Wealthy Twin Cities residents pamper their pets with luxuryWealthy Twin Cities residents go to all kinds of extremes for their pets when building or remodeling — from creating special spots for dog food bowls or litter boxes to constructing entire rooms just for their furry friends.
By: Bessica Fleming, St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — When Karen Howe was designing the river home she and her family use as a luxurious weekend retreat, she didn’t forget about Phoebe.
The home, nestled on the bluffs of the St. Croix River in Denmark Township, has a gourmet kitchen, four spa-like bathrooms and a two-story glass atrium made for gazing at the stars. But the home also has a built-in nook, complete with a custom-made bed, made just for her 6-year-old Yorkshire Terrier.
“She knows that’s her spot,” Howe said, adding that the 2-foot enclosure is like a fort for Phoebe.
The home’s laundry room also sports a built-in kennel and a designated closet for the dog’s clothes, treats and food.
Phoebe isn’t the only pampered pet in town. Wealthy Twin Cities residents go to all kinds of extremes for their pets when building or remodeling — from creating special spots for dog food bowls or litter boxes to constructing entire rooms just for their furry friends.
“Because we view our pets in a more human way, it is no longer meaningful enough to us to simply give them a biscuit,” said Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Association. “We look to thank our pets in a way that is meaningful to us in human terms. That is reflected in the things we buy our pets.”
The association estimates that Americans will spend nearly $48 billion on their pets this year.
Designer Lisa Stoll of Sparrow and Stoll in Burnsville has been working eating spaces for dogs and cats into kitchens for years. Often, it’s as simple as leaving a space beneath an island for food and water bowls. But she also has been installing drawers that house cat dishes — when the cat is finished eating, the drawer can simply be pushed back in. And instead of using under-the-counter bins for recycling, some pet owners are using the bins to store pet food.
“There are two issues in a kitchen,” Stoll said. “Where does the dog food get stored, and where do the pet dishes go? It’s about making sure your beautiful new kitchen is not marred by big bags or dishes on the floor.”
Howe, a former pet boutique owner, is full of stories about home features made just for pets.
Her neighbors on the river have electronic pet doors for their dogs, she said. Remote sensors on their collars open the doors when the pooches get close.
She also knows a homeowner who built a closet-like space accessible to the cat for its litter box. It was designed with a back door that opened in the garage. The owner could open the door and dump the mess right into the trash without dragging it through the house.
“More and more people, when they build, are thinking about their pets,” Howe said.
Peter Vujovich, who built the Howes’ home, said kitty litter closets are quite common. He has one in his house, with a hole just big enough for the cat to get in.
“We have a dog that messes around in the litter box, which drives me crazy, so that’s how we get around it,” Vujovich said.
Builder Tom Ellis, also a pet owner, said the room he built for his dogs has generated a lot of response — and requests for him to replicate it — from people who visit his home.
The room has indoor kennels, a vinyl floor for easy cleaning, an elevated tub with a handheld shower for grooming and a closet for doggie accoutrements and extra food.
“The dogs have a place where they know they belong,” Ellis said. “When there’s lots of activity in the house, it’s a place for them to have some quiet time. And when you’re not at home, they can stay in there so they’re not running around destroying everything.”
Ellis has built rooms that have a dog door straight to an insulated doghouse or dog run. He said he puts flaps on the inside and outside to create an air lock.
“When people are working long hours, the dogs can go outside during the day when they need to,” he said.
Landscape designer Thomas Hoese of Minneapolis-based Magnolia Designs said he once built a sidewalk and patio especially for a dog.
The yard was quite sloped, he said, and the large dog needed a way to get around the house and exercise.
“We had to cut through that and add a bunch of steps,” Hoese said. “And eventually, we added a patio.”
For some pet owners, nothing is too over-the-top.
“Sometimes when I see what people do for their dogs, with heated, air-conditioned spaces and even raised beds in their rooms, well, you can’t beat it if you’re a dog,” Ellis said.
“Some of these pets have it better than kids do.”