Hong Kong pets lap up the luxury in own rooms with private baths
Architects in city and abroad are making their animal companions a focal point of their home designs with accessories that include flat-screen TVs
Not long ago, a collar, a leash, a bowl and possibly an outdoor kennel were what most people had as pet amenities.
Today, there are designer accessories, electronic feeders, automatic pet doors, special showers and tubs, and flat-screen televisions positioned at your pet’s height, not to mention the ultimate luxury: a room of their own.
Some builders and designers, including a few in Hong Kong, are making pets a centrepiece of their home designs – and the response has been positive.
Last year, developer Standard Pacific offered pet rooms as an option at a new community in California. Since then, it has expanded such rooms and other pet amenities to all 27 of its communities. Apart from the in-home features, many developments offer dog parks, exercise stations, drinking fountains, wash areas and group picnic areas for four-legged companions.
Dogs and cats are no longer relegated to the backyard, barn or basement. In many of America’s 79.8 million households with animals, they are considered family.
“Pets were a theme that kept coming up” in liveability research with recent buyers, says Jeffrey Lake, Standard Pacific’s national director of architecture.
Says Rhyse Altman, an architect designer with Visbeen Architects in Michigan: “Pet owners are growing more aware of the benefits of designing homes with pets in mind.
“What we are most concerned about is making it easier for their pets to eat, sleep, and play on their own terms with as much independence as possible. The last thing a pet owner wants is to be tripping over food dishes, staring at a kennel in the middle of the living room, smelling the litter box or getting up in the middle of the night to let the dog out.”
Rhona Sutter, a real estate agent in Florida who founded the Pet Realty Network, which helps prospective buyers find pet-friendly properties, says: “Whatever people want for their pets, they are going to get. Pets are something buyers definitely take into consideration now.”
For one couple outside Salt Lake City, pets were an important consideration in the design of an entire house. During the months-long process of designing their home with architect Russ Platt, Blaine Raddon and Stacy Johnstun made accommodating a dog or two a priority.
Early on, they decided on a breed – Great Dane – but their puppy, a blue male they named Blu, didn’t come on the scene until they were selecting their finishes, tiles and flooring.
Their home, in Utah, is a contemporary design that edges into the steep slope of a canyon’s hillside. Huge windows take in views of granite peaks, forest and the city in the distance.
The property has an underground electronic fence for Blu and includes natural spots for him to play. Inside, few areas were conceived where Blu wasn’t a consideration, beginning with the concrete floors in dark grey tones, a perfect match for his coat. “Great Danes really don’t shed very much, but we picked these floors so any shedding would blend in,” Raddon says.
Flooring is one concern for homeowners with pets. Many prefer hard surfaces or even some specialised floors marketed as pet friendly. Raddon also opted for hard surfaces on the second floor, selecting a grey and tan Daltile that mimics natural wood. It’s one of those materials that must be touched to be sure it is tile.
Just outside the kitchen on the patio, an extensive butler’s pantry is accessed through an electronic pet door. Here, Raddon installed a feeding table where Blu eats, and his food and accessories are stored. The electronic pet door opens in response to a magnetic key on the dog’s collar, but otherwise remains closed, keeping critters out of the house.
In the US, builders and architects say an electronic pet door is one of the most frequently requested amenities, especially because owners can programme the hours when they will operate so a pet goes out only at certain times.
Kitchens and entrance halls are also places where consumers want to accommodate pets.
In Hong Kong, where every centimetre of living space is precious, dedicated dog rooms are rare. Among the few that have been built is an 80 sq ft haven in a 2,000 sq ft Mid-Levels flat where Harold Ho, CEO of garment manufacturer Forest Fortune, lives with his five Yorkshire terriers.
“I’d always dreamed of having a dogs’ room,” says Ho, who used a black-and-white colour scheme for the flat he bought last year. In the dogs’ room, which cost him HK$70,000 to fit out, Ho chose a big white floor and wall tiles for ease of cleaning, and a Corian benchtop and tub for bath time.
Simpler in design but no less practical is the HK$20,000 dog room built in another Mid-Levels flat by Mio Design’s Eric Leung for a female client. The room, which adjoins the main bedroom, makes it easy for her to check on her dogs and allows them somewhere of their own to eat and sleep. The space is also equipped with large cupboards, for pet accessories and more.
One of the biggest concerns for cat owners is litter boxes that can often be camouflaged with a cabinet-style design built under a countertop.
Designers such as Jennifer Gilmer, a kitchen and bath designer in Maryland, say they get the most requests for places to stash food and water bowls. One popular solution is a slide-out drawer in a cabinet that contains the dishes and is at the pet’s height.
Kitchen designers say they also receive requests to hide a kennel or a litter box; an under-an-island solution is popular. Lake says large pantries are typical in Standard Pacific homes without pet rooms, allowing space to store bulk staples such a large bags of food.
Increasingly, too, owners are looking for alternatives to baby gates, which, until recently have been the go-to method for corralling the four-legged set. “We really like to integrate half-height pocket doors strategically throughout the house as a means to keep a pet away from certain activities without shutting it in a small room,” Altman says.
A place to bathe dogs is another frequent request from pet owners. Some are elaborate, with seats for owners, steps for easy access if they are not walk-in, and what Lake calls the “all-important hook for a leash to contain those dogs that are wary of the water.” Typically these washing areas are placed near an outside entry or a garage so a muddy dog can be hosed off before entering the house.
Although Raddon’s house may not feature a pet space similar to those offered by Standard Pacific, a bedroom on the second floor has been outfitted to be a hang-out for Blu. With a bunk bed, the room is still versatile enough for younger guests, but the oversized bottom bunk is an ideal place for even a Great Dane to stretch out. It’s positioned a little higher off the ground so the area underneath can accommodate a pet bed and becomes a cave-like hideaway.
It has been a few months since Raddon, Johnstun and Blu moved into their new home.
“The dog settled into the house quicker than we did. It took him less than a day to figure out the pet door and the fence,” Raddon says. “Now, he feels like he is the king of the castle.”
Tribune News Service
Additional reporting by Rachelle Chau