How to Design a Pet Friendly Home

My sister and her husband recently bought a new home that they plan to remodel, and they asked for my opinion on what flooring material is best for both dogs and kids…

Like many people, they really like the idea solid hardwood floors, but not the maintenance that comes along with them.  Hardwood floors are no doubt beautiful, warm, and inviting, but they scratch easily, swell and shrink with different humidity levels, and also absorb liquids.  Those are not ideal qualities for a household with dogs and kids.  Can you imagine all those spilt drinks or untrimmed nails on your beautiful hardwood floors? Yikes!

An often easy alternative to solid hardwood floors is engineered wood or laminate.  Both of which are easier to maintain than real wood (less likely to scratch, swell, or shrink), but still neither are meant to handle liquid accidents unless they are cleaned up immediately, and let’s be honest, we don’t always catch those things the second they happen.

Knowing all of this, and realizing their desire to have a wood-look floor, my recommendation to my sister and her husband was to go with a wood-grain porcelain tile.  It has the appearance of wood, but not the maintenance nightmares, and most importantly it won’t absorb any liquids.

I go to a veterinary conference every year and participate in a materials debate with other designers and architects in the industry, and almost every year, we get asked “what flooring material do you most recommend for animal facilities?”  There’s always some variety to our answers, but by far the most recommended flooring type from everyone in the debate is porcelain tile.  To me, it’s just one of those tried and true materials for floors that works in both animal facilities and households.  It’s durable, it’s easy to clean, and it comes in a wide range of aesthetic styles.

The wood grain porcelain tile look is very popular right now in the designer world.  It helps provide that warmth and natural texture that people crave from traditional hardwood floors, and yet at the same time it also feels very modern and contemporary.  I find that juxtaposition very exciting as a designer.  It’s unexpected that something as old as wood could feel so fresh and modern.

While porcelain tile is one of my all-time favorite floors, it still has some downsides (I always have to remind people that there is no such thing as a perfect floor).  One of the biggest flaws is that tile is very hard, which makes it uncomfortable to stand on for long periods of time.  Wood floors, laminates, vinyls, carpets – all of these flooring options have a bit of give to them as you walk.  Making them better for joints in adults, kids, and also your pets.  Yes, just like us, as dogs get older they become more prone to ailments such as arthritis and hip dysplasia.  A simple and easy solution is to purchase rugs to place throughout your house for some added comfort to your family’s feet and paws.

Porcelain tile can also be one of the more expensive flooring options for homes.  Compared to most carpets, laminates, or vinyls porcelain tile can easily cost 2 or 3 times the amount to install.  However unlike those other options, porcelain tile rarely ever needs to be replaced because of performance failures.  Usually tile floors are only replaced because they’ve become outdated.  Styles, colors, textures, and even the shapes and sizes go through trends.  What’s popular in the tiling industry today, may not be in 15 or 20 years, and as a result tile is usually replaced for aesthetic reasons.  To me, that’s a sign of a good floor.  The material itself doesn’t break down, instead it holds up for so many years it becomes old-fashioned.

Regardless of the flaws, I still believe a wood grain porcelain tile is the best option for my sister and her husband, and any others looking to incorporate a durable, easy to clean, and attractive wood-look floor for their pet-friendly, and kid-friendly homes.

Below are some examples of wood grain porcelain tiles that I have encountered over the past few months.  Some are from animal facilities (one & two), one is from a local brewery (three), and there’s even one from my own house (four).  Each one has a unique look and feel, so no matter your personal taste, there’s a wood grain porcelain tile out there for you.

(one)Wood Tile Floor - Carson City Nevada(two)
Wood Tile Floor - SEGD(three)StarrBrothers(four)KitchenFloor

Tile in Photo One: Daltile, Acacia Valley, Alder AV07, 6″x36″
Tile in Photo Two: Daltile, Emblem, Beige EM01, 7″x20″
Tile in Photo Three: Unknown
Tile in Photo Four: Daltile, Yacht Club, Sea Anchor, YC04, 6″x24″

All photos taken by The Barkitect.

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New Year, New Barkitect

January 2, 2017


Hello Friends,

Happy New Year, and I hope you all had a nice holiday season!  It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 3 years since my last post.  I apologize for my absence from this platform.  It was never my intention to take such a long break from the blogging world.  But as is often the case, I’ve been busy living my life – trying to grow, learn, move forward, and pursue my dreams both personally and professionally.  

Although I’ve been relatively silent here on the blog for the past few years, I’ve actually been quite active in my job as a project manager at BDA Architecture.  Since 2014, I’ve traveled all across the country visiting my project sites for veterinary hospitals, animals shelters, guide dog campuses, boarding and daycare facilities, and even equine university buildings.  I’ve also started speaking at veterinary conferences about building design for animals, and this past year I was the lead designer for a project at my firm that was awarded 2016 Hospital of the Year, by DVM 360 – the highest veterinary hospital design honor they give.

It’s been a busy, but also very rewarding couple of years.  I feel proud of the accomplishments I have made, but more importantly I value the knowledge I have gained.  I have learned a lot and continue to learn more every day.  I am fortunate in that I get to work at a job and in an industry that I am passionate about.  It makes me driven and hungry to succeed.  It also makes me excited and eager to share what I’ve learned with others.  Which leads me to my blog and what I hope this site can become…

The Barkitect has always been a passion project for me.  I started it back in 2011 as a way to explore all the ways in which dogs could be combined with design.  I posted about fashion products, artwork, interior decor, photography, and books.  It was fun, and it allowed me to learn a thing or two about building a website, networking with others, and also just how truly incredible and supportive this dog-loving community really is.  However, as time went on, I realized there were so many other amazing dog blogs out there who were not only doing something very similar to what I was doing, they were doing it better.  So my envision for the future of The Barkitect is to do something a little different than before.  I’d like to step away from everyday dog product posts, and instead make this the place for cutting edge pet-friendly architectural design ideas.  This is what I know, and this is what I want to share with all of you. 

So as we begin the new year, you can expect to see some new, and hopefully more inspiring content from me.  A little less regarding fashionable dog sweaters, and a little more about which pet-friendly materials you should be incorporating into your home remodel.  Not so many posts about fancy collars and leashes, and instead more about canine wellness design and how to incorporate specific architectural features into your homes to help improve your pet’s health and stress levels.  You can also expect to see posts less often than I previously scheduled.  I do work full-time, and trying to post something everyday is not something I can reasonably promise.  Probably every couple of weeks, or maybe even monthly.  My goal is to embrace the idea of quality over quantity.  It may not be every day, but it’ll be worth reading every time.  

Lastly, I just want thank you for your continued support and interest in my blog for the past 5 years.  I am always amazed to see that people actually read my articles.  I hope that the direction I am about to take is one that is useful and interesting to all of you.  I’m excited for what’s to come, and I hope you all are too.  Welcome to the new and improved 2017 edition of The Barkitect. 



PS. For those of you who might be wondering, Vader and Vixen are doing great.  Although they are getting older (Vader is almost 9!), they are just as loving as ever, and I am grateful for their companionship every day. 

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Dog Windows

February 19, 2014

dog window-2 copy
dog window-3 copydog window-4 copy
dog window-1dog window-5 copy

We’ve all heard of a dog door, but have you ever heard of a dog window?  Studies show that dogs tend to be less stressed in environments where they can visually see what’s going on outside of their confined spaces.  That’s why we’re seeing more and more kennels and canine boarding facilities incorporating runs and cages with glass doors and partitions vs. solid.  It is said that by expanding a dog’s visual horizon it can actually have a calming effect- making them bark less and relax a little more.  It’s an interesting concept, and one that can easily be in incorporated into your own dog-friendly home.  All you have to do is add a few strategically placed windows.  Above are some examples I found on Houzz.  I think it’s pretty neat how a low level window can not only potentially improve your dog’s mood, it can also provide a unique and visually dynamic design element.  Check out more possible dog windows in The Barkitect’s “Pet’s Perspective”  ideabook on Houzz.

Image Sources (from top to bottom): One, Two, Three, Four, Five

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In my opinion, traditional dog crates are not very attractive.  They’re typically made from black coated metal wire or some form of blah colored rigid vinyl plastic.  They’re big, clunky, and the metal ones are annoyingly loud.  Most people end up shoving them in the corner, or storing them in some back room to keep them out of the way and out of sight- myself included (yes, my Great Danes are crate trained).  A much more practical and visually pleasing solution would be to make your own custom built-in crate.  Every home is full of spaces that would work perfectly.  Below are some ideas that you may not have thought of…


The space underneath stairs is often times a forgotten place.  It’s typically an awkward shape and therefore not ideal for humans to occupy.  Occasionally you’ll see it being used as a coat closet or some kind of storage nook, but did you know that it’s also an ideal space for a built in dog crate?  It’s small, cozy, and tucked away.



Closets are also great little nooks that often get over looked.  If you’re fortunate to have lots of closet space in your home, then consider converting the lower half of one of them into a built in dog crate.  Closets are most often located in bedrooms, so it’s a great way allow your pup to sleep in the same room as you, without him or her taking up any floor or bed space.



Base, or lower cabinets are ideal for built in dog crates because they are pretty much ready to use.  You wouldn’t have to do much building or construction.  Just change out or renovate the doors, finish and/or paint the inside, and poof you’ve got a built-in, ready-to-use dog crate.  These are often ideal in kitchens and laundry rooms, where cabinets are prevalent.



This is a little more of an unusual idea considering most homes probably don’t have built-in lofted beds, but nevertheless it’s something to consider.  The space under the bed is usually useless, but if you get a lofted bed, all of sudden your floor, and storage, space doubles.  Making it another prime location for a built in dog crate.  This is another great option for allowing your dog to sleep in the same room as you while still giving them their own separate space.


For photo examples of built in dog crates, follow The Barkitect on Pinterest, and be sure to check out my board called, “Built-Ins for Dogs.”

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Texture plays a big role when it comes to selecting a pet friendly floor.  Too rough and it can be very difficult to clean. Too smooth, and it can be slippery and unsafe for both people and pets.  It’s also important to think about how a pet perceives a floor texture.  Some dogs, like this ONE, refuse to walk on floors with a high gloss finish.  Reflectiveness can seem unstable to animals, similar to water.  Look for floors that have a texture somewhere in the middle, not too rough, not too smooth.  Go for matte or honed finishes over glossy or polished finishes.


Natural stone materials, such as marble, travertine, and limestone are undoubtedly beautiful, but they can be a huge headache for someone with pets.  They scratch easily, crack often, stain, and have to be sealed on a regular basis.  If you really like the look of natural stone, a similar, but much more pet-friendly option would be porcelain tile.  Some styles of porcelain tile look exactly like real stone, but the maintenance is so much easier, and it also costs a lot less.


Carpet is basically a sponge.  It’s absorbs liquids, it stains, it traps hair and dirt, and it has this uncanny ability to hold on to odors long after the source is gone.  It’s a scratching post for cats and a never-ending chew toy for teething puppies.  If you have to have carpet, go for carpet tiles.  That way if one gets ruined you can easily replace it without having to rip everything up.  Or invest in a high quality, durable rug.  Best of both worlds?  Go for a tiled rug, like THESE.


If you decide to go with a tile floor, pick a dark grout color.  Some grout, like epoxy, won’t stain, but it still shows dirt.  Light colored grout will show traffic patterns over time.  Meaning it will turn dark in the areas that people and pets often walk.  For a pet-friendly home it’s better to start off with a dark color, keep everything uniform, and not have to worry.


Some pets shed a lot, and no matter how much you clean there’s always going to be hair.  If that’s the case, sometimes it’s better to embrace it, than fight it.  I’m not suggesting to never clean, but if there’s always going to be hair, you might as well pick a floor that helps hide it.  Pick a color that’s similar to your pet’s hair and in a matte finish, and you’d be amazed at how much it helps.


Always order full size samples of a flooring material before installing it in your home.  Lay the samples down in your house, walk on them, have your pet walk on them, get them dirty and try to clean them, feel the texture, look at the sheen, try to scratch them, study the color and durability.  Do everything you can to understand the pros and cons before purchasing the floor.  It’s amazing how different some materials look, feel, and perform from seeing them online or in the store to in person at your home.  It’s better to know ahead of time than be surprised after it’s installed.


Part of designing a pet-friendly home is understanding that every pet, even the most well-trained, aren’t perfect.  They will chew, they will scratch, they will shed and slobber, and they will have accidents.  At the same time no floor is perfect either.  Every option has it pros and cons.  The best thing you can do is understand exactly who your pet is.  Know their habits and regular tendencies.  Then do your research and select a floor that best meets the needs of both your pet and yourself.


Porcelain Tile
Vinyl (Planks, Tiles, Sheet Goods)
Sealed Concrete
Epoxy or Resin


Ceramic Tile
Natural Stone

 Image Source

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