January 20, 2012
When it comes to beds, things are going to the dogs, and cats, which is fortunate for them
BY LUCY HYSLOP
It’s hard to imagine that the expression “it’s a dog’s life” once meant times were actually hard – not easy. With some pets riding around in luxury bags, sporting paw-fitting sneakers or swaddled in clothing inspired by the Sex and the City stars, the 16th-century phrase has long enjoyed a major reversal in North America.
Indeed, the industry saw people fork out an estimated $50 billion on their pets in the U.S. last year, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association Inc. All fuelled, no doubt, by innovations in lines such as treats, collars and leashes, but also by an even wider selection of home décor available for dogs and cats to howl or meow their own.
“Unlike other cities in Canada, Vancouver has a different perspective on lifestyle. We tend to treat our animals as an extension of ourselves and a member of the family,” explains Chanelle Dupré of Richmond-headquartered Bosley’s Pet Food Plus, which has 32 locations through the Lower Mainland.
Vancouver is a style-conscious city, for sure … Many of our dog beds are made with upholstery fabrics we also see in design mags. It’s really like shopping for a piece of your own furniture
What’s on offer in the Lower Mainland for these family members runs the gamut from the more usual to the more elaborate. Take the dog beds by California-based Une Vie de Château, for example, which were brought in by The Pet Shop Boys on Cambie Street. Perhaps for clients with more eccentric tastes, there’s the far-from-shy Marie-Antoinette canopy bed that’s ruched and topped off with real ostrich feathers.
“Customers love them because they actually have the human version of them,” says co-owner Christopher Steele, who had researched the pet boutiques of Paris before setting up the niche store here. The story behind Château appealed, too: The family of the luxury line’s creator Frederic Richard had collected French antique furniture over the generations, which had inspired him to make replicas for his myriad pets based on those used in country’s royal court. “I thought it was clever and showed a true passion,” Steele adds.
Just like furniture for two-legged species, some items are now doing double duty. Bow wow haus on Davie Street (and other locations) sells the TownHaus doggie den that also works as a side table, for example, as well as Kitty loft that doubles as the same or a foot stool. “With many of us living in small spaces, every piece in our home matters,” explains owner Suji Moon. “The change in what’s available in the market — even just since we first opened in 2006 — is incredible.”
Dog furniture is “blending more seamlessly with people’s things,” she adds. “What our customers want are stylish dog gear that looks like they just fit in with the rest of their home,” Moon continues. Kitschy bowls or beds adorned with paw prints and cartoon dogs? Not so much, in her opinion. “Vancouver is a style-conscious city for sure,” she continues. “Many of our dog beds are made with upholstery fabrics we also see in design mags. It’s really like shopping for a piece of your own furniture.”
Fatboy, the company that reinvented the beanbag for the 21st century for humans, also sells a doogie lounge, which can be ordered through Nestings Kids in Kerrisdale. The Pet Shop Boys stocks Crypton, which can make the dog bed in the same pattern as pillows for people’s sofa and throws. “Half the time, you don’t even know it’s a dog print,” Steele says. (Crypton does, however, produce a collection of beds – including pop-art ones made in collaboration with the famous photographer William Wegman, known for his work with Weimaraners.)
So when it comes to simply accessorizing your home, the gear for cats and dogs garners just as much attention. The growing trend, Dupré explains, is creating more fashionable pet furniture that actually adds to a home’s décor. “It has become more pronounced over the years,” says Bosley’s director of marketing and communication. “We treat our pet like a family member and as a result, we try our best to incorporate them into our lifestyle — treating them to a luxurious-looking bed, buying them their own sippy cup for picnics . . . “
It’s especially pertinent when it comes to things like dog bowls, which are also always on display. For Steele, today’s feeding bowls are “so modern and gorgeous, you find you want to put fruit in them,” he laughs. “No one would guess they are dog bowls. And people are really proud of them — long gone are the days of your parents’ chipped bowls that my mom used to hide every time guests came over.” (See the raised bamboo feeders at Yaletown’s Barking Babies store, too, and the Yum Bowls sold by Forthedogs.com.)
The material is also much improved. Bow wow haus has beds stuffed with recycled pop bottles, and over at the Pet Shop Boys, Steele praises Crypton again for its “indestructible fabric.” Hair doesn’t stick to the pieces, he says, adding “you can throw a bottle of water at them and it doesn’t seep through to the padding.”
In the cat department, there are new products designed to solve challenges, such as the automatic cat litter scoopers at Bosley’s, or its Aristocat posts and bolster kitty beds. “These are essential cat accessories to have around the home to keep your cat out of mischief,” Dupré points out. “We’re not as cosmopolitan as Paris and their high-end couture for dogs, but we’re getting there. People used to go abroad to shop, and now they can do it locally,” Steele concludes.
Looks like we’re going to the dogs – but only in a reinvented 21st-century way, of course.