The ‘Meatball Test’ and Other Tips for Pet-Proofing Your Decor - Kanebridge News
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The ‘Meatball Test’ and Other Tips for Pet-Proofing Your Decor

Yes, it’s possible to have both a chic interior and four-legged friends. Designers share their hard-won workarounds.

Tue, Feb 20, 2024 9:14amGrey Clock 2 min

I UNDERSTAND the pet-owner’s decor dilemma. When my roommate and I fostered two kittens, a toxic cycle began. Though our new friends knocked framed posters off the wall at night, the next morning Betty and Brontë’s innocent eyes would disarm me and I’d drop kisses on their tiny foreheads. But must “fur babies” condemn a homeowner to tarp-clad sofas and plastic vases? No, say pet-owning interior designers.

Carpet Correctly

New York designer Ghislaine Viñas’s tip: Roll out dark-colored rugs with intricate patterns to hide slobber, mud and piddle accidents. Jaipur Living’s Poeme design would pass Atlanta designer Cate Dunning’s “meatball test,” which asks: Would a meatball dropped on the rug disappear? If so, bring on the paws.

Thick, natural weaves like wool and seagrass weather house-training accidents well. Avoid sisal, says New York designer Bunny Williams. Though handsome and textured, it easily absorbs moisture, making spot cleaning a chore, she says. Performance materials such as polypropylene hold up well, says Keren Richter, principal designer of Manhattan firm White Arrow, but she steers clear of viscose, a delicate semi-synthetic material prone to shedding.

Up Your Sofa Game

Pets’ claws catch easily in loose weaves like bouclé, and cats especially can’t resist them. Richter tests a textile’s suitability with a paper clip. Unfold the metal and run the jagged end against a fabric. If it snags, the material won’t survive a cat’s talons. Mohair and velvet pass this test, the designer has found.

Nicole Fuller’s two Maine Coons, Monty and Punk, besieged her herringbone linen sofa, “hanging from it by their claws,” she said. The New York designer reupholstered the couch in Dedar’s Klein blue cotton velvet—tightly woven and durable. As for leather, cats’ claws will shred it, but paw marks and the oil from dogs’ coats can be passed off as “patina.”

Viñas endorses performance fabrics for upholstery as they “ensure the highest level of durability.” Sunbrella offers solution-dyed acrylic that repels water and stains and holds up against the oil and dirt from dogs’ coats, says Richter. Fuller, who finds some performance fabrics too rough, relies on luxurious European outdoor fabric from Loro Piana and Pierre Frey .

For shedding fur, Richter suggests the ultimate camouflage: a sofa that matches your pet’s colouring. “Sometimes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” she said.

Alternatively, Williams tucks throws into armchairs and wraps sofa cushions in blankets. After years with her cat and two terrier mixes, she’s found that faux fur blankets and cotton block-printed Indian fabrics endure, wash easily and appear intentional. “Make sure that it still looks like a chair that someone can sit in and not just the dog’s chair [or sofa],” Williams said.

Make Little Moves

Fuller collects Murano glassware and loves lit candlesticks. Uncompromising, she presses Stick-Um putty to the bottoms of both so her cats can’t topple them. Richter deploys museum gel , a special adhesive, for wobbly curios.

Plants can be hung out of reach of digging dogs and mischievous cats, says Geraldine James, author of “Cool Dogs, Cool Homes” (CICO, 2023). If you like your plants earthbound, the website Plants for Pet Parents sells plants the ASPCA deems not toxic to pets.

As for the slew of chew toys, corral them in a container that compliments your interior—whether that’s a folksy gingham-lined basket or IKEA’s mod dandelion-yellow wire bin .


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Leaders with epic hobbies seem to squeeze more hours out of the day than the rest of us

By Callum Borchers
Fri, Jul 19, 2024 4 min

Many of us can barely keep up with our jobs, never mind hobbies. Yet some top executives run marathons, wineries or music-recording studios on the side. How can they have bigger responsibilities and more fun than we do?

It can seem like ultrahigh achievers find extra hours in the day. They say they’ve just figured out how to manage their 24 better than the rest of us.

They also admit they take full advantage of the privileges of being a boss—the power to delegate and the means to do things like jetting to Denmark for a long weekend of windsurfing.

Dan Streetman trains as many as 20 hours a week for Ironman triathlons in addition to his job as CEO of cybersecurity firm Tanium. It’s a big commitment for anyone, never mind a corporate leader who travels to meet with customers every week. He pulls it off by sleeping fewer than seven hours a night and waking around 5 a.m., planning his exercise sessions months in advance, and switching his brain from work mode to sport mode almost as fast as he transitions from swimming to cycling during a competition.

“I tend to work right up until the day of the race,” says Streetman, 56 years old. “I remember being on a board call on a Friday night, and Saturday morning was an Ironman. That’s just part of it.”

Ahead of business trips, he maps running routes in unfamiliar cities and scouts nearby pools, often at YMCAs. He rides stationary bikes in hotel gyms and, if they’re subpar, makes a note to book somewhere else next time he’s in town.

Leaders who eat, breathe and sleep business can appear out of touch at a time when employees crave work-life balance and expect their bosses to model it. Today’s prototypical CEO has a full life outside of work, or at least the appearance of one.

Their tactics include waking up early, multitasking and scheduling fun as if it were any other appointment. When you’re a top executive, hobbies tend to disappear unless they’re on the calendar. One CEO told me he disguises “me time” as important meetings. Only his assistant knows which calendar blocks are fake.

Ben Betts calls himself a “spreadsheet guy,” which is a bit like saying Michelangelo was a paint guy. With Excel as his canvas, Betts creates cell-by-cell checklists for just about everything he does, from cooking Christmas dinner to building a coop for newly hatched ducklings.

Betts, 41, is CEO of Learning Pool, a professional-development software maker. The duck home is part of his ambitious effort to restore an 18th-century farmhouse in England. He’s been renovating for about five years and aims to finish this fall.

On a recent Saturday, Betts’s spreadsheet called for stripping overhead beams by 5 p.m. so he could refinish them. Otherwise, the task would have to wait until the following weekend, throwing off his whole timeline. His vision of the home as a cozy enclave—completed in time for the holidays—can only come true if he sticks to a precise plan.

“Sometimes I stand in the doorway, and my wife probably wonders what I’m staring at,” he says. “I’m picturing us on a corner sofa with our two kids and the dog, watching a film in front of the fireplace I installed.”

Back in the swing

John Sicard , president and CEO of supply-chain manager Kinaxis , got back into drumming many years after he let go of his dream to become a professional musician. He practices almost every day, but his sessions sometimes last only 20 minutes. He rehearses with bandmates two or three times a month. That’s enough to prepare Sicard, 61, to play Foo Fighters and Led Zeppelin covers at occasional charity gigs.

He also built a studio in his house, where he records up-and-coming artists. He finds time by sticking to this management philosophy: “The most successful CEOs do the least amount of work.”

For Sicard, that means letting his lieutenants take charge of—and responsibility for—their divisions. Many corporate leaders work harder than they need to because they micromanage or hire poorly and pick up the slack, he says.

Thomas Hansen , president of software maker Amplitude, is back to windsurfing, a sport he competed in as a teenager. He lives near the ocean in California but gets out on the water only about once a month, when the waves are just right. Hobbies don’t need to be daily activities to be fulfilling, he says, especially if they require training regimens.

To stay in shape for windsurfing, he rises at 4:30 a.m., seven days a week, for an hour of exercise. Hansen, 54, also guards his Saturdays and Sundays like the crown jewels of Denmark, his native country, limiting himself to two working weekends a year. Things that feel urgent can almost always wait till Monday, he contends.

‘Like a badass’

When Christine Yen isn’t calling the shots at work, she’s circling a racetrack at 80 mph on her Honda CB300F motorcycle. The co-founder and CEO of Honeycomb, which helps engineers diagnose problems in their software, took up racing a few years ago.

Prepandemic, her motorcycle was strictly for commuting in San Francisco—and making an impression. She loved pulling up to investor meetings in her hornet-yellow helmet and leather riding suit.

“It fits me like a glove, and it makes me feel like a badass,” says Yen, 36.

The keys to spending full days at the track are planning and being willing to work at odd hours, Yen discovered. Her favorite track publishes racing schedules in 10-week batches. As soon as a slate is released, she circles the dates when she expects her workload will be lightest, aiming to participate in roughly half of the events.

“I have also been known to bring my laptop to the motel and get some work done in the evenings,” she says. “It sounds boring to say hobbies can be scheduled, but that’s how I protect my time.”