The Rehab Addict host wants you to never feel like you have to sacrifice your décor to have a pet

By Kelli Bender
Updated November 02, 2016 01:21 PM
Nicole Curtis

Nicole Curtis has two passions: old homes and adoptable dogs. She is the host of HGTV’s Rehab Addict, a show dedicated the restoration of historic structures, and the proud mom of two rescue pups.

Between her TV job, writing her new book Better Than New: Lessons I’ve Learned from Saving Old Homes (and How They Saved Me), traveling, being a mom and caring for her dogs Lucy and Max, Curtis has a busy and constantly changing schedule. Even with all this chaos, Curtis remains an ideal and organized pup parent, safely bringing her dogs on trips and providing them with the consistency and affection all pets crave.

If Curtis can do it, you can to! To help animal lovers and home organization hobbyists alike, this restoration expert has given PEOPLE a few tips on how to easily transform your home into a pet-friendly oasis, without sacrificing your personal style.

What are some easy ways to make room for a pet in your home?

To start, I definitely think you need to designate one main space for your pet that is completely their own. It should be an area that has a cozy bed or pad, a food bowl or feeding space, and has a section to keep their toys and grooming supplies together. That may be on the side of your couch or their very own “pet corner” depending on your space. I’m not saying confine your pet there — my rescue dogs Max and Lucy both have run of the house — but it’s important that they feel safe, and giving them their own territory is the best way to do this.

No matter the size of your home, or how you like to decorate, you should keep in mind a few things:

  1. Take fragile items out of reach, same as you would for your kids.
  2. Don’t splurge on expensive carpets or rugs (accidents happen!)
  3. Machine washable fabrics are best. All of my couches and pillows have removable covers and can go right in the washer after some muddy paws hit them.

What about for people who live in a smaller spaces, like an apartment?

You definitely have to get more creative in smaller spaces and think a little outside the box. Look at your apartment or area in your home and figure out a space that makes the most sense. The bottom drawer of a dresser, a side table you could use to stash their toys or that you could repurpose as a pet bed or crate. Think about making small additions, like adding a blanket to a basket you already own to make a little pet perch, that can be multi-purpose and still accommodating to your animal.

What are good spaces to transform for pets? How do you change them?

  • Turn a balcony into a puppy playground. If you’re lucky enough to have an apartment with a small balcony, use it to your pup’s advantage! Fence in a small area around a patch of weather-resistant artificial grass and then get creative – you can add a doggy bed, foldable pet pool, dog house, etc., depending on your pet’s needs.
  • Convert your furniture into a DIY puppy crate. An old end table, nightstand or bookshelf can easily become a DIY pet crate with a few easy steps. Remove the middle shelf, place an oilcloth or some other pet-friendly material on the inside, and using fabric and a small tension curtain rod, you can make a hidden hideout bed for your pup.
  • Laundry or mud rooms are great places to designate as pet corners (as long as you’re sure to pet-proof the area by keeping detergents and tablets out of reach).
  • Create a pet nook under the stairs or in a closet. In a lot of cases, there’s wasted space under the stairs. If you’re able to, carve out an area for your dog or cat underneath them that can either be for storage or a resting area.
Nicole Curtis

What are some common misconceptions you come across about how people see pets and home décor going together?

One of my biggest pet peeves (pun intended) is when people want to completely redo a room or a house. I like to approach renovations projects with a “restore” not a “redo” attitude. Ripping out old house parts is like ripping out the heart of a structure. I think original is always best, so if you can find something already part of the structure to incorporate into a space for your pet, I love to do that. Also, keep in mind that putting in natural hardwood floors rather than engineered will save you in the long run, engineered can’t be refinished, whereas natural hardwood floors can be refinished and easily last another hundred years.

You also should never feel like you have to sacrifice your décor to have a pet. There are many materials, furniture pieces, and items that are pet-friendly, but also durable enough for an animal and can match the existing décor of your home.

What are some easy and fun ways to organize your pets things?

Baskets, pullout cages and wired bins are easy, practical options for storing your pet supplies. Even over-the-door shoe organizers are great for keeping toys and grooming supplies off the floor, plus the clear pockets mean you don’t have to go digging to find something since everything is in view. I’m also a big fan of storage benches or using vintage crates to store away toys.

I also like the idea of transforming an old crate or box into a pet feeding center. All you need is a jigsaw to cut holes the size of your pet’s bowls and voila, you have a cool, designated space for them for eating times.

Nicole Curtis

How did your pets comes into your life?

My passion in life is not only to rescue old homes, but also to rescue animals and encourage others to do the same. There are so many pets that need loving homes and have been displaced and mistreated or even surrendered due to lifestyle changes. With so many low cost and free services out there – and too many animals being put to death because of overpopulation – I always say adopt, don’t shop.

We rescued Max from a small shelter in Michigan. He was already a “big” puppy when we got him, as he was already 6 months old. He still thinks he is a little dog and will be most likely found in small spaces. Max was actually hit by a car a few years back, and I was told to put him down. Instead, I sold a few of my treasures and a titanium elbow and lots of stitches later, he was back to running with me.

Lucy was rescued from Secondhand Hounds, an animal shelter in Minnesota, in Winter 2013. She is a handful as she can open cupboards and doors — and jumps as high as 3 feet! Both my pups have run of the house and sleep next to me (well, Lucy ends up kicking Max out of bed every morning, but he still tries!)