Like most dog owners, I like to make sure my precious pooch has the life of Riley. As he’s getting on a bit and is a little arthritic, a soft, cosy bed is a real must. At the end of the day, though, what I really want is a dog bed that will be practical, comfortable and still look good in my home – I don’t want to be tripping over some plastic monstrosity in the kitchen. Step forwards Christine Chau of Charley Chau luxury dog bedding, who it seems eight years ago created her company out of a desire to fulfil that exact need.
“My background is in communications and I spent fifteen years working in the City in London for large financial institutions and moved into the public sector where I ran the Mayor of London’s marketing, events and sponsorship in the run up to London 2012,” explains Christine. A far cry from doggy soft furnishings!
“Charley Chau was founded by accident one afternoon when I sat on my sitting room floor with my sister Jenny and designed and made what became our signature bed – the Snuggle Bed – although we didn’t know it would lead to the start of a business at the time!”
“I was so frustrated, having bought a dozen or so dog beds that all ended up in the bin because they were so badly made and I decided to make my own. I posted photos of our Italian greyhounds Anna and Charley in their new beds on Facebook and was inundated with comments of ‘where did you get that dog bed?’
That was how we started – simply by designing a bed that met the specific needs of my own dogs. We had no expectations that Charley Chau would be anything other than a quirky little hobby on the side, and now the company has happy customers in over forty five countries around the world and we have been shortlisted as finalists in the Natwest Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2018.
Meanwhile, our little gang of Italian greyhounds, who are without doubt the ongoing inspiration for our business, has grown to five: Charley, Anna, Tino, Theo and Mabel.As they’re the reason behind what we do we think it’s only fitting that they are the super-star models on our website. We have a studio set up in our office and there is always a bed placed on the white backdrop, so we’re able to photograph them opportunistically just hanging out.
“We didn’t actually have a business strategy when we started out, but beautiful styling and good quality have always been core to what we wanted to achieve with our beds and blankets.
I have always had a passion for good design and a special interest in interior design – I studied an interior design course at the Chelsea School of Art in my spare time when I was working in the City. Part of my frustration when buying dog beds was that they were all ugly – brown and boring with paw prints or bones on them.
When I made the first Snuggle Bed I had a clear image in my mind of how I wanted it to look – it simply had to work with my walnut floor, white walls and duck egg blue sofa. We design first and foremost for comfort but we also pay great attention to how all the beds look and perform over time.
Our point of view is that dog beds and blankets are soft furnishings in the home – they don’t have to be boring and badly made – and they can gorgeous and practical too.
“Sourcing our fabrics and fillings is a mammoth task, complicated by the fact that we design to a mantra of machine washable everything. We only use soft-furnishings quality fabrics in Charley Chau dog beds so we have to work very hard to find beautiful, robust fabrics that can withstand a dog sleeping in it for up to around eighteen hours a day, as well as a weekly wash in the machine.
“Quality and performance are critical to the extent that when we decided to use feather to fill the sides of our Ducky Donut Dog Bed, we decided to use a Downpass certified supplier to ensure that our feathers are sourced ethically, and we can trace every batch of feathers back to the parent farm in Germany.
Naming products is one of our fun tasks … the whole team gets involved and we keep going with ideas until one jumps out at us and sticks.
“Working with a sibling could be difficult, but Jenny and I work well together – we’re a complementary team. Jenny is right brain and I am more left brain – Jenny is good at doing and I am good at thinking, so we have clear separation in our work but we also collaborate on product design which is great fun.
“What’s next for the future? Well, we’re always working on new designs! At the moment we’re working on a rather lovely new design of bed which we can’t wait to launch in 2019 and we’re also shortlisting for a new fabric collection for 2019 to launch a fabulous new look for our collection. Exciting!”
Christine’s tips on choosing the right dog bed for your dog – and your home!
Our four-legged friends average 12 to 14 hours sleep each day, so it’s important that you choose a bed that not only looks good but performs well over time.
Size – Select a bed that will give them enough space to curl up or stretch out as the mood takes them. A bed that’s too small for your dog may not do their joints any good in the long run. We recommend measuring your dog when standing from the tip of their nose to base of tail, and from top of skull to the floor, then adding 25% all round.
Shape – Observe how your dog likes to sleep and choose a bed shaped to suit their preferred sleeping style. Dogs that love to sprawl often prefer simple flat, mattress style beds. Dogs that curl up into tiny little balls usually love round or oval beds – bear in mind also that some dogs curl up because they are cold, or as a way of shutting out the noise and buzz in a busy household.
Specialist beds – Some dogs may need a specialist bed to suit particular needs or a particular environment. Older dogs with stiff joints, for example, may require the support of an orthopaedic mattress or a raised bed to keep out draughts.
Practical considerations – It’s really important that your dog’s bed is fully machine washable – both the outer covers and the mattress inners. Blankets can also help to keep your dog’s bed cleaner for longer providing you wash the blankets regularly.
Quality – spend wisely. Always buy the best you can afford, as cheap beds may go lumpy and quickly become uncomfortable. We believe that dog beds should complement and, where possible, enhance a home interior, and we use quality furnishing fabrics and other materials to achieve a result that’s both beautiful and practical.
Find out more at www.charleychau.com. Prices start at £40 for blankets and £50 for day beds.