The batpig has always had a keen eye for some pretty pricey poochie palaces. The Alabama Southern Estate and the art deco-styled Cubix Dog House, at $7,200 and $5,200 respectively, are not exactly cheap (and are definitely not in the batpig’s budget.)
In fact, the only superfluous accessory in the modern doghouse may be the dog.
Take, for instance, the Palladian-style mini-mansion that Glenna and Ed Hall bought at a charity auction three years ago for about $300. With Jeffersonian columns that match the ones on their home in Roanoke, Va., the two-foot-tall doghouse makes a perfect accent for the garden. No one seems to mind that the garden is off-limits to Maggie May, their 28-pound whippet-borzoi mix — least of all Maggie May.
“We bought the house because it looks a lot like our house,” said Glenna Hall, 66, a retired interior designer. “Maggie’s never been in it. She’s a house dog.”
Traditionally, doghouses were where dogs actually lived, separate from the family. But now that dogs are increasingly considered members of the family, their homes are becoming more like second homes — and in some cases, they’re entirely ornamental.
Sure, there are still plenty of doghouses built for dogs to live in. But there are also an impressive number built the way Christian Louboutin makes shoes: You can walk in them (sort of), but clearly that’s not the point.
As Michelle Pollak, an interior designer who creates custom doghouses under the name La Petite Maison, observed: “Half our clients say, `Hey, we’d like a replica of our home for the dog,’ and half say, `This is the dream house we’ve always envisioned but couldn’t afford in real life’ — like a French palace for the French poodle.”
No detail is too small, right down to the hand-painted portrait of the dog in residence. For supermodel Rachel Hunter’s showpiece doghouse in the Los Angeles area, Pollak supplied hand-painted wallcovering dotted with pawprints and bones, as well as framed pictures of dogs. Her business partner, a builder named Alan Mowrer, installed wrought-iron light fixtures and terra-cotta flooring.
“Alan had to hand-make every tile of the Mediterranean roof,” Pollak said.
The average price of their doghouses is about $5,000 or $6,000, she said, although it is not unheard of for people to spend more than $25,000. (Hunter’s was more than $16,000, Pollak said, although she could not recall an exact figure.)
Such excess can be an invitation to criticism, but Pollak offered a quick rebuttal.
“People will come and say, `This is such a waste of money, why would anybody do this?“’ she said. “All I can say is that if you have the money, what’s the difference between spending it on a pet house or on a piece of diamond jewelry?”
Besides, she said, many of her clients build houses for dogs they have either rescued or adopted from shelters. One client, in fact, had a disabled rescue dog for which Pollak and Mowrer created a handicapped-accessible home.
“Alan adjusted all of the windows and the doors to allow the dog to see out the window,” she said, “even if he was lying down.”
Doghouse design tends to be popular with architects and home builders, who sometimes refer to it as “barkitecture” and donate their creations to charity auctions that raise money for animal shelters. Designers say they love doghouses because they’re small and fun and allow lots of room for creativity.
As Brian Pickard, an architect in Philadelphia, put it: “If I build a doghouse and somebody is anticipating that it’s going to last 10 years in their backyard, it’s different from designing a house that somebody is expecting will last for 50 years. I can be more experimental.”
Pickard, 29, got his start as an architecture student at The Ohio State University, designing a modernist doghouse inspired by the work of the Swiss architect Mario Botta. He called it the (Sub)urban doghouse and gave it to his parents for their chocolate lab, Nash.
“It kind of began as a simple design exercise, looking at something that didn’t deal with building code and clients who weren’t going to change the program halfway through,” he said. “It became a way to experiment with styles and construction methods.”
For his neighbour, Dave Sharihari, a 31-year-old high school vice principal, Pickard recently designed a doghouse to shelter Thor, a 90-pound Alapaha Blue Blood bulldog, and Thor’s mother, Lucy, who spend part of the day outside.
“When it rains, they need someplace to hang out,” Sharihari said.
To offer inspiration, he told Pickard that he admired the work of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, whose firm designed the new home for the Barnes Foundation art collection in Philadelphia.
“It’s kind of very clean and modern,” Sharihari said, observing that his 1-by-1.5 metre doghouse seems to echo that aesthetic.
For dogs who don’t spend even part of the day outdoors, there are still plenty of choices. FormaItalia, a division of the Italian furniture maker Chiavari, sells lacquered indoor kennels and pet beds that can be suspended from the ceiling. Denhaus, a company in Seattle, makes dog crates disguised as household furniture. The Townhaus, a square wooden table, doubles as a holding pen for naughty puppies, and the BowHaus, a circular silver cocktail table, can hold drinks on top and a dog inside.
M. Brandon Smith, who owns a wine company called Small Cellars, bought one BowHaus for his home in Birmingham, Ala., and another for his lake house in northern Alabama after he and his wife, Kim, got a small fluffy white dog for their 5-year-old son, Chance.
“I had absolutely no interest in putting a regular plastic crate in either of the houses,” Smith said, adding that the dog, Margaux, a Coton de Tulear, retreats happily to the designer crate, which is centrally located in both houses, in the living and dining area.
The family entertains frequently, and the doghouse is a conversation piece.
Barbara Dalhouse, president of the Roanoke Valley SPCA in Virginia, keeps her Hobbit-style wooden doghouse inside because it is “too beautiful,” she said, to put outdoors. Carved from a log retrieved from a swamp in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, the 50-inch-tall shingled hut is topped with an acorn and “looks like a gnome would live in it,” she said. But the sole resident is a stuffed squirrel.
“The cats look in every now and then,” she said. “And Lucy the beagle walks by. But they say, ‘Uh-uh, we’re couch people.’”
Hugo, a white French bulldog in Mill Valley, Calif., has a similar attitude toward his eco-doghouse, a designer structure complete with a green roof.
“It’s hard to get a dog to love the doghouse,” said Eric McFarland, 37, a real estate agent who owns Hugo with his spouse, Brad Krefman, a 30-year-old interior designer. “He’d rather be in our bed.”[/quote]