Top Architects Turn Talents to Project Pet House


By Gina Dostler


Matt and Marshall Ininns, with Sonny: Architecture on a new, waist-high level.

I am fascinated by this.

Seven architects and contractors were hand-picked to design and build pet houses. Their goal: to auction them off for animal charities in Laguna Beach. Three cheers for these animal lovers! It’s called Project Pet House.

Now, these are not your average dog or cat dwellings, nor are they your every day architects. What we have here is a definite success story of well known Laguna Beach men and women who build gorgeous, fabulous homes donating their time and effort each to create a house for pets, specifically cats and dogs.

The project was created by Caroline Haines along with the Laguna Board of Realtors® & Affiliates. Today at 5 p.m. at Tivoli Too there will be an unveiling and judging of these special custom houses, with two being named Best in Show and People’s Choice. They then will be put up for auction online. The online auction will begin on Aug 22 at 5 a.m. and end on Sept 9 at 5 p.m. Then on Sept. 11, at the Laguna Beach Pet Parade the auction will be concluded with live bidding.

Morris Skenderian of MSA Architects sees this challenge as a chance to give back to the community by donating his talents to a worthy cause. Duke, his 90-pound Labrador, remarks he wouldn’t have expected less from Morris and totally approves of the contemporary structure made with a sustainable design of steel, glass and wood. The roomy space is perfect for canine sleepovers. Quotes Morris, it is the only Gold LEED Certificate Doghouse.

Anders Lasater: expressing the relationship between dog and human from the dog’s point of view.

Anders Lasater (Anders Lasater Architects, Inc.) of course loves the idea that the proceeds of the auction are donated to the animal charities in Laguna Beach. He also says architecturally this is a great way to express the relationship between dog and human from the dog’s perspective. It’s all about the dog and his lawn furniture. It is a piece that creates an interactive experience and centralizes the dog’s activities with his owner. A serious structure that creates a playful adventure for both tail wagger and his biped friend, this wonderful piece is built with beautiful, sustainably harvested rain forest wood. Come play with me barks the dog, sit on my bench and stay for a while!

Ok. How about the fun factor? Kirk Saunders of Kirk Saunders Architect AIA says this is fantastic fun and a great cause at the same time.  The architectural wonder he designed rocks and is no ordinary doghouse for sure. His Australian Shepherd, Roo, totally agrees and says the house that he built for “her,” a 2600 square foot wall-to-wall doggie kingdom, is the best place ever to snuggle and be scratched. Right on Roo.

Due to the recession there haven’t been as many donations coming in, so Donna Ballard sees this as an opportunity to help support all the groups in Laguna Beach that rescue, feed and house homeless animals. Her firm, Blair Ballad Architects, Inc., donated their time building a contemporary design for a small dog. They call it “The Bow House,” a play on the architectural movement known as the Bauhaus. LJ, their canine “Chief of Security,” once a stray but now loved companion, comes to work with them every day and had helped them with proportions and details involved with designing this house.

Daniel Martinez: Cooking up a craftsman.

So it’s been all about dogs so far. What about our feline friends? Well, Leslie LeBon (LeBon Architects) thought it a brilliant, fun idea and an opportunity to participate in a charitable event with her colleagues. And being owned by four Himalayans – Luna, Pumpkin, Jack and Bob – and a rescue cat named Shadow, Leslie was whiskered into creating a purrfect cat haven. It is a classic beach “Cattage,” complete with a cat weather vane on top of the cupola, scratching posts, and window boxes stocked with catnip. Meow! It will be furnished with a couch, area rug and sleeping pad. Her catnip craving cats have a carpeted, seven foot tall pyramid scratching post/house that she designed years ago.

Lilly, Sammy, Boboo, and Jack Sparrow are fellow cats whom hang out with Daniel Martinez and his wife, avid supporters of a local animal rescue foundation. When Martinez was contacted to design the pet house for the competition benefitting multiple foundations, he was very happy to be a part of it. Rascal, an eight year old charismatic Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who is the de facto office manager by day and security patrol by night, proudly chatted that Daniel’s design portfolio is broad and his appreciation for turn of the century craftsman style design helped produced the basis for his dog house. Though Rascal carries a demanding schedule as the office dog, Daniel quietly disclosed not to worry because Rascal does manage to sleep through their usual 10-hour work days.

Leslie LeBon: creating a perfect haven for beach cats.

Architects Marshall and Matthew Innins are participating in this fun project to give back to their community. A father and son team, Marshall is an experienced architect and the doghouse he designed gave him a chance to create a house on a smaller, unexplored nose-sniffing level. Matthew, an architecture student, enjoyed the opportunity to push the designing he does in his classes to a new, realized level. The doghouse is based off the historic “Witch’s House” on Wave Street in Laguna Beach with its organic asymmetric roofs and spaces, a perfect example of Laguna’s charm. Sunny, their 15 year old Yellow Lab who enjoys family dinners and walks, muses, “If I were looking for a new home, I would definitely move into this beautiful new doghouse.”