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Opulent pet residences can double as furniture

Saturday, November 22, 2003

By Patricia Sheridan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The rich aren't that different. They love their pets, too. The Princess of Dubai appreciates her Pekinese so much that she bought the dog its own palace. As the story goes, she was visiting New York City and was in the market for some finery for her furry friends. The doorman at the Four Seasons sent her to Karen's for People & Pets on Manhattan's Upper East Side, where puppy love, palaces and some major pocket money all came together. According to a store representative, the princess spent about $6,000 for one of interior designer Besty Boggs' Precious Palaces.

The S & M ottoman is another model in the Precious Palaces line.

Click photo for larger image.

These chic indoor shelters are one-of-a kind creations for creatures under 25 pounds and owners with slightly heavier wallets.

"They are custom-handcrafted in New York City. That is why they are so expensive," says Boggs. "The most important thing is they can be made to complement almost any decor."

Boggs is known for her stunning color palettes and accommodating the lavish taste of her clients. But it wasn't income that inspired her palace designs, it was love.

A few years ago, she was traveling with a childhood friend between Savannah, Ga., and Hilton Head, S.C. As Snoopy would say, it was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, their headlights spotted a small dog on the highway's center line. Her friend stopped the car and Betsy, a longtime dog lover, jumped out and rescued the pooch.

The dog, a papillon and King Charles spaniel mix, was very badly injured. With medical attention and boundless love, Precious, the name Boggs gave her, recovered and became part of a family that also included Luvy, a black-and-tan, long-haired dachshund and Contessa, a wire-haired dachshund.

"Precious deserved a palace after all she'd been through," says Boggs. And so Precious, who has since passed on, became the namesake for a line of structures too fancy to be called doghouses.

The first one made for Precious was an adaptation of Marie Antoinette's 18th-century kennels.

Boggs says she and her husband, Richard, spent a lot of time in France "and, of course, every time we were there we would go to Versailles."

There she saw the domed kennels made for the queen's papillons and Maine coon cats.

When the Princess of Dubai wanted her Pekinese to live in the lap of luxury, she bought this Louis XVI canopy four-poster from Betsy Boggs Interiors' Precious Palaces line.
Click photo for larger image.

Today, people who value style, as well as their animal companions, will be impressed by the designer fabrics and trim used to enhance these unique structures.

"Marie Antoinette loved pale blue and lavender velvet with gilded accents," notes Boggs, who uses velvet, brocade or silk fabrics framed by gilded molding for her Marie Antoinette model.

She does that same design in a walnut stain with a paisley fabric for a less formal feel. Boggs sees that one more in a library, den or country home. Always innovative, she is now making the Marie Antoinette with an optional flat cushion top.

"I did that so a lady can use it in her dressing room as a stool or a place to put her feet up," says Boggs.

If your pet's more interested in a bed of her own, she'll want to plop down for a nap of luxury in the Louis XVI canopy four-poster. The Louis XVI, done in blue taffeta, is the one the princess bought.

"It's the most popular one and, of course, I adore it," Boggs says.

Tougher pets will be enchanted by the S & M ottoman.

"It's very playful and very contemporary," says Boggs.

The ottoman is made of tufted and welted black leather, trimmed with pewter studs and comes with a chain attached. (That should get your guests talking). While you sit on top, your pet can perch inside on the ultra suede zebra cushion.

Functional and fun as furniture, it is also available in chocolate leather with antique polished French nailheads. A nautical version, the USS Precious, is available in marine blue ultra suede with white cotton rope trim around the portholes.

Mongrels, meanwhile, might find an instant attraction to the Mongolian Tent, which is topped with feather plumes. A Chinese pagoda palace in red and gold brocade will soon be offered, too.

"They really aren't just dog or cat houses. They are pieces of furniture," says Boggs.

Buyers can mail her swatches or pictures of the room where the Precious Palace will find a place. Prices range between $4,500 and $12,000 depending on the fabrics, finishes, size and trims used. The interior cushions can be zipped off for dry cleaning.

Of course, this is the high end of an industry that is gladly going to the dogs (and cats). Americans spend an estimated $30 billion a year on pet products, including food.

"One reason is there are just more pets," says David Litwak, editor in chief of Pet Business magazine. "The other is more esoteric. People are considering pets to be part of the family more now than they have in the past."

And this family member is well-heeled.

"Premiums are the hottest category in any type of pet product right now," Litwak says. "As the population gets older and baby boomers are suddenly empty-nesters, pets seem to fill in."

Boggs agrees.

"I think people, especially since 9/11, are appreciating the unconditional love and comfort pets offer and demonstrating that love much the way they would for children," she says.

For more information on Precious Palaces, go to or call Betsy Boggs Interiors at 212-980-3677. They are also available

Patricia Sheridan can be reached at 412-263-2613 .

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