Modern pet furniture has always been a hot topic in our home. Ken and I are the type of pet owners who plan our lives around our pups, and our pets are the type of dogs who bask in that delight daily (clearly, we’re in for a surprise when baby comes along this July!). And although we’d love to have gorgeous, modern pet gear sprinkled throughout our home, we’ve found that the majority of gorgeous pet items far exceed our budget.
Still, I’m to the point where I can no longer look at our dogs’ cheap, plastic-y crate without shuddering. And when attempting to design your home around pets, it’s important you get a bit creative. Naturally, I consulted dear Ken with a conundrum much like my famous dining room table request:
“Can you build Bernie a dog crate that isn’t ugly?”
Always a man up for a challenge, Ken and I got to work in his woodshop (a.k.a. our basement) and sketched a few ideas for us to review. We started with a mega dog duplex idea, but quickly realized it would take up an insane amount of square footage in the office, where they’re currently crated. And then the light bulb moment came: we need a coffee table in the office. And we need some beautiful dog crates. Why not combine the two ideas and design a modern pet crate coffee table?
So, Ken got to work building our smart, functional design. Ready to see?:
We’re thrilled with how the coffee table turned out (man, we love plywood), and this project reminded us of how truly satisfying it is to design and build something yourself. And sometimes, we’ve found that the design process is just as integral as the build, so I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips on how to design a custom piece of furniture in your own home:
1. Think function first. I can’t believe I just typed that sentence (Ken is laughing somewhere; I just know it), because I’m typically the “form” girl in the relationship. Yet it really is paramount to think of how your object will be utilized before you design it. In the case of our modern pet crate, we knew we wanted a compact-ish crate that could double as a coffee table. This also meant we had to think of proper air flow for the dogs, so we knew the design would need to include some sort of patterned cut-outs and a raised “lid.”
2. Settle on your materials. What sort of aesthetic are you going for, and what materials do you have at your disposal? Ken and I love working with plywood, so this was a natural pick for us. An outdoor crate might have made our job tougher, as we’d have to re-think a few materials, so you can see how function (rule #1) comes in handy to lock down first.
3. Work within your constraints. Sure, we would have loved to build a massive dog duplex, but the size would have been a bear and the angles might have been too challenging for our skill set. If you have smaller tools at home, keep this in mind. A design is only as good as its execution, so it doesn’t help to design something completely unattainable.
4. Add in bells & whistles as you choose. One of the bigger benefits to designing your own furniture is being able to fully customize it to your liking. We wanted both dogs to be able to enjoy the crate at the same time, while still feeling cozy and in their separate spaces. So, we opted for plywood dividers that act as windows for each dog to sniff and smile at each other.
We also wanted to be sure each dog could get out if necessary (house fires scare us in the biggest of ways), so we replaced a typical latch system with a hidden magnet in each door. Both dogs are really great about staying in their cages while we’re not home, so it’s not a concern if they’re not “locked” in. A huge magnet bonus? Because they’re hidden and glued on the inside, the coffee table looks seamless and modern without a bulky latch visible from the outside. Win/win!
5. Don’t sweat mistakes. Every project turns out differently from design to execution. (I think it’s a universal law of some sort.) So when you get halfway through the project and realize you sort of hate it, push through anyway. You can trash it or re-purpose it when finished, but consider it all a learning experience. Rome wasn’t built in a day (or perfectly, for that matter!), so how could you build your coffee table flawlessly in 24 hours?
If you put some serious thought into the design, sketch it out and build mindfully, you’ll be fine. If all else fails, watch tutorials and videos online. We learn 75% of our tips and tricks from smart homeowners just like us! And before you confuse this article as an after-school special PSA, I’ll give you one last beauty shot of our finished pet crate coffee table:
So what do you think, friends? Inspired to build something today? Let me know what projects are coming up the pipeline in your own home – I’d love to hear your progress!