For cats with a taste for design

Marketplace Staff Feb 29, 2008

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: Have you noticed how just about every consumer product seems to be going “designer” these days? Target has cooked up a designer toaster from architect Michael Graves. IKEA has introduced IKEA Stockholm, its designer line of cheap furniture. And now, another designer product you can sink your claws into — or your kitty can. From the Marketplace Entrepreneurship Desk, Andrew Phelps has our story.


Andrew Phelps: Elizabeth Paige Smith lives and works in Venice, one of LA’s funky beach neighborhoods. Inside her atelier, the artist shows me her Couchette.

Elizabeth Paigh Smith: The Couchette’s a double-sided chaise. Basically, it provides a chaise on one side and then sort of a cave-like, curvilinear space on the underside for the cats to crawl and hide under there and play Hide and Go Seek.

Smith is the creator of Kittypod, designer cat furniture. Each piece is made of dense, high-grade cardboard. Kitties love to dig their claws into it. Humans love the curvy shapes and sometimes confuse them with chairs.

Smith created Kittypod 10 years ago, because everything else looked cheap — but wasn’t.

Smith: People didn’t really have any choices. I mean, you’re still spending a lot for an eyesore.

Take the Classy Kitty Deluxe Cat Tree for $170 at Petco. It’s a couple of cat caves with a giant scratching post stuck on top. And it comes in one style: beige carpet.

Compare that to one of Smith’s pieces. They can fetch up to $320, but they’re seductive: like an egg-shaped capsule with soft, cascading ridges. Smith won’t say how many she makes, but demand is so high that she now has the pieces die-cut at a local factory.

Smith: When you start add up the number of boxes and the time it takes to cut them and refine them and glue them, you know, it really adds up. I don’t find that churning out these by the bazillions is really my interest.

Of course, Smith says cats like Kittypod, too. She tries out the designs on her own cat.

Smith: Oh, he loves it. He likes all the Kittypod stuff. But he also still loves to attack my other furniture.

Smith guarantees her pieces last the life of the cat, but she can’t guarantee Kitty won’t finish off your favorite leather chair. If that’s what your cat prefers, you can always recycle Kittypod.

In San Diego, I’m Andrew Phelps for Marketplace.

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