won't immediately see the disturbing lengths you have gone to for your cats.
Indoor-cat owners will love the idea of furniture to hide litter trays.
Clever disguises include side tables, baskets and even large faux potted plants.
Discreet kitty litter boxes can even sit in the living room
If you can't find a purpose-built litter tray disguise or an attractive cat climber, try the time-honoured "Ikea hack".
The Ikea Hackers website is filled with brilliant ways to coax all manner of creature comforts out of Ikea products.
Modifications include ideas for wall-mounted perches and furniture for climbing, scratching and (of course) peeing.
Ikea hacker, Cave Lion's "Billy" Cat climbing shelf hack in action.
American designer Akemi Tanaka has created a stylish way of allowing your cat to display itself among your other artworks.
Tanaka's "Curve" is a wall-mounted, softly-padded display pedestal where your fab feline can pose in comfort, blending seamlessly with other wall-mounted artwork.
At $US200 ($185) for the Curve, you would hope so.
The Cats' House seen here under construction. The Walker's cats carefully supervised all building works. Photo from The Cats' House book by Bob Walker.
For those that want to take it further - a lot further - a book by Bob Walker details how he transformed his home into pussycat paradise.
Walker has built steps and ramps that wind up and around rooms.
There are holes in many walls for his fur family to duck between rooms; they even have access to the roof space above his ceilings.
The motto on Walker's website is: "Where 'good enough' is not enough for our feline family!" His home boasts "140 feet of elevated highway" that crisscross overhead.
And with his his dazzling colour scheme in that mix, The Cat's House must be seen to be believed.
At the most extreme end of cat-friendly accommodation are homes designed from scratch, with ramps, steps, perches, playrooms, secret spaces and ceiling-high catwalks all seamlessly woven into the design.
Two Japanese designers have delivered surprisingly inoffensive, even elegant results.
Architects Fauna +DeSIGN were commissioned to create a paradise for 16 cats and a home for their owners and five dogs.
Designer Asahi Kasei had fewer "clients" but also created kitty heaven on earth.
Both homes provide endless vantage points for the cats to survey their territory.
There are obstacles to negotiate, allowing the cats to exhibit great feats of agility, perches on which to display themselves and places for discreet supervision of their human companions.
Dog-lovers, your faithful friends haven't been forgotten. As dogs tend to be larger and somewhat less agile than cats, they don't get quite the same run of the house.
Much of the focus is on outdoor dog houses, but there are plenty of clever options for indoor dogs too.
Most interior modifications are limited to ground level; items such as benches, cupboards and the lower levels of bookcases have become new dog-friendly spaces in today's homes.
These aren't necessarily just indulgences either. There are some cunning ideas, such as low shelves to tuck food bowls away from foot traffic, or even using bottom drawers to hide bowls when not in use.
Dogs love being part of the action, but their knack of being underfoot can be annoying and even dangerous.
To counter this, beds are getting the same treatment as those for cats, becoming incorporated into more stylish items of furniture, such as side tables for small dogs or coffee tables for larger ones.
Builders and architects are unleashing themselves on homes all over the US.
Kitchens get bed areas under bench tops, laundries have purpose-built dog baths and showers and lounge rooms are being fitted with discreet dog flaps tucked into bookshelves set against exterior walls.
For a bit of doggy DIY, Barkitecture is a must. This book will supply endless ideas on ways to pamper your pooch.
There are lots of photos and "a witty, tongue-in-jowl commentary", according to the author, Fred Albert.
Elsewhere, a clever inventor has created what they call the Pet Peek.
It's a domed porthole that punches views through fences, connecting dogs to the world outside the backyard.
No more frustrated barking at indeterminate noises emanating from the unknown.
Dogs can now have a proper, focused bark at things they can actually see.
Beyond The Crate takes pooch pampering to a whole new level, with their watchword being "If your home just isn't good enough... build them their own".
Two seriously spoiled dish-lickers have a "Celebrity Hacienda Dog House" which set their owner back $US30,000.
Without the exact specs of this pooch pad, Beyond The Crate's website notes that the "extensive list of available amenities includes running water, lighting, air conditioning and heating".
As for celebrity extravagance, the $30,000 Rachel Hunter dropped on her dogs' "Hacienda" pales into insignificance after you see - yes, you guessed it - Paris Hilton's mind-boggling excesses.
Her little darlings have a 28-square-metre, $325,000 mansion modelled on her own Beverly Hills home.
Their two-story digs not only cost more than a lot of people's homes, Hilton designed it with the assistance of her interior decorator.
This monument to extreme wealth and the lack of even the slightest grip on reality is fitted out with chandeliers, airconditioning, a staircase, balcony, beds, a wardrobe full of outfits and what looks like a bizarre miniature nightclub area set up for pole dancing.
The renowned American architect and designer of Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin, was a man before his time in many ways, especially if one considers his design of the Fishwick House in Sydney's Castlecrag.
This 1929 house had two fishponds with glass bottoms, suspended from the ceiling of the dining room.
But the design must have turned out to be impractical - who would have guessed – and they were replaced by skylights in the 1930s.
For a less radical but only slightly less impressive fishy feature, try the sleek Hanging Space Aquarium from America.
This design goes way beyond any standard tank and could probably put most other modern designs to shame.
These slim-line tanks hang from the ceiling giving a full walk-around view of their scaly inhabitants.
According to one distributor, Opulent Items, the fluorescent light placed on top of the frame makes the whole set-up glow, "thereby embellishing the ambience" of your home.
The aquarium's filtration system is neatly concealed within the stainless steel tube frame or located many metres away in a more convenient location.
It's certainly expensive - the large model is $US8500 - but for stylish fish-lovers it's an attractive option. Singer Jay-Z's former New York City residence - a $US31 million penthouse - featured some.
There is no limit to the creativity of tank design, from the elegant wall mounted types to a rather unsettling bathroom vanity style.
The Aquarium Sink is just $US4,500 and the site says they can have one shipped over here in no time. You will need a plumber to install it and the lighting and pump need electricity too.
We wonder if the fish become distressed when water gurgles down the plughole at the centre of their domain.
For people who share their homes with other types of pets, from the standard to the startling, you have not been forgotten.
Those ingenious Ikea hackers have been beavering away to accommodate all kinds of creatures in a style worthy of their place in your heart.
For the less DIY minded, consult your local pet store, the internet, a builder or an architect.
Remember, they aren't just pets, they're people too.