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The Changing Face of Pet Furniture

By Kames Narayanan

Unlike the stereotypical pet furnishing, Chimére's line-up of accessories double up as interior decor.
Unlike the stereotypical pet furnishing, Chimére's line-up of accessories double up as interior decor.

Dogs (or four-legged friends of any kind) are a man’s best friend. But their real estate — not so much.

In observing the cohabiting arrangement of men and their furry counterparts, a conceivable pattern emerges: for the most part, pet furnishings remain stowed away from plain sight. This is where the comradery between pets and their owners meets a divide.

Inside a well-designed living space, these acquisitions stick out like a sore thumb — an aesthetic displeasure that even the boundless love for a pet cannot blind. Generally observable within the sphere of furniture for the four-legged kind, is the triumph of function over form. For the most part, the latter, takes the backseat as an inconsequential afterthought.

The short-comings do not end there. The repertoire of styles available in itself, are sparse in its choices. While good design might not be distinguishable by the diminished coloured vision of dogs or the blurry vision of a cat, it marks a palpable difference within a home.

This lapse in design has been kept swept under the rug, or literally at the back end of a home —a paradigm due to shift in the face of a younger generation of pet owners. According to the American Pet Products Association, the millennial set make up the largest pet owning demographic. With the shift in demographic follows the demands of a new millennial generation.

Its relentless pursuit of aesthetic — a buzzword amongst the age group — underscores the contemporary way of life where function independent of form is essentially, dispensable. To a generation that meticulously curates its life for social media, purchasing decisions are inherently swayed by superficiality — doing it for the ‘gram, if you will.

A rabbit hutch crafted from massive oak.
A rabbit hutch crafted from massive oak.

“We are seeing a small but growing number of pet lovers who are willing to splurge on their best friend, be it a cat or a dog,” says Andrew Tan, owner of Japanese furniture and lifestyle brand Atomi and Actus Häuse.

It also serves to recognise that these days, not only people but their pets too have their own profiles on social media — the most famous pooches on Instagram count followings that go into the millions. If any pet stands a remote shot at Internet stardom, God forbid unappealing pet furniture and accessories impede the possibility.

“Almost all the customers at our boutique do look at whether the pet furniture will fit into their lifestyle. Their main concerns are whether the colour suits the existing furniture in the household, the workmanship and practicality,” says Beverly Kay, the owner of a local luxury pet accessories store.

A rocking birdcage.
A rocking birdcage.

With a voracious appetite for good design and knack for oversharing on social media, millennial pet owners actively seek out the visually palatable even for their four-legged companions. While it may have taken designers and furniture retailers awhile to get behind the millennial set’s vanity, changes are afoot.

“I see spending on designer pet accessories as another way for individuals to express their style. I think the demand is always there, it is just a matter of supply,” says Kay.

While artisanal pet furniture may still largely remain a novelty, noticeable headway has been observed. A pioneer in this arena, French luxury pet furniture creators Chimère, has been a purveyor of impeccably designed, veterinarian-approved pet furnishings since 2012.

“Our philosophy is to offer products that embellish pet owner’s homes and at the same time, provide comfort and functionality for the pets,” says the brand’s co-founder Frédéric Stouls. “We always keep in mind that clients are purchasing the products for their own pleasures too.”

The exquisite line-up of pet furnishing by Chimère, much of which is carved from massive oak, epitomises well designed furnishings that serve pet owners just as well as it serves its inhabitants. Leading the way for a burgeoning genre, the French pet furniture connoisseurs have also introduced customisation to their clientele.

A contemporary take on a dog bed.
A contemporary take on a dog bed.

“We offer tailor-made finishing if needed with a wider range of colours or materials. We could also possibly try and produce our designs in different sizes. We have worked on a specific grey cat litterbox for a friend of Karl Lagerfeld who wanted to offer it to him for his cat, Choupette,” says Stouls. “That colour is now one of the three current standard colours for our cat litterbox.”

The previously gapping disparity between form and function where pet furnishings are concerned has in the last few years significantly narrowed. In 2017, Swedish furniture giant Ikea launched a pet furniture range across five countries, Japan, France, Canada, United States and Portugal. The collection, specifically designed for pets, was a significant launch pad for well-considered assets for the furry kind.

“We have orders that commission us to make cat furniture, similar to the ones we have for human beings, except it’s tailored to fit the felines. Our maker gladly took up the challenge as it’s a reflection of their skills and craftsmanship, plus the owners love for their dearest pet,” says Tan.

As more industry players strive towards melding the living spaces between people and their furry companions, drab, displeasing pet furniture may soon be a thing of the forgotten past.