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Pet-proofing your home and furniture, and preventing damage

Christine Gentile poses for a portrait with English

Christine Gentile poses for a portrait with English bulldog Piccolini and rescue dog Cooper, left, at their Centerport home on Feb. 7, 2016. Credit: Johnny Milano

Pets might mark their favorite chair, slobber on the sofa pillows, scratch the hardwood floors or leave a trail of feathers behind. It’s a housekeeping challenge for anyone, especially those whose homes ought to look picture perfect all the time — interior designers.

“You have to accept these mishaps,” says Centerport decorator Christine Gentile, laughing. She says she has learned to have a sense of humor living with her mischievous pups, like the time Cooper ran off with a bottle of oil and vinegar dressing in his mouth that ended up dripping all over the kitchen and den floors. She finally caught him — and “was able to clean the stains with dish detergent and got it all out,” she says.

That’s just one tip Gentile and other pet-loving Long Island designers share about keeping a house-proud home.


Elizabeth Hagins of Elizabeth Hagins Interior Design in Quogue says she wasn’t planning to have a pet. Thirteen years later, she and her Tabby cat, Kitty, are still enjoying their Westhampton Beach home, a converted stable once part of the circa-1910 Meadowcroft estate.

Inside the 14-room house, which sits on 2.5 acres, Kitty has plenty of space to run, jump — and lounge. His favorite perch is Hagins’ vintage James Mont high-backed armchair. Keeping washable throws on such special pieces helps protect valuable upholstery.

Hagins has hardwood floors throughout the home as well as area rugs. “I wouldn’t say I have to clean more,” says Hagins, who says she does not buy special cleaning products and only sweeps and vacuums every other week. “He is short-haired, so the shedding is minimal.”

Only when the weather is bad or when she travels does Hagins take out the litter box — Kitty, who Hagins describes as “very independent,” lets himself out a doggy door she installed in the mudroom. This cuts down on pet clutter — Kitty does not need a scratching post or toys when he’s got the great outdoors.


Omar Rivera of Samix Restoration & Design Inc. in Glen Cove designs with a lot of reclaimed and sustainable materials. That rustic aesthetic is featured throughout his 1940s three-bedroom ranch in Glen Cove, which would not be a problem if it were not for Ruby, his feisty yellow-headed Amazon parrot.

Ruby likes to nibble on wood.

“Parrots in general are destructive,” says Rivera, who also owns a 4-year-old pit bull, Lexi.

While Lexi has an occasional acccident, she never scratches the floors or furniture because her nails are trimmed. Ruby, on the other hand, has damaged furniture and picture frames. One time, he ate part of an aloe plant that he and live-in girlfriend, Melissa, love. “I always keep an eye on him and place him where I know he can’t do too much damage,” he says.

But it is not always easy, he admits.

The kitchen floor is vinyl and easy to clean, but the rest of the floors are oak. “Parrots poop every 20 to 30 minutes, so wherever I leave him I have to be prepared for this,” says Rivera. “He has had accidents on me, the furniture, the table and the floors.”

Rivera says he cleans daily and uses only nontoxic products.

“The fumes from toxic products are not safe for Ruby,” Rivera says. “Method is a product I like and use often.” For tougher jobs, such as weekly cage cleaning, Lysol works the best, he says.

“I use wood stain to touch up the bite marks,” says Rivera. And Ruby is a messy eater. “When he knows when we are going to eat, he will scream for me to get him and sit at the edge of the table so he can eat with us,” he says. “He likes to eat everything. Chicken bones are a favorite.” Having a vacuum nearby helps, Rivera adds.


Christine Gentile, founder of Ashbourne Designs, shares her historic home in Centerport with two dogs — 5-year-old Cooper, a mutt she adopted, and Piccolini, her son’s 2-year-old English bulldog, who, she explains, has taken up temporary residence.

Restoring the 1895 Victorian she purchased more than a decade ago was a labor of love for the designer. The floors are a dark walnut, and the walls are a combination of grass cloth, wallpaper and paint in hues of blue, green and butter yellow. The furniture is a mix of antiques and newer traditional furniture.

To keep the home from going to the dogs, Gentile says, she sets limits. “We do have parts of our home that are completely off limits to our dogs,” she says. “My dogs are not allowed upstairs, and they are not allowed in the front portion of the home.”

She keeps Cooper’s dog bed and his crate in the kitchen while Piccolini sleeps in a pen that was once the butler’s pantry. Her kitchen floor is a porcelain tile, which she says can endure scratches and is almost indestructible. The den has an oak floor finished with a protective water-based polyurethane.

Cooper’s favorite spot is sitting in the kitchen on the antique pine table. “Cooper jumps up onto the table and sits there all day long. That is his spot,” says Gentile. The table has gotten so much wear she has had to refurbish it several times. His paws have scratched the top of the table countless times. She does keep a linen table runner on the table that helps, but the table runners do get stains from the dog and either have to be replaced, washed or dry-cleaned often. “I try not to keep anything too precious on the table,” says Gentile, who admits that Cooper has knocked over several cups of hot coffee over the years. She uses Bri Wax to keep the table looking good. “It’s like a shoe polish — the consistency of it,” she says. “The wax has a stain in it and it helps me maintain it.”

Piccolini prefers the couch, which looks like linen but is made from a more durable fabric made from rayon, linen, polyester and cotton that has withstood lots of messy dog bones. “I have dry-cleaned the seat cushion covers several times and cleaned small stains with cold water and dish detergent,” she says.

The designer also has an arsenal of products on hand to keep her home looking and smelling fresh. For floor scratches, she uses Restore a Finish or Old English. For “accidents,” Nature’s Miracle. The Shark Steam Mop is a must-have, she says. Bona Floor Care and Swiffer are good for keeping the wood floors shiny, she says. She uses her central vacuum at least twice a week — particularly on her bulldog. “Piccolini brings shedding to a whole new level,” she says.

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