Leash-free zone

My Fluffy Friend, a pet boutique in Vancouver’s upscale Kitsilano neighbourhood, was designed specifically with dogs in mind. (This only makes sense, as cats as a rule don’t enjoy shopping trips, nor 950-square-foot spaces frequented by canines.) Perhaps we should say with doggie parents in mind, since the store’s simple, bright colour scheme, above-ground displays and creative play areas offer echoes of kindergarten, and what setting could be more appropriate for their “kids”?

Indeed, the store’s owners approached local design group MCM Interiors because of the work the firm did for the children’s ward in B.C.’s Langley Memorial Hospital. The retailers liked the playful indoor-outdoor theme used and wanted the same sort of thing for their new shop, which opened in January. But the task required a healthy dose of imagination: the chosen location was a former bar-lounge that had been painted pitch-black for effect and was graced with an unmovable central-support column.

“The initial concept was a park-like setting for the dogs,” says Dale Kosowan, who designed the project together with fellow associate Sally Han. “The eyesore of a  structural column we turned into an abstract tree with green, yellow and orange MDF rings representing foliage and a ‘trunk’ clad in maple laminate. We repeated these curved rings and the maple in the wall shelves and cash desk.”

The dropped light platform above the desk, as well as the open mechanicals branching out along the space’s 16-foot-high ceiling, add to the effect of a stylized forest canopy overhead. Other hyper-natural elements include fake grass and coated pebble mats connected to the store’s mini-agility course; hanks of dried grass embedded in the cash desk’s lit acrylic panelling; and tattoo stickers of grass, trees and birds affixed to the sky-blue puppy training room at the back of the store. The rest of the walls and ceiling are neutrally painted, to make the shop’s colourful merchandise pop, especially in the islanded display cases. “The clients wanted an interactive space for both dogs and dog owners,” Kosowan says. “So we left plenty of room for the pets to roam freely, and display was delegated to the walls.” 

As My Fluffy Friend specializes in creating and selling various types of meat jerkies, this also makes sound practical sense. The store’s childlike hues might be lost on colour-blind dogs but their noses know meat when they smell it, even through thick plastic wrapping. Raising the product well above their heads avoids the issue of canine shoplifting. Another issue that sometimes can’t be avoided at least can be easily taken care of, thanks to a floor of durable grey-painted concrete and two handy Whoops Stations supplied with pick-up bags, cleaners and Purell.

The boutique boasts two more unusual facets designed to be owner-friendly: a pair of treadmills in the rear that can be rented out for rainy-day exercising (an all-too-frequent concern on the Wet Coast), and a couple of mushroom-shaped bars on the cash desk for the tethering of leashes, thus freeing up customers’ hands to dig deep into their wallets.   cI