The tables have turned. As American pets step up to the plate at mealtimes, they are no longer served their prescription diet or favorite tuna in a mere bowl. These days, if you are pet-ically correct, the family dog or cat has it’s own dinnerware and possibly even a dining table.
As more pet parents seek out a lifestyle for their fur children that mimics their own, designer pet plates are another step in this direction. Price according to retailers doesn’t come into the equation. Alternatively, the purchase is justified as simply another expense in the decorating budget as selected items are carefully chosen to blend with the color scheme and general interior design of the home.
This has given new designers creative space to run with this concept and bounce around innovative ideas. Their imaginative results collectively give new meaning to bone china.
Leading the design pack is Mark Kimbrough the multi award-winning tour de force behind Texas-based Wetnoz International. Kimbrough has been is product development for more than 20 years.
“About four years ago I decided to research different market segments where design had not as yet made an significant impact and the pet industry kept popping up. My company saw a real opportunity that happened to co-inside with the swell of the pet luxury market. We picked pet bowls as one of the more mundane and ubiquitous products to transform into a significant statement.”
Wetnoz’s futuristic range, which bears a complimentary influence from Alessi, features surgical grade stainless steel bowls on bone-shaped rubber feet. The Big Pooch bowl holds five cups of dry food and the Lil Pup two cups. The Fat Cat Anti Whisker plate in the range is perfectly shaped to keep feline whiskers free and clear. Prices range between $30 and $60.
The new breed of pet dinnerware designers, Kimbrough included, all have one thing in common; They are sitting up and taking note of the fact that for various medically endorsed reasons, it’s preferable for many pets to eat and drink from elevated bowls.
Veterinarians believe that a raised bowl aids digestion in pets that eat too fast and suffer from bloat. According to animal chiropractor Dr Jacqui Rosencrans DC, CAC, of Newport Beach, Calif, pets with degenerative disc disease are far more comfortable if their head is in a forward position as opposed to continually going up and down.
“Also the older they get, the less movement generally they have to do while eating, the better.”
Rosencrans also points out that ergonomically designed dinnerware and pet dining tables are excellent for pet amputees who really struggle to eat when they have to get up and down off the floor. Such pets find this so traumatic, they often stop eating altogether.
The other definitive trend setting criteria in buying dinnerware or a beastro table is simply the old adage of keeping up with the Joneses, or in this case the new breed of celebrity pets like Paris Hilton’s Tinkerbell, Adam Sandler’s bulldog Matzoh Ball and a host of other jet-setting pooches and felines who are members of famous families.
The pet menagerie belonging to MTV’s first family, the Osbournes dine off plates from the fabulous Mrs. Bones collection in particular the pillow and jester designs. In fact the pillow bowl was included in the celebrity gift baskets at the last MTV Music Awards.
“The Pope hasn’t discovered our Crown bowl for his cat, but he should,” says Mary Alexander aka Mrs. Bones. Many of her elaborate fossil stone bowls with carved Corinthian columns and raised angels encrusted feeders would slot in well with any regal upscale interiors They range in price from $40 to $435.
“In fact caterers often buy them and use them for snack bowls at society weddings,” confides Alexander.
Designer Susan Sherwood of Jo Sherwood Design turned to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans for inspiration for her Civilized Pet Collection of tasteful plates, bowls. Her gorgeous handcrafted, mouth-blown glass designs are also available ten other patterns and colors and are well priced between $24 and $45. They are dish washer safe and Sherwood has completed each collection with matching place mats as well as lids to seal cans of uneaten foods.
She is currently having huge success countrywide with her stunning fluted drinking bowls on wrought iron stands specially designed for pets that enjoy drinking out of a glass. $37. This elegant design also prevents long, floppy ears from getting wet and she’s working on a prototype to cater for wet food. They are stylish and elegant and slot into any room in the home.
Interestingly, over-indulgent pet lovers with unlimited spending power have been thwarted in their attempts to purchase upscale bowls from many international design houses because many well known names in traditional dinnerware from Royal Doulton to Noritake as well as lifestyle designers like Gucci and Chanel (who rushed to outfit fur kids with collars and leashes and stylish carriers) have somehow overlooked this segment of the luxury pet market.
Yes, there is a Gucci pet dog bowl available in ceramic or sterling silver at around $1200 but it unimaginatively follows the traditional bowl mould with “Gucci” emblazoned on it. Burberry have taken their ubiquitous beige, red and black check and done the same. The results when compared to Jo Sherwood designs or a bowl from Mrs. Bones are rather bland and boring.
So it follows that original pet dinnerware designers are filling this gap in the market and taking a bold new step from selling in pet boutiques and on-line into marketing their wares in department stores like Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Marshall Fields and lifestyle retailers like Anthropology.
“It’s working out very well for us,” says Carol Perkins CEO and founder of Harry Barker who is receiving excellent feedback on her French country range of bowls and matching canisters available in Macy’s and Anthropology. Susan Sherwood is also sniffing out this market and meeting with resounding success. It turns out that both pets and people are using her pet inspired house wares that look as good on the table as under it.
Another interesting marketing strategy is the move to manufacture well known licensed logos on pet products.
“There was nothing like this out there before we came along,” says Roberto Festej of Chrome Bones in Los Angeles, Calif. as he happily multiplies Playboy bunnies on pet dinner and water bowls into dollars in the bank.
Festej admits that his Playboy bowls are at home in the Playboy mansion as well as the (Paris) Hilton Los Angeles homestead.
For hip-hop and rapp dogs, there’s also a range of faux crocodile leather in black, turquoise and pink with lots of bling bling that sell for about $120.
From the sublime to really beautiful craftsmanship, the spotlight shines on Peter O’ Brien of the Rare Earth Company. Apart from designing office furniture for designers like Tom Ford of Gucci and Yves St. Laurent, O’Brien also produces magnificent two-bowl and four-bowl pet dining tables in oak, mahogany and maple ranging up to $500 a piece.
“They are sized to accommodate teacup breeds right up to Great Danes and bought by rich and famous people from all walks of life,” admits O’ Brien who is protective of his upscale clientele.
Other designer names to note are A Charmed Life who have captured the market with a range of stainless steel bowls on wrought iron stands in black, cream and a weathered antique look that slots in with any household and garden setting and range between $50 and $85.
As pet dining gets off the ground and raised to new ergonomic heights, innovative designers are also coming up with double bowls that attach to a wall like the space age design from Susan Kralovec of the Everyday Studio.
“There are other advantages to raised dining,” explains O’ Brien. “Elderly pet owners don’t have to bend to the ground to feed, pets seems to mess less when eating at a more comfortable height and somehow ants aren’t upwardly mobile which rules out a huge problem for many households.”
As retailers across the country are digesting all the changes in the market place they are discovering that people are buying a variety of bowls for different rooms of the house and that owners are also willing to splurge on interesting designs for special occasions that match their own table décor. The Avenue Arabella ceramic Chinese take-out dish for dogs and cats is perfect when Chinese food is the meal du jourat the main table.
In Florida, Kim Walker of Teacups Puppies and Boutique whose clientele includes Mandy Moore and Whitney Houston reports a lot of interest in the multi-colored Lucy’s bowl that sells for around $15.
“Most raised feeders of too big for little breeds. Because we cater for small dogs this one works perfects for little canines. People tend to like them because the come in funky colors and have a very modern design. Also it looks like glass but has all the advantages of a plastic composite.”
While in San Francisco, Richard Shiu of the Best in Show pet boutique says that hand painted ceramic bowls on wrought iron stands as well as dinner ware in traditional bone China patterns sell extremely well. He is even selling top of the line Venetian Murano glass pet bowls like proverbial hot cakes.
According to a quick survey amongst pet boutique owners countrywide, the secret for successful dinnerware sales is a simple one: All pet dinner plates and dining tables practically sell themselves in well displayed in store.