Designing the Farm House (a Dog’s) Dreams Are Made of

Kim Harrison

I’m not afraid to admit that we’ve largely designed our new home around the needs of our dogs.

For starters, there’s a dedicated dog room. Think of it as a large puppy playland where the boys can happily hang out when we’re not home. We’ve planned for multiple pocket doors, so we can close off parts of the house to keep Roswell, our Corgi mix, from shedding everywhere. We’ve also added several floor-to-ceiling windows, so Chico, our Jack Russell mix, can easily keep a watchful eye on the world. And our stairs? Well, that’s an entirely different design story all together.

The plan was to put the stairs in front of a floor-to-ceiling window that was included not just for Chico’s sake, but also to flood the adjoining hallway with natural light. In order to take full advantage of that light, we wanted to have a lofty, floating staircase, with as minimal a design as possible. Enter the problem of Zeke, our two year-old rescue pup of mystery breeding: The little guy is convinced that stairs are out to get him.

Zeke, Chico and Roswell (left to right)

At the bottom of every staircase, whether it’s three steps or thirty, he takes a long pause as though he’s giving himself a pep talk, psyching himself up for the journey. Once his “Win One for the Gipper” moment is done, with feet and legs two times too big for his body, he rocks back and hurls himself up the stairs as ungracefully as one would imagine. Oh — and he will only make the trek up the stairs if certain conditions are met:

Condition #1: Risers. Zeke will not climb stairs that don’t have risers (backs) in between the treads. He’s convinced that’s he’s going to fall through the gap. This was going to be a challenge, as we’ve yet to see a floating staircase that actually features risers…

Condition #2: Texture. The texture of the individual stairs must have a sort of “grippiness” in order for Zeke to find them satisfactory. Carpet is his preferred surface, the softer the better (he would have loved the 1970’s shag carpet phase). Wood treads are currently a no-go. Of course we wanted wood stairs, since they’d tie perfectly into our modern farmhouse design.

Weeks of discussions ensued. We combed through endless photos of floating staircases before landing on a design that we hope will work for our terrified terrier.

We decided on having a single metal beam hold up the sixteen individual stairs in our staircase. The beam will attach to the center of each stair, helping to create that “floating down from heaven” look we’re going for, while also giving Zeke the comforting sense that the stairs actually do have risers running in between them, at least in the center part. Each stair will also slightly overhang the next one in line, to create the illusion of less space between one step and the next.

The stair tread part of the design required a little more creativity, but eventually my woodworker husband thought up a solution: The stair treads will be solid pieces of wood, but separate wood planks wrapped in a natural fiber carpet will screw into the top of the stairs. The end result will be a carpeted tread that Zeke can handle, but the thin pile will be less noticeable than a thick carpet. The natural fiber and color of the carpet will also tie in nicely to the wood tones. Additionally, since the tops of the treads can easily be screwed in and out of place, perhaps someday we can even replace them with a solid wood top if Zeke ever gets over his phobia. (We’ve been practicing.) Because truly, at the end of the day, your home is all about creature comforts, right? And I guess I do mean that literally.

Kim Harrison lives in Denver and holds a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado. Her blog,, chronicles the Harrisons’ adventures in building their dream modern farmhouse. Kim is also a competitive equestrian, and enjoys camping with her dogs in her beloved Winnebago camper named “Minnie Winnie.”