The Storied Stylist: Much Ado about DOGS!

Posted in Blogs

Feb. 28, 2014

Years ago, when I was a program manager for a small non-profit, we were in need of a new look so I scoured the local want ads for furniture. A friend of mine told me her neighbor was planning an estate sale and had invited her for a preview sale. So guess who she brought along? It was fate meets destiny.

I was told the woman had kept most of her furniture since she was married in 1968. And she was ready to part with it. I was beside myself. Could this be a time-capsule moment?

That night, I rode home in the back of our truck, sandwiched between an avocado green and blue floral circular sofa and a red velvet captain’s chair straight out of Graceland. The furniture was, indeed, from another time and it was in MINT condition.

But there was a sad part to the story: Before I was allowed to write her a check, she sat me down, took both of my hands in hers and said: “Do you have any idea why this furniture is in such excellent shape?”

It felt as though the purchase was contingent on my ability to listen to her story. Her eyes began to water and she said, “I never allowed my pets or children on the sofa without those darn plastic slip covers.” And then she added, “I regret that decision, and I wish that I could have put my children and pets first.”

I was a puddle of pudding in her hands. I had never met anyone who had been haunted for over 40 years by plastic slipcovers.

She made me take a vow that I would never do this to my family or my pets, and then she accepted my check.

The author's furry, four-legged family member, Fifi

The author’s furry, four-legged family member, Fifi

Speaking of pets, when it comes to Whidbey Island residents and their relationship with animals (specifically on the south end), there are basically two camps: those who have “pets” and those who have family members who happen to have four legs and fur from head to toe.

There is no doubt which camp I’m in.

Case in point: Several years ago I was grocery shopping and was standing at the meat department, looking frustrated enough to catch the attention of an employee. She asked if I needed help. I told her I was looking for a minimally processed, extra-lean hamburger for my dog.

She threw her head back and laughed! And said, scornfully: “I should have known. Most dogs on the south end eat better then most people!”

How does one respond to a statement like that? I decided not to make an issue out of it, so I quickly scampered away.

In our household, the dog has virtually no boundaries. It is what it is. When it comes to lounging on the sofa, it’s equal opportunity for everyone, including the dog. But I’ve learned over the years that we don’t have to allow our homes to look or smell like dog kennels.

We just need to know a few tricks.

I have two velvet sofas; by most standards that’s not a good idea when you have pets. But I discovered I didn’t have to sacrifice my personal style because I have animals. Instead, I developed a strategy that enabled me to preserve the integrity of the sofa and maintain the aesthetic consistency of my home.

My sofa is red, so I have a collection of red “throws” that I rotate on a frequent basis. And when I say “throw,” I mean a sheet or bedspread. A sheet is much easier to match; you can almost always find a sheet in a solid color. Besides, a sheet washes better.

Now, we don’t need to run out to our favorite big-box store and snap up every color that matches our sofas. My recommendation is to go to the local thrift stores. Over the years, I’ve managed to acquire 10 sheets in this way. If you decide to go this route, you’ll be saving big bucks!

Repurposed dog bed by local artist, Nora Harrell.

Repurposed dog bed by local artist, Nora Harrell.

Or how about creating a space for your dog that is just as appealing as the sofa? This is just one fabulous example from a local artist, Nora Harrell. This item is currently for sale at Red Rooster Antiques in Freeland.

I’d like to take a moment here to destroy the vision of perfection many of us have, because of the media, of incredibly beautiful homes. Here is the truth: IT’S ALL FANTASY! There is no household on this earth that looks like it came out of the pages of a magazine.

Wouldn’t it be a great idea for a coffee table book to create side-by-side images of pre-staged rooms and post-staged rooms? The truth of the matter is: most of us are slobs to a certain degree. And, gone are the days of sterile perfection that took its shape in the form of plastic lampshades and plastic sofa covers!

As for the lady at the store who made that remark? If she’s right, we may need to re- evaluate our diets and—consider eating more like our dogs.

Julie Cunha Interiors specializes in expertly edited restyled vintage and modern designs. She lives and works on Whidbey Island. 


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  1. So very true. I am one of the fortunate ones who has spent time in the home of the author. Their “family” member with four legs is just that one of the family to all who enter! Each time I am fortunate to visit this home I look forward to what new ideas have evolved since my last visit…

  2. If you’re going to have ‘pets’ and not treat them like the family members they are, then what’s the point of having them? People who care for and love pets always seem happier and more well adjusted for the most part. Our little family members don’t have many boundaries in our home, but they fill it with love and happiness.

  3. Hi Julie! I love your ideas for dog beds! Another idea is repurposing memory foam mattress covers. Humans are heavier than most dogs, and we need to replace our memory foam mattress covers every couple of years. But that foam has plenty of life in it for the average 50lb dog bed or cat bed! One king sized mattress cover can be cut and fit into dog beds that are getting droopy. Keeps an elderly dog warm and comfortable in our damp winters. Thank you for your good article! Best wishes on your success, Reva (Treasured Hearts Pet Sitting Service since Y2K) and hard working partners Selkie the Dalmatian (14yrs) and Sanjuro, Dalmatianx Border Collie (7yrs)….who only approves of the chicken and cheese food groups LOL
    PS. have you thought of making tough but comfortable camping beds for dogs?

  4. I don’t even have a dog as a pet and I liked this article. I like the way it is written, just like I was having a fun casual conversation with the author. I like the suggestion to embrace your situation, and create a positive solution. An easy to clean collection of old sheets that are a nice color, how simple is that?! I have always hated those plastic slipcovers, now I know I am not alone!!

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