As household pets outnumber children, they are spawning a new industry of goods, services and accessories tailored to our increasingly pampered pooches and kitties.
So when Found Animals, a nonprofit founded by billionaire medic and philanthropist Gary Michelson and his wife Alya, planned Adopt & Shop, a one-stop adoption, pet accessories, doggie grooming, training and daycare center headquartered in Culver City, they challenged interior designers Carlie Campesi and Pam Juba to create a “safe and welcoming environment” that would enhance the appeal of the shelter animals on display.
The result, opened earlier this summer, is an interior that feels like it could be selling shoes or gadgets. The colorful, roomy store features wooden display cases bearing carefully arranged products; dogs occupy stacked kennels framed like windows and cats have a room to leap around in.
On an outside wall is a large mural painted by David Flores. The whole package is carefully marketed by in-house and outside teams. It is a far cry from your typical pet store jammed with shelves or a utilitarian animal shelter.
DnA spoke to Carlie and Pam, both at architecture firm HLW, and found out what was involved in designing for our furry friends — and the inspiration that came from being married. . . with pets.
Pam Juba (lead interior designer, right of picture): We got an opportunity through a broker and we were so excited; we had never done anything like this before. We went for the interview and our goal was to show how much we loved our own animals and show all the rescue animals that our colleagues had adopted. Out of 20 employees at HLW between us we had 16 shelter animals. Pam has cats and Carlie has dogs so we were equally represented.
Carlie Campesi (project manager, left of picture): On this project we were asked to do visioning to imagine if people were going into any space anywhere what would it look like. Often a nonprofit is looked at as being not on par with forprofit; the client wanted an innovative, vibrant, warm welcoming space that would exceed the expectations of a forprofit. They wanted it to have a high-end, boutique look.
DnA: Does this reflect the growing trend for boutiquey pet services and products?
PJ: If you look at ways the economy is going, there are people like me who are married in my mid-40s and have two pets and no children and we treat our pets like children. That’s the market they want to appeal to.
CC: I’m the same but in my mid-30s.
There is one thing we would like to note is that it has a high end look, but it was not that expensive to build out. There is warm wood everywhere but the floor is painted concrete. The exposed ceiling we left uncovered and painted black, this was so we could put the dollars toward the wood finishes.
DnA: It’s very colorful. Was this part of the vision?
We worked with the marketing team at Found Animals to bring in the company colors: teal blue, magenta purple, bright yellow, light gray and black and white. We also added black and white images showing dogs and cats in a happy environment to give people a sense of what it would be like to have a pet.
DnA: Did you check out many pet shelters in order to design this one?
PJ: Yes, and we found they usually have a cold, gray feeling. Unlike other caged shelters, we wanted this to be warm and welcoming. We also have larger kennels, so people could come in and be in a room with the animals. We also considered acoustics a lot; typically shelters are not acoustically sound which causes stress on the animal.
CC: There are different sides to it. If they are frontfacing, sometimes it can cause aggression but the feeling of this store was to showcase the animals in their best possible light, so they would be their happy little selves and people would want to adopt them.
PJ: When you walk in, there is a room behind the retail area for cats with climbing structures. The other area is display; we didn’t want a wall of kennels, we wanted it to have windows where people would look through the picture frames and the pet would be like a little present ready to take home.
CC: David Flores is an artist that we’ve worked with on other projects, and he’s also an extraordinary animal lover and he donated a big portion of the mural as a gift to Found Animals, because he believed so much in the cause. His concept was that people driving by on Sepulveda would look over from their cars and see this giant picture of happy animals and think, I need a cat, or I need a dog.
He calls his process Stained Glass, because what he does is project the outline of his image (rather than using spraypaint), and then paints between the lines.
All the animals in the mural are dogs and cats that have been adopted by residents of Culver City. He was inspired by a local photographer who had taken pictures of rescued animals. But the one large dog on the yellow wall was his own dog who passed away.
DnA: You’ve done many projects, including a previous Seeing Eye Dog facility, Pam, and you both worked on the Agensys cancer research facility in Santa Monica. What did you take away from doing this project?
PJ: One fun thing was that we always had our design meetings at Adopt & Shop’s office, and there was always a dog present and that was fun; it was not always the same dog, but lots of different dogs.
CC: I think it relaxes everybody.
Credits: Images of mural and of Doug Ku playing with dog (third from bottom) by Melina Pizano for the Los Angeles Register. Image of Pam Juba and Carlie Campesi courtesy of HLW. All others courtesy of Adopt & Shop.