I live in Vancouver, a city with a certain pride in being dubbed Hollywood North. The shooting of hit productions is so commonplace that long chains of industry-related trucks and trailers are a regular fixture of our cityscape. But it’s not the catering vans and gaffer-types that cause the most excitement. It’s—we’ll admit it —those “guess-who-I-just-saw!” celeb bump-ins.
While king-of-the-world director James Cameron shot his series Dark Angel, one such frequent sighting was of the relatively-new-on-the-scene-but-clearly-going-places actress who played Max Guevara. Her name? Jessica Alba. And while she turned heads in Vancouver on and off from 2000 to 2002, it wasn’t long before this rising star was turning heads around the world. From leading roles in films like Honey, The Fantastic Four, Good Luck Chuck, The Eye, and, most recently, Mike Myers’ The Love Guru, to coveted top spots on those lists that tell a gal “Wow! You’re officially hot,” including Maxim’s “Hot 100” and FHM’s “Sexiest Woman in the World.” She has graced the covers of GQ, InStyle, and even Playboy—with clothes in the “on” mode. And while all this is impressive, perhaps what is most admirable is her central role as the face of the Declare Yourself campaign (declareyourself.com), intended to encourage young Americans to vote.
Suffice to say, the woman’s professional life is robust. And yet, in June 2008, that all took a back seat with the arrival of her daughter, Honor Marie. While Honor may be Alba’s first born, she joins two long-standing members of Alba’s household, her canine-sisters, Bowie and Sid—an American Bull Dog rescue and a Pug. (As a little bit of Jessica Trivia, her two girl dogs are named after male musicians, David Bowie and Sid Vicious.)
A lover of all things dog, when it came time to buy her home, Alba knew there would be certain challenges. “It needed to have a yard,” she says. “It’s so difficult to find a good yard in LA. We looked everywhere and we found a house, and everything was perfect—except it didn’t quite have the yard I wanted for the dogs.”
Enter Kari Whitman. Not only designer to the stars, but designer to the stars’ dogs. Oh, and on top of that, creator of GreenerPup (greenerpup.com), a line of totally adorable, eco-friendly doggie beds. Profits from GreenerPup go to Ace of Hearts, an organization founded by Kari that has rescued over 2,000 dogs from death row, including Alba’s Bowie.
“When I started working with Kari,” Alba explains, “I told her my number one priority in buying a home was making it dog-friendly. She had done a kitchen for my parents, and I just loved what she did.”
And what she did, in the case of Alba’s parents’ place, included custom-made bunk beds in the kitchen for the family’s dogs, so that they could be fully integrated into the home.
“I love Kari’s passion. She has really good taste. She totally gets it. She knows all about what’s safe for dogs, what makes a good environment for them.”
From creating a special dog room complete with massive 6’ x 4’ bed and indoor/outdoor access, to dotting the house with her custom-made GreenerPup pieces, Kari oversaw every detail in the “dogification” of Alba’s home. The biggest, yet most rewarding, challenge was replacing the vast Spanish tile with Forever Lawn, a dog-friendly, eco-friendly synthetic material made from recycled tires. “Now the dogs have the biggest playground and we’re super happy,” says Alba.
Despite the demands of her professional life, Alba admits that, for now, she’s enjoying simply being at home, “just kind of sitting back and being a mom.” So while LA’s got her for now, in Vancouver we’ll just have to settle for those occasional sightings.
Kari’s tips on making a space dog-friendly
“I am seeing a rise in people addressing their dogs’ needs in design. They’re concerned, for example, because their dog is chewing a table leg so they try to separate the dog from that area of the home. But the reason the dog does that is because they are pack animals. They want to be with you. A well-mannered dog is a dog that is part of your pack. If you’re secluding a dog because you don’t want it in your nice living room, you’re doing it all wrong. The most important thing is to make sure that the textiles and the fabrics are all dog-friendly. So instead of using leather, use pleather. Instead of using suede, use ultra-suede. Which is a humanitarian way to go, too. “It’s also really important to have certain types of rugs, especially for older dogs, so they don’t slip. If you’re doing a wood, there are types of woods that are much better for animals, like bamboo for instance. And it’s better for the environment. It should all fall under one umbrella: eco-friendly and pet-friendly.”
Look for Kari’s book Design with Paws in Mind in Spring, 2009.