The Home Front: Hardy home furnishings

Take a quick stroll around a city like Vancouver and you can’t help but spot increasing numbers of doggy daycares, pet boutiques and even pet portraiture services.

But with pets ever popular, there’s also a heightened demand for hard-wearing furniture and home furnishings that can survive our furry friends, small children and the guests who are likely to visit over the holiday season, says Maureen Welton, vice-president of creative and design at Vancouver home-furnishings company

“It’s really popular to have pets right now,” Welton notes. “We don’t design furniture that is going to be foolproof for pets. Probably there is no such thing, but there are some suggestions that help with furniture to help keep pets from damaging it.”

Choosing quality furniture is a good place to start, so paying attention to the structure of the pieces you’re buying is important, Welton says.

“Make sure that the structure is really good, especially if you have larger pets that might be jumping up,” she says. “So looking for solid wood interiors or a really good plywood ( five ply or more) and corner blocking — all that gives strength to the sofa.”

Probably most important is the sofa covering you choose, says Welton, recommending a good strong leather.

“Some of the really super buttery smooth leathers are probably not the best for pets,” she says, “because they tend to scratch really easily and they’re just not as durable overall, so we recommend leathers that have a little more strength in them.”

If you’re planning on choosing a fabric covering for a sofa, Welton says, there are some things worth considering.

“Fabric wise, there’s a Martindale test for helping to see the performance of a fabric,” she says. “So if someone is seriously thinking about a fabric sofa, they should ask what the Martindale test is. We recommend it withstand 25,000 rubs or more; our fabrics go up to 100,000 or more rubs. So that’s something to look for.”

Fabrics with a tighter weave are also a good option, says Welton, so “claws can’t get in between the yarns” and easily pull them apart.

Welton says that although they prefer using natural fibre fabrics like linen, cotton and wool for their furniture coverings, they often mix in some synthetics to give the fabrics more strength and to avoid pilling and stretching.

She says that overall, she would recommend that those who have cats and dogs choose leather sofa coverings over fabric options.

“You can wipe it,” she says. “And get rid of all the loose hairs or fur a lot easier. It vacuums up a lot faster, and also, when leather gets a bit shabby looking, it’s okay. It’s still nice, whereas fabric, if it starts to looks shabby, most fabrics don’t look great.”

Pets are habitual, Welton notes, so if you pay attention to where their favourite spot is on a sofa or rug, you can put down a covering to protect it.

“Put a blanket down or some kind of a large pillow that they can sleep on or lay on, and that will prevent more damage to the fabric or leather,” she says. “Usually, I’ll put a blanket or towel down, something that’s washable and that will also help quite a lot.”

Welton says if you have pets, it’s best to avoid choosing solid colour surfaces for things like rugs, and opt for two-tone looks or rugs made from fibres that have a mix of colours because they’re less likely to show any dirt.

Removing pet hair, dirt and dander will also help prolong the life of your furniture, Welton says.

“One thing that is important, particularly with rugs, is that it gets vacuumed often, so any fur that gets stuck in the rug or debris they bring in from outside that it gets vacuumed up because if it gets stuck in between the fibres it’s going to cause long-term damage.”

Welton says Article is in the process of developing a new range of sofas designed specifically for their customers who have pets or young children. It will be released in roughly six months.

“It’s a fabric that is super stain resistant (made without the use of harsh chemical), but has still a nice soft feeling,” she says. “This is a new fabric, developed in the U.S., and it just provides a soft touch, even though it has that durability.”

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