Dog Days: Wag Hotels Brings Upscale Design To Man's Best Friend
Founded in 2004, Wag Hotels is a chain of modern and sophisticated hotels that exclusively serve the avant-garde urban dog and cat. The company's goal is to exceed the lifestyle expectations of city pets and their "parents.” The business has been a tremendous success. Ritu Raj, one of the cofounders and the president of Wag Hotels, attributes much of this success to the strong feelings that people have for their pets. "The fundamentals are very strong: people love their pets, and pets are considered to be a part of their family," said Raj.
The success of the business is also due to the services that Wag Hotels offers its clientele, along with the design of the facility overall. The flagship of Wag Hotels was opened at 25 14th Street in San Francisco, a site comprised of two existing adjacent, abandoned brick warehouses. In order to help them realize their new vision for this and future locations, Wag Hotels hired San Francisco-based architect Leora Goren of Goren Architecture + Design as the design architect for the project.
Among the amenities is an outlet of Wag Stores, a luxury boutique that features hard-to-find brands of clothing, accessories, edible items, toys, books and bedding, and where pet parents can buy gifts for their pets, for themselves and for their friends. The store's fundamental design was not just to showcase product, but also to showcase the brand and the hotel itself, as this space serves as the public gateway to the facility and as the hotel reception. The design was a collaborative effort involving Goren Architecture + Design, Ritu Raj, Allyson Kovas who worked as Wag’s Design Director and Heather Landers of the Graphic Design firm Studio Picotee
The design preserves much of the original structure, including bare brick walls, stained concrete floors, open ceilings, steel trusses, and numerous skylights. "We wanted the design to pay homage to the facility's urban origins," said Raj. In addition, it was important for the customer to be able to see directly into the heart of the facility from the reception and retail area, in order to draw focus to the primary purpose of the hotel. This is achieved through a large curved glass curtain wall behind the reception desk,
beyond which customers can see dogs at play,
or swimming in the pool.
The modern and chic feel of the space extends into the boutique's design, where high-end merchandise is exhibited on fixtures that fit the motif perfectly. A limited palette of black & copper paint, clear-stained oak wood fixtures and wall paneling were utilized along with aluminum and frosted acrylic, to maintain a feeling of simple, contemporary elegance. The simplicity of the colors and design showcase the merchandise without competing with it. "The design of the store was a challenge," recalled Goren. "The style, while somewhat industrial, needed to be high-end enough to reflect the unique nature of the merchandise, as well as the cosmopolitan flair of the San Francisco pet-owner. The merchandise is extremely varied and colorful, and the shear volume of it had to be accommodated without being overwhelming to the customer."
A mixture of custom fixtures combined with systems offered by B&N Industries allows for a variety of merchandise display options. The façade has been opened up to the sidewalk with large display windows, thus enriching a previously derelict streetscape. B&N's Cable system was selected for these displays. The thin cables used to support the shelves allow for maximum visibility from the sidewalk into the store. Additionally, the cables can easily be moved around to accommodate seasonally changing window displays of merchandise and suspended graphics. The wall fixtures are custom built-in wood cases incorporating B&N's Puck system. The wood cases are part of a continuous wood-paneled wall. The Pucks support different types of, and changing, displays: hangbars, faceouts, bowls and shelving. Large-scale black and white photographs of pets with colorful toys and accessories are strategically placed around the wall fixtures, breaking up the cacophony of color from the displayed merchandise.
The wall opposite the entry from the sidewalk called for a dramatic statement. A floor-to-ceiling black and white photograph of two dogs is the backdrop for colorful shelving displaying dog and cat bowls. In order for the photographs to have the most impact, B&N's Sorbetti system was selected to support the shelving. This allows the shelves to be kept away
Sorbetti Uprights with frosted acrylic shelves and an oversized photo backdrop.
from the wall so that both the image and the merchandise are showcased.
The floor fixtures are all custom designed and fabricated. There are at least eight different types of display fixtures: for the bulk and packaged treats; for plush toys; for folded apparel; for carriers and bags; for collars and leashes; for books; for pet "spa" products; for gifts; and for miscellaneous accessories and items. Each is carefully designed to accommodate its specific merchandise.
The San Francisco store and hotel have been extremely successful since the day they opened to the public in May of 2007, so much so that Wag Hotels
has two other Bay Area facilities in the works,
with plans to expand to Southern California and across the United States.
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