Guest Blogger: Julia Szabo, on Keeping Your Dog’s Digs Stylish and Spotless

Today's guest blogger, Julia Szabo, is often lauded as the nation's best-known pet journalist. She's the New York Post's beloved "Pets" columnist, and has several...

Julia Szabo and Lazarus, a.k.a. Lazzmtazz, one of her rescued pits.

Today’s guest blogger, Julia Szabo, is often lauded as the nation’s best-known pet journalist. She’s the New York Post‘s beloved “Pets” columnist, and has several lifestyle and pet books to her name. You may have seen her giving expert commentary on NBC, VH1, or read her words in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Travel & Leisure, The New Yorker, and numerous other publications and websites. Among her legions of fans are Dominick Dunne, Kevin Bacon, and Kyra Sedgwick.

Julia is the Martha Stewart of the pet world. She combines top-notch design savvy with a tremendous love and knowledge of dogs, cats, and other critters, and presents it in an appealing, simple way that even the most style-challenged pet people can enjoy. Today, she brings Dogsters some helpful tips on keeping our homes in one piece despite the pitter-patter of little paws or the clomp-thud of big ones.

Keeping Your Dog’s Digs Stylish and Spotless

By Julia Szabo

As a design journalist, I’ve written for some of the top top-shelf shelter magazines in the world, including Elle Decor and Traditional Home. But believe it or not, everything I know about keeping a nice home I learned from … my dogs. They voted with their feet, showing me what worked and what didnt. Heres a sampling of what these natural-born decorators have taught me; for more info, check out my new book, Pretty Pet-Friendly: Easy Ways to Keep Spot’s Digs Stylish and Spotless (Howell Book House).

The Floor

Dog-friendly FLOR tiles are one way to have long-lasting floors no matter how active your pets are around the house

The floor has to be planned to take a beating or at least conceal the evidence of heavy scuffing from dogs’ nails. The pet-friendly floor also has to be easy to clean (and preferably non-porous). Wood, bamboo, ceramic tile, concrete, and linoleum are all fine, pet-friendly options. Rugs and wall-to-wall carpeting are not recommended, but modular carpet tile by FLOR is a brilliant flooring choice for a pet residence: easy to clean and inexpensive to replace whenever necessary.


The best paints for homes with pets are non-toxic and durable, like Mythic paints
The best paints for homes with pets are non-toxic and durable, like Mythic paints.

Paint is an easy, impactful way to make a style statement, but flat paint is a dont in a pet residence it cannot be wiped without leaving a scar on your wall. Instead, go with an eggshell or satin finish. Most ordinary paints are toxic, but Mythic Paint contains zero volatile organic compounds, so its safe to roll on the walls with animals in the room. Plus its up to eight times more durable than other paints, and the color selection is phenomenally vibrant.


The first rule of fabric selection is washability. Theres really no place in a pet residence for silk and other fragile textiles. The fabrics that work best for upholstery and slipcovers are machine-washable linen and cotton (canvas or denim) as well as high-performance microfibers such as Crypton Super Fabrics, which are designed to resist stains, moisture, odors, and bacteria (plus, they come in fab patterns by renowned artist William Wegman).


Chonk-free metal legs, like the chair on the cover of Julia's latest book, are ideal for dogs who like to chew furnishings

If your dog is a champion chomper, wood-limbed furniture must be avoided. Metal is the best choice for sofa and chair legs. Note the chrome-framed Thayer Coggin chair on my books cover; the fringe benefit is that it also happens to be a modern-design icon. If you simply adore wood furnishings, avoid spindle-legged chairs and settees; look instead for solid, sturdy furniture construction, whether you’re investigating new items or antiques. Your sofa, for instance, should resemble a bulldog or mastiff more than a greyhound!

Cleaning Products

method group shot

Pets lick things to register important information. By using non-toxic, environmentally safe, and biodegradable “green” cleaning products made from natural ingredients, pet owners can rest easy that Spot and friends are not ingesting harmful chemicals by licking at surfaces cleaned with them. Green products are every bit as effective than their chemical counterparts, so theres no need to buy poisonous products – plus, green cleaners smell great, so they double as aromatherapy!


There's nothing like a creative pet portrait to liven up a wall. Painting: Heather LaHaise

Walls can be showcases for our inner art collector. I’m the daughter of an artist and a former museum curator, so art appreciation runs in my blood and my home is a veritable art gallery of pet portraits in every medium. To commission a custom painting, check out Martha Szabo or Heather LaHaise; for a photograph, consult Lev Gorn; and for a silhouette, Karl Johnson is the go-to guy.

Excerpted from Pretty Pet-Friendly: Easy Ways to Keep Spots Digs Stylish and Spotless by Julia Szabo (Howell Book House, 2009); reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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