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Luxury beds for dogs made by Pink Whiskers of Waddington

PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 June 2016

Lilly the dog relaxing in a Bolsover with Harris Tweed

Lilly the dog relaxing in a Bolsover with Harris Tweed


A Ribble Valley upholsterer is providing the ultimate in doggie comfort to customers in America, Canada, Australia and across Europe, writes Mairead Mahon.

Lilly the dog wearing a snood Lilly the dog wearing a snood

The fairytale princess who could detect a pea under 20 feather mattresses wouldn’t have a problem sleeping on one of Kate May’s handmade beds. The only drawback would be that Kate’s beds aren’t designed for princesses - they are strictly for top dogs.

Kate is the owner of Pink Whiskers of Waddington, purveying handmade bespoke furniture for only the most pampered of pooches. They would have to be with prices beginning at around the £400 mark and rising.

There isn’t any shortage of clients though, including celebrities and members of the landed gentry. Even royalty has taken an interest with Zara Phillips enquiring what would happen if a dog decided to chew one of the most expensive pet beds around.

‘I told her what I tell everyone,’ says Kate. ‘If you have a chewer, let me know and I’ll take the edges off the bed so that here is nothing for sharp teeth to worry away at.’

Kate May in the workshop Kate May in the workshop

We don’t know if certain corgis are prone to night nibbles but Kate has just designed a bed that is printed with images of horses in order to celebrate a certain 90th birthday that has just taken place. How did a Ribble Valley woman, who hadn’t picked up an upholstery tool until the age of 40 become such a success so quickly?

‘It was a typical mid-life crisis I suppose, combined with inheriting an old cat. Both those things can concentrate the mind,’ laughs Kate. The old cat in question was called Patch and with him came his favourite bed, a tatty thing but he refused to settle in anything else. Drastic action was needed so, armed with the most basic of tools, she re-furbished it.

‘I didn’t make too bad a job of it and just as I was thinking of giving up my job in the hospitality industry, I noticed a three year course in upholstery at Burnley College. They are few and far between so it seemed like serendipity.’

It wasn’t long before she became the star of the show, winning the coveted Gold Medal for upholstery. By now, Patch was due for another upgrade and one of the pieces that helped Kate to her success was a glorious Porter’s Chair that had been designed and made just for him.

A Porter’s Chair is notoriously difficult to construct. Popular in medieval England, they are made of made of leather with a high back that forms a hood designed to keep away the winter chill, as the porter sat waiting to admit visitors.

‘I started showing some simple beds at equine and country shows, sometimes borrowing the chair from Patch, and it became a runaway success. As word spread, I was asked if I could make bespoke ones for clients and that’s how Pink Whiskers was born,’ says Kate.

Today, she works from her peaceful studio at Backridge Farm in Waddington surrounded by only llamas and sheep and with the assistance of her four helpers - Molly the dachshund and her three rescue lurchers. But from this sleepy backwater, her reputation has spread and she has clients ordering beds from America, Canada, Australia and Europe and they’re pretty popular in the Ribble Valley too!

Kate makes everything from scratch, including the frame. She uses British products wherever possible and, if there is a Lancashire supplier, Kate will use them, buying leather from Rochdale and hessian from Burnley. The tweed is specially woven for her on the Isle of Harris and this can mean keeping an anxious eye on the weather forecasts. One winter, the roof was blown off the weaving shed, delaying deliveries of cloth.

So why do people suddenly decide they must have the ultimate in pet beds? ‘A whole variety of reasons,’ she says. ‘Sometimes, they just want to spoil their pet and sometimes if a pet is older or not so well, that bit of luxury can make all the difference.

‘Quite often, clients have refurbished a room and want a bed to match and sometimes they want to reflect a pet’s name. One lady who called her dog Versace and wanted a bed printed with the letter V in gold and with little gold lion head feet.’

Kate likes to visit a client’s home if possible to meet the pet and see what would best suit its size, health and personality and, of course, to see exactly where the client wants the bed to go. Unsurprisingly, one of the most popular places is by the Aga.

From the design to the final nail, the beds can take two weeks to make but they are destined to become family heirlooms - some people even ask for the cushions to be covered in something that is sentimental to them, such as material from a chair they had as a child.

But what is the latest style for the fashionable pets of the Ribble Valley? ‘Deep Button leather backs are always popular and each button is put on by hand the old fashioned way.’ And what are the sleeping arrangements in Kate’s house?’All four dogs and the cat have Pink Whiskers’ beds, they wouldn’t really expect anything else,’ says Kate. ‘And no, they’re not tempted to sleep in my bed because it’s not as luxurious as theirs!’

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