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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.

DIY Pet Crate Coffee Table - Erin Loechner

If you can't find it, why not build it?

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?:

DIY Pet Crate Coffee Table - Erin Loechner

Equal parts crate and coffee table - form meets function!

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.”

DIY Pet Crate Coffee Table - Erin Loechner

Building and assembling patterned cut-outs and a raised lid for maximum air flow.

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.

DIY Pet Crate Coffee Table - Erin Loechner

Crate dividers are just an added bonus for the pups!

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!

DIY Pet Crate Coffee Table - Erin Loechner

A closer look at those genius magnets.

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:


DIY Pet Crate Coffee Table - Erin Loechner


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!



73 Responses

  1. Patricia says:

    I think it needs more holes! and mine would escape so a pin also to keep the dog in. I'd have to add a plastic liner on at least the door to keep splinters out of his toes. Maybe the new Dog TV channel would distract him!!!I'd make the divider between my dogs with small holes like the outside to keep the puppy from torturing the older dog. I could make the holes out of an attachment to my drill to make holes for locks in doors as I don't think I could make perfect enough circles with the jigsaw. I had thought of making a regular coffee table into a cage by drilling holes for bars on all sides but the door installation was the problem. I'd paint mine black to match the TV stand. Two more smaller ones would add storage and act as end tables. Great idea!

  2. [...] Design Happens Posted in HGTV · Tagged: Coffee, Crate, modern, Table [...]

  3. Betsy King says:

    It's amazing!

  4. Dennis says:

    Awesome way to vent the heat out the top! It looks as "cool" (pun intended) as it will function. Very nice touch. My dog LOVES closed in spaces and I knw I won't be able to just build him a box…this gives me a ton of ideas! Of course…when I can get around to building it! :)

  5. @kileelu says:

    When is Ken going to start making & selling these on etsy? Let me know!

  6. Martha says:

    amazing! still waiting for news of your "DIY plywood crafts" book deal :) This is so cute. We have a very big dog, so ours would have to be more of a side table…

  7. [...] This beautiful piece of furniture is the work of the very clever Erin Loechner, who writes for (who else?) HGTV. Read all about how she and her husband designed and built the dog crate/coffee table at the HGTV blog. [...]

  8. [...] the crate is just plain necessary.  Here’s a logical solution to the problem – a coffee table crate. … it really is paramount to think of how your object will be utilized before you design it. [...]

  9. Sue says:

    It appears as if the dog can't see anything unless they peer thru those little holes? I larger opening would be much nicer for the dog.

  10. Madame Suggia says:

    Love this! Our dog will love it too when I build it…

    Also, if you're expecting a little one, a good way to get the pups used to the idea is to get yourself a baby doll (realistic life -sized) and 'nurse' or just cuddle the doll for about 10-20 minutes each evening, so the pups see it and get used to the idea. I don't know where I heard or read this, but we used it when I was expecting our firstborn and it worked brilliantly, Pup got all his sulks out of the way, and by the time our boy came along, Pup was really peaced out & protective of him.

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