Dezeen Magazine

Multifunctional pet furniture designed for animals in small apartments

A convertible dog bed and cat tower laptop table feature among the 11 designs in the Multifunctional Pet Furniture for Small Space Living project, which aims to make both pets and people happy in compact apartments.

Organised by Colin Chee, creative director of the YouTube channel Never Too Small, the Multifunctional Pet Furniture prototypes were showcased during Melbourne Design Week 2024.

Chee challenged a selection of international designers to consider how pet houses might be better designed for small apartments, and particularly if they could be made to last longer and serve multiple functions.

The Kitty Kabin Matt Reynolds
Matt Reynolds' Kitty Kabin, a laptop table and cat tower, is one of the designs in the Multifunctional Pet Furniture for Small Space Living project

The 11 designers also had to meet one additional requirement: each piece had to be based on a single sheet of plywood, with the idea that the plans could be open-sourced and the objects replicated by pet owners anywhere in the world.

Chee first had the idea for the Multifunctional Pet Furniture project a couple of years ago, after noticing nearly new items of pet furniture frequently being thrown out in his apartment building's hard rubbish collection area.

At the same time, he struggled to find a pet house that would suit his own compact space.

The problem, he felt, was that these items were bulky and inflexible, so once the animal no longer had use of it – or if they never took to it – there were few options for the storage-limited owner but to throw the object away.

Pet-level by Studiomama
Pet-level by Studiomama combines a chair with places for a cat to hide away, play or perch

This is why the project centres on multifunctionality, with all the participating designers making each pet-focused item double as at least one other piece of furniture, such as a storage unit, seat or shelf.

Among the most creative designs is Australian designer Matt Reynolds' Kitty Kabin, a cat tower with a rotating construction, partly inspired by cranes.

It includes a surface that can be used by the owner as a laptop or TV dinner table when they are sitting on the sofa, as well as two box-like compartments for cats to take shelter in.

CavyHaus by Like Butter
The CavyHaus by Like Butter is a guinea pig hutch compatible with the studio's bookshelves

Another is the CavyHaus, by Australian studio Like Butter, a guinea pig hutch that is designed to be compatible with its KittaParts shelving unit. This gives the "piggies" a three-level space to wander through, connected by a spiral staircase and including a windowless "sleeping zone".

Many of the designers made objects for their own pets. Dutch designer Koen Fraijman designed Slaaptafel, a nightstand with a small hammock on the bottom.

Slaaptafel pet furniture by Koen Fraijman
Slaaptafel by Koen Fraijman is for pets that like to sleep near their owners

The hammock – made from a standard Ikea tea towel – is for his cat, Sok, who has taken to sleeping on a camping chair next to Fraijman's bed. Slaaptafel is well-suited to anyone whose pet likes to sleep near them, but is particularly necessary for Fraijman, who longed to replace the "ugly chair" with a real nightstand.

Spanish designer Mariana de Delás' piece, Pepas' Palace, is for her miniature dachshund, Pepas, and takes the form of a tiny ramp.

Pepas Palace pet ramp by Mariana de Delás
Mariana de Delás' Pepas' Palace is for dogs with little legs

Because of Pepas' short legs, she usually needs to be lifted onto the sofa or bed, but with this mobile ramp – painted in bright colours and finished with wheels and brakes – the dog can now run up to higher places herself. This design also could also benefit older dogs or dogs with mobility problems.

Three-d Conceptwerke principal designer Dess Chew from Singapore created a piece named after his deceased dog Mylo, who liked to sleep under chairs. The piece consists of a cubic dog bed, discreetly made up of two stools that slot together.

Shiro pet furniture by Colin Chee and Yee Keong Leong
Shiro by Colin Chee and Yee Keong Leong is a pet bed that can also be a bench, coffee table, side table or storage unit

Chee also got involved, partnering with designer and childhood friend Yee Keong Leong from Malaysian architecture practice Bid Studio to design an item for Chee's own dog, Shiro.

The Shiro furniture takes the form of a boxy dog bed with a hidden bench that can be pulled out of it for extra seating for guests. In its consolidated form, the piece is also multifunctional, as it can serve as a side or coffee table, small shelf or storage unit.

Shiro pet furniture by Colin Chee and Yee Keong Leong
A separate bench can be pulled out of the box-like object

Another convertible design in the series is Dog Pod by Spanish studio The simple, hinged dog bed – big enough for large dogs – can be folded in half to make more of an enclosed kennel for when they are puppies, or flipped over to act as a coffee table.

Several designs combine seating with pet beds underneath for a versatile small-space solution. Pet-level by the UK's Studiomama is a chair with an attached side table that also makes a good cat perch, while UUOOII by German designer Paola Bagna is a screwless and portable stool that slots together.

Tsai Design's Doggy Loungey, meanwhile, is good for people who like sitting on the floor, as it works as a backrest for lounging against.

The final design, Pup Cup by Australia's Studio Edwards, takes a different approach to versatility, by focusing on form to make a statement piece that the designers hope owners will want to keep on display.

Doggy Loungey floor backrest by Tsai Design
Tsai Design's Doggy Loungey is a useful backrest for floor-sitters

It features a spiralling, half-orb shape that is cut in one piece from the plywood sheet and expanded like a Slinky, and the studio suggests it could also be used to store spare blankets and pillows.

The designers all developed their designs remotely and then sent them to the Never Too Small team, who cut out and built the prototypes in their studio using CNC machinery.

Pup Cup dog bed by Studio Edwards
The Pup Cup is intended to look beautiful and sculptural

Once the designs have been tested and fine-tuned, Chee says they will be open-sourced so that they are accessible to anyone who wants to re-create them. So far, the response – from both humans and animals – has been positive, he adds.

"My dog already loves the prototype I designed for him," Chee told Dezeen. "I brought him to the exhibition for several days, and he often climbed into his new bed to take a nap."

Photo of the Multifunctional Pet Furniture for Small Space Living exhibition at Melbourne Design Week
The prototypes were displayed at Melbourne Design Week

"We had many dogs and cats visit the exhibition, and they had great fun exploring and testing out the pieces," he continued.

Pet furniture has been a growing market in recent years, with IKEA recently launching its first product range for pets.

The Multifunctional Pet Furniture for Small Space Living exhibition was on show 24 to 31 May at Never Too Small's studio as part of Melbourne Design Week 2024. For more events, exhibitions and talks in architecture and design visit Dezeen Events Guide.

More images

Dog Pod by
Dog Pod by
UUOOII by Paola Bagna
UUOOII by Paola Bagna
Mylo by Three-d conceptwerke
Mylo by Three-d conceptwerke
UUOOII by Paola Bagna
UUOOII by Paola Bagna
Doggy Loungey by Tsai Design
Doggy Loungey by Tsai Design