by Matt Hickman, Mother Nature Network
After taking a good look at the competition showing at the 2011 Barkitecture doghouse design-off in Austin, Texas, we got around to thinking: What other doggy domiciles out there give new meaning to the phrase "creature comforts?"
Turns out, there are plenty. From tricked-out canine crash pads costing a quarter of a million dollars to eco-friendly backyard kennels with presidential pedigrees to celebrity-owned menagerie manses, the designer doghouse trend is apparently here to "stay" despite the trying economic climate. Sure, a couple of these featured doghouses cost more than the average American home (!) while others were built for significantly less using reclaimed/recycled materials and plenty of architectural flair.
Whatever you do, don't let your own pooch get a glimpse of this article. Otherwise, you'll have Princess Fluffybutt begging you not for a bacon-flavored treat but for a bespoke English cottage complete with central air and a plasma TV playing "Petkeeping with Marc Morrone" on a continuous loop. And you certainly wouldn't want that to happen, would you?
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The minimalist Zen retreat
The big winner at the previously mentioned Barkitecture 2011 was somewhat of a doozy: Cube House, a modernist backyard pooch pied-á-terre complete with a rooftop Zen garden. In the case of this curious-looking kennel, banishment to the doghouse isn't a form of punishment but a chance for Fido to focus on deep contemplation, relaxation and perhaps some stretching exercises.
Created by Austin-based sustainable building firm Spring Builders in collaboration with none other than the Dog Whisperer himself, Cesar Millan, Cube House and the other Barkitecture entrants were up for grabs via silent auction (bids started at $250) with proceeds benefiting local animal rescue groups. (No offense to Cesar but our favorite design, paws down, was the positively handsome Hound Hacienda from VII Custom Homes.)
The Pacific Northwest green contemporary
Matthew Coates, principle of Bainbridge Island, Wash.-based sustainable architecture firm Coates Design Architects, is used to catering to the unique needs and wants of his eco-minded clients. But Coates took on a whole new, ahem, breed of client, this one decidedly more kibble-minded, for a 2011 project dubbed "Eco-Doghouse."
Designed for Coates' very own beloved Great Dane, Henri, features of the PHC Construction-built home include FSC-certified siding, thermal heated concrete floors, materials salvaged form construction sites, and various nontoxic products as to avoid "doggie asthma, dermatitis, allergies, skin infections, or other health issues that may generate from utilizing toxic products." And of course, there's Chez Henri's beautiful green roof and an oversized window that gives its oversized resident a full view of the desk belonging to his "favorite person on earth:" Daddy Coates.
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The hound dog hacienda
Although custom-designed for a very pampered pooch belonging to swimsuit model/reality TV mainstay/the former Mrs. Rod Stewart, Rachel Hunter, Beyond the Crate's Hacienda Dog House can be yours, too … to the tune of $30,000 and up.
Featuring running water, heat, air conditioning and lighting, the Hacienda Dog House is just one of the several architectural styles available as part of Beyond the Crate's fabulously fetching, bank account-busting Celebrity Dog Mansions series (the Hacienda is actually a canine-sized replica of Hunter's own California home). So if Spanish-style dwellings aren't exactly Fido's architectural bowl of tap water, there's always French chateaus, Swiss chalets and English cottages.
The historically accurate antebellum manor
If your beloved sheepdog Scarlett howls every time that "Gone With the Wind" - or "Designing Women" - comes on TV, perhaps it's high time you consider investing in The Alabama (top photo), German doghouse design firm Best Friend's Home's ode to stately Southern manors. Boasting lattice windows, real shingles and a pair of imposing pillars, this €2,900 (about $3,800) kennel is both weather-resistant (it's made from durable varnished wood) and historically accurate (the designers based it on a real historical model).
If Disney films or Bauhaus architecture better match your pooch's personality, Best Friend's Home also offers the turreted Fairytale and the uber-modern Cubix (above). Or there's the downright adorable Lönneberga, a cozy-looking doghouse based on traditional Swedish farmhouses.
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The green-roofed Greek Revival
Heads were turning and tails were wagging in 2009 when landscape designer Stephanie Rubin of Los Angeles-based Sustainable Pet Design revealed Summa Canum (Latin for "Top Dog"), a bespoke, plant-topped kennel designed as a gift for the world's most famous Portuguese water dog: Bo Obama.
A D.C.-centric riff on Rubin's line of eco-friendly Greenrrroof Animal Homes, the Greek Rival-inspired Summa Canum was designed "not only to provide an appropriately sustainable and stylish home for the new leader of the free canine world, but to introduce eco-friendly practices and materials to the American people." In addition to the flora-filled roof and the use of zero-VOC paints and finishes, Rubin's canine creation incorporates reclaimed materials with a distinct presidential pedigree: The wood used to construct the structure came from felled aromatic Tennessee cedar trees reclaimed by EarthSource Forest Products from Andrew Jackson's estate, the Hermitage. And get this: Summa Canum was delivered to the White House by none other than Neil Young in his LincVolt, a hybrid electric 1959 Lincoln Continental.
The egregiously deluxe pooch palace
There are doghouses. And then there are dog palaces. This is exactly what a Great Dane-owning "lady surgeon" erected adjacent to her home in Gloucestershire, U.K., in 2008: a £250,000 (about $400,000) 2-bedroom pooch palace built from zinc, limestone and glass and outfitted with a 52-inch plasma TV; sheepskin-lined, temperature-controlled daybeds; a £150,000 (about $235,000) sound system; an 18-inch spa tub; self-cleaning food and water bowls; and a spacious outdoor play area. And let us not forget the high-tech retina scan entry system that prevents canine interlopers from this deluxe doggy domicile that just happens to be designed by renowned Brit architect Andy Ramus.
A representative for Lower Mill Estate, the swank waterfront enclave where the canine compound was built, tells The Daily Mail: "This is the first animal request we've had. People can design their own homes and this is a bit eccentric but it's really nice that someone appreciates their pets as much as this lady does. She's designed their quarters with all their needs at the fore."
The Beverly Hills chihuahua villa
Animal-hoarding socialite Paris Hilton is no stranger to causing a pink-colored commotion and that she did when, in 2009, she unveiled a $325,000 poolside palace for her pack of pampered pets including Tinkerbell, Marilyn Monroe, Prince Baby, Harajuku, Dolce and Prada. With interiors overseen by designer Faye Resnick (who you may remember from memorable appearances on Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" and in, umm, Playboy magazine), features of the 300-square-foot, bi-level doggy digs include central air, a black crystal chandelier, a clay tile roof, a spiral staircase, miniature Philippe Starck furniture, ample closet space and, of course, pink o' plenty.
Said Hilton in a 2009 Life & Style photo spread detailing the "Mini Doggie Mansion:" "They love lying on the balcony, playing in their backyard and hanging out on their living room furniture. They appreciate the house that Mommy built for them."
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by Matt Hickman, Mother Nature Network