PawPaws Pet Spa

August 24, 2009

Gillian Serisier visits a day-spa with a difference: this glamorous new motel in Waterloo, designed by Giant Design Consultants, is just for dogs.

Doggy day care has shimmied into the 21st century with enough bling to bamboozle a house cat. Nestled among the housing commission high-rises and glossy new apartments of downtown Waterloo in Sydney, PawPaws is a delight of whimsical extravagance. Gone is any suggestion of the ‘kennel and run’ offerings of drive-by pet hotels. Rather it is a genuine resort facility with spa rooms, treatments, specialised grooming, play areas (with ever attendant staff in snazzy white King Gee overalls) and outdoor play zones including a rooftop of AstroTurf fuzz, fountain and geometric blocks of colour that, in a dog’’s eye, are just perfect for standing on, sniffing and the occasional pee.

The aesthetic Giant Design Consultants have created for PawPaws is clearly directed at the pet owner; however, practical considerations of dog management as well as a whole lot of stuff dogs just plain like have not been forgotten. The drive-in arrival area is understatedly grand, a flat façade with the name in high gold lettering. It is simple and effective and could be anything –– the perfect secret getaway. Facing the parking bay, a backlit wall of forest sets the tone. It is a nice touch for being both beautiful and unexpected. The parlour’’s reception and boutique are framed by a large window, which gives onto a small forest of silver birch tree trunks wedged between floor and ceiling on a lawn of baize green carpet (Tretford in lichen). Visually splendid, it is also perhaps the only flaw in design logic: trees and dogs being made for each other has had the expected result and there are thoughts of switching to rubber. The boutique is also the waiting area with a couch for humans and ottomans of a variety of sizes for pooches. The base shades of stone and wood are picked up by the close-up of fur –– digitally printed onto adhesive vinyl –– that is featured in the reception and boutique shelving. There are details like this throughout the project where the illusion of space and texture has been augmented through deft use of printed imagery. Giant at its best!

The spa rooms are glamorous in high shine bronze mosaic tiling (20-millimetre), polished stucco walls in Porter’s Fresco finish and wax, with plenty of inbuilt shelving for scented candles, towels and wash products. A combination of timber look tiles (Jatoba anti-slip,– Olivio), mosaic pebble and cement paint in a lighter tone gives the room robust integrity, symmetry and interest without being fiddly. The dog baths are custom made in limestone in three sizes to accommodate a variety of dogs, with the larger bath featuring an internal step to minimise lifting of heavier dogs. Everything has been designed to make the task of washing dogs easier for both the dog and washer. The random blocks of wood that punctuate the room can be moved as needs be to allow most dogs easy access to the baths or be used as a seat by the dog washer. Leather-look vinyl massage mats complete the picture. The combination of recessed and spot lighting provides a warm and glimmering relationship with the tiles that is both visually pleasing and calming for the canines. It really is quite a thing. The grooming rooms are similarly swish in bronze tile and white travertine-look benches with huge articulated blow dryers hovering overhead.

With little need for a view, windows are the primary source of light. This has been exploited to full effect with walls towards the sawtooth ceiling being left open to allow further light into the rooms. Windows in areas requiring low light (such as the grooming rooms) have been decaled in leaf-like patterns to minimise without completely blocking.

The use of decals continues throughout the building on many of the toughened glass walls separating areas of activity. One particularly lovely example is a bright leafed tree that provides a park setting for dogs at play. Themes of garden and fun predominate and add to the overall feeling of stylised outdoors, including the wrought iron gates of light twisted vines, which appear at intervals. Several of the walls feature large images of rolling green fields and bright blue sky with a marvellous tongue-in-cheek whimsy.

Above the spa are the day-care facilities and accommodation; the colours at this point become lighter, more sun filled and crisp. A tall take on the white picket fence gives these floors an Alice in Wonderland feel, as does their slightly labyrinthine corridors, which are studded with ornately gold-framed pictures of pooches. And while the portraits are pure fantasy the fences are practical, as keeping dogs in size groups is essential to happy management. With a room for small dogs, two for medium and another for large dogs, the themes equate to owner projection rather nicely. The Library for medium dogs is a simplified gentlemen’’s club in tones of timber and cream with couches and a wall image of books: just perfect for pointers and the like. Cupcake for small dogs has delightful touches of baby-doll cutesy pie, while the Dog House for big dogs is warehouse cool in bright, corrugated primaries. The Log Room, complete with felled tree, ottomans and cubes of AstroTurf for medium dogs is absolutely SoHo chic, and so forth. The best bit though is the way the dogs behave in the rooms despite their oblivion to the cool aesthetic surrounds. They are clearly having fun: they jump on the sofas, race up the stairs, balance on the log and generally wag, smile, woof and frolic.

Pussy Parlour in hot pink, light pink and black is agent provocateur chic, complete with a dance pole and chandeliers. And, while visually fun for the owners, PP is cosy enough to be the perfect place for kennelling puppies. The accommodation is provided by banks of sleeping cubbies (size and colour appropriate to each room), which have been designed to allow the dog comfort and as much view as possible. Full glass fronts would have inhibited air circulation, so while a vertical section is glassed, the main is a Dulux powder-coated steel sheet with large (25.4-millimetre) circular holes. Within each cubby a leather-look vinyl sleeping cushion affords comfort and a clean environment. On the subject of clean it should be noted that there is a nothing but a slight smell of vanilla throughout. Wherever possible flooring and surfaces have been chosen for resilience and their natural ability to repel. Outdoor areas are floored in a deep green recycled rubber that is both cushioning and easily cleaned. Softened by potted bamboo and the occasional toy, they are more fun than the dog runs of kennels, but provide the same function of being a good place to tire a large dog.

Practical considerations such as a blackboard wall in the kitchen to note dietary requirements and the two quiet rooms for distressed pooches have not been overlooked. Neither have the needs of the staff with light sun filled offices and staff rooms. The assessment room in shades of deep chocolate is soft, calming and robustly masculine without being threatening. There are also plenty of mop-hiding utility cupboards.

The rooftop play area is a pocket of fuzzy AstroTurf punctuated by brightly coloured cut-out shapes and sturdy cubes of turf. The whole is surrounded by high, toughened-glass walls and a veritable forest of lilly pilly trees. A low-set, broad fountain gurgles in the centre for dogs to run through, drink from and generally splash about in (the water is recycled into the garden at the end of the day). Interestingly the green of the lilly pillies and the blue of the sky make the downstairs images of turf and sky seem less fanciful, though I may have reached saturation.

Giant has done an extraordinary job in creating an environment that is tough enough for Great Danes and glamorous enough for teacup poodles, ditto their owners. By using large expanses of simple yet beautiful material with touches of quirk or glamour, Giant has solved the problem of disparity of user, accommodating the visual pleasure of the owner, the practical needs of the handlers and the dog’s joy of bounding.

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