Do you ever struggle to combine style with dog-friendly home décor?
If so then you’ll love this interview with Angela Infantino.
Angela is the Founder and Director of Molly Barker, a dog boutique where stylish dogs and luxury lifestyle collide. Molly Barker creates elegant canine products that satisfy every dog’s needs while complementing the style and décor of a modern home.
In the interview, we discuss how to create a stylish dog-friendly home.
Find out more about Molly Barker here:
Will: This episode of “The Dog Show” features Angela Infantino. Angela is the founder and director of Molly Barker, a dog boutique where stylish dogs and luxury lifestyle collide. Molly Barker creates elegant canine products that satisfy every dog’s needs while complementing the style and decor of a modern home. In the interview, we discuss how to create a stylish dog-friendly home. Angela, welcome to “The Dog Show” today.
Angela: Thanks for having me.
Will: Yeah, it’s really great to have you, great to have a fellow Aussie on the show. I know you’re down in Melbourne at the moment, though, which is…for those that don’t know, in a bit more of a solid lockdown than where I’m based in Sydney, but I’m sure you’re doing… You’re probably enjoying spending some extra time with your dog, Molly or…?
Angela: Well, I always work from home anyway, so she’s definitely enjoying having me 24/7. Sometimes I would go and work from cafes just to get out of the house. But now, I don’t have that luxury. So if I do go anywhere, she’s like, “What’s going on?” So, she’s definitely enjoying it the most.
Will: Yeah, they do become a bit more reliant on you being around, don’t they?
Will: But are you allowed to, you know, go out for walks and stuff? What’s that like at the moment?
Angela: Yeah. So it’s pretty restrictive. So, there’s a curfew so you can’t leave your house between the hours of 8:00 pm and 5:00 am, which is kind of fine for me anyway, and we’re allowed to have one hour of exercise outdoors or time outdoors anyway. So we’re really fortunate, we’ve got a dog beach, like literally less than 10 minutes up the road. And it’s within the 5K radius that we’re allowed. So, yeah, every night, after I finish work, we go down to the dog beach, and she gets to have a little bit of a play, and some socializing with some other dogs, and just some freedom. So yeah, that’s really nice. And we’re both loving it. If anything, coming home is always a struggle. She pulls on the lead and just does not wanna come home. But other than that, it’s okay to just roll with the punches and we can’t really complain.
Will: Yeah, I mean, that sounds pretty nice for your hour of exercise every day. So when you say a dog beach, is there lots of dogs there? Is it a fairly flat water-based beach?
Angela: Yeah, yeah, it is. And it sort of guards, you know, for… I think it sort of crosses two suburbs or something like that. And because we’re here in winter, you can have the dog off the lead on the beach the whole time, so there’s no restrictions there. So yeah, it’s really flat and it’s actually a really nice beach, as far as dog beaches go. So there’s not a lot of people out, like, they probably would be in summer and outside of, you know, lockdown time. But yeah, there’s still people around, there’s dogs around. It’s just a really nice sort of atmosphere.
Will: Yeah. So what type of dog is Molly? She’s a larger dog from the photos I’ve seen.
Angela: Yes, so she was a shelter dog, and what they told me is she’s part Great Dane, part Lab, which is just a perfect mix for me. So yeah, she’s pretty cool.
Will: So those… And I’m one of those people, I had a Lab growing up but don’t know much about the Great Dane side of things. What about that crossbreed is interesting or unusual?
Angela: Yeah, well, Great Danes have always been my favorite breed. Growing up, family friends of ours had a Great Dane, and he was just so beautiful. He was really protective of all of us kids, but he was just so gentle as well and really affectionate. So Molly’s definitely got those traits in that she just loves to be around me and people, and she just craves attention and affection. And she’s just so gentle even with really small dogs. She’s really, really gentle with them. But having that lab side of her as well, she’s very clever. And she’s still very cheeky and loves to play.
Will: Oh, that’s nice. When you picked her up from the shelter, how old was she then? And have you had any, you know, notable issues or anything from I guess getting a dog that you didn’t know the background of?
Angela: Oh, look, I think she was one of nine, if I remember correctly, at the shelter. And yeah, when I found her I really wanted, you know, one of her, you know, from her litter because she had that perfect mix of Great Dane and Lab. And then I just kept missing out and missing out. And so she was in Shepparton, from where I was living at the time, it was a six-hour return trip. And so I think it was the day after New Year’s, I think it was, that I finally got an email saying, “Look, there’s one female left,” because I’d checked out my back yard and my conditions to make sure that I was suitable and it was a good match. And then they came back and I thought, “You know, obviously, they’re all gone.” And I got an email that day to say, “There’s one left if you wanna, you know, come and get her, you know, she’s yours.” And so I literally jumped straight in the car, drove three hours up, grabbed her, three hours back. It took me all day, pretty much. So yeah, and she was just been the perfect mix. So I don’t know what her siblings were like but in terms of her temperament to me and her personality, just the perfect mix.
She’s got lupus, so I guess it’s got nothing to do with the shelter but she’s got lupus and we manage that really easily just with some cream on her nose and it doesn’t cause her any issues. As far as other issues, I don’t know if it’s related to the shelter, but she was fine up until about 18 months, and then just out of nowhere, she just developed this anxiety. So she gets it when there’s just too much stimulus going on. You know, when we go for walks and there’s a lot of traffic, she’s petrified of anything with wheels. So scooters or bikes or anything like that, she’s petrified. But in certain situations, she’s fine. So there’s a dog park near our house. And she’s gotten to know all the owners and the dogs there, and they’re her mates, and she just loves it. And she feels very safe and secure there. If we go to new reserve, she’s always a bit scared and hesitant.
But I’ve spoken to a behaviorist and it seems to be more when she’s on the lead because it’s taken away her ability to, I guess, flight. So, she then becomes frightened. So if we’re at a reserve and a bike or a scooter goes past, and she’s off-lead, she’s fine. But if she’s on-lead, she really freaks out because she can’t escape. So yeah, we manage that as best as we can. And we’ve put some training in place to sort of help her with that and she’s definitely got better over the years. But yeah, I don’t think it’s necessarily from the shelter. It may have been something happened at home when I wasn’t at home. I don’t know. But they do say that sometimes around the age of two, some dogs do just develop this anxiety. So, yeah, it’s an irony.
Will: Yeah, it’s interesting. As you say, it may not be to do with the shelter. So we have a dog, which we got it from a breeder, and she has some similar anxious tendencies when there’s too many people around. So, most of the time, if she’s just at home with us or she’s at the dog park in an area where she understands, she’s, you know, calm and relaxed and everything. But if we have, like, more than three or four people in the house, all of a sudden, she gets, you know, noticeably anxious and starts kind of chasing shadows or scratching the wall or something weird. And it’s quite concerning to see, right, but…
Angela: It is. Yeah.
Will: I think, as you mentioned, like, it’s just about kind of slowly progressing them and helping them through those stages and hopefully, they kind of get more used to those situations but…
Will: Okay. So, tell me how you started a designer dog boutique. Obviously, Molly played a part in the inspiration for that. But…
Angela: She sure did.
Will: …give me a story on the background there.
Angela: So, I had just moved into a new house. I’d built in your house and you spend a lot of time choosing nice fixtures, and fittings. and things like that. And because I’d finally moved into a house a the backyard, it meant that I could get a dog. So, when I brought her home from the shelter, obviously I had to then go find a bed, and all her accessories, and toys, and things like that so she felt comfortable. And I just couldn’t find anything that just matched with my home decor and I guess my own style. Everything was really brightly colored or over the top, you know, cute or a bit cheesy, and I couldn’t find anything. And I sort of researched, you know, the Australian market and there just wasn’t anything that I could find that I liked. There were a couple of brands overseas that I liked, but that was it. There was nothing on the market. And so, I sort of researched the market for about 12 months while I was in my old job and realized that, yeah, I think this might have some legs. There’s a market for this. So then yeah, off I went and started looking at, you know, what people might like and trying to find manufacturers here in Australia. And yeah, it’s definitely been a journey, that’s for sure.
Will: Yeah, so tell me more about, like, why, I guess, style and home decor was so important to you and how, like, your dog fitting into that ecosystem made a lot of sense. Because I imagine there’s so many dog owners out there, like my wife, for example, that feel the same way.
Angela: Exactly. So I guess they’re not our pets anymore, they’re part of the family. So our lifestyle and our style then trickles down to them. And so they just become an extension of often the way that we like to live. And so, then I guess when I was finding things for her, then I wanted that to sort of encompass our lifestyle, our style, so there was that consistency.
Will: Okay, that makes sense. So when you went about, like, designing your product line, and I know you’re adding things on the go as well over time, but how do you kind of balance, you know, functionality so it’s actually good for the dog with the style, and the look, and everything as well?
Angela: Yeah, a good question. It can be really hard especially because you’ve gotta think of different breeds and they’re all so different, in terms of, I guess, their size. You know, some have got long hair, some have got short hair, some really don’t have any hair. So you really gotta, I guess, find that balance between making sure it’s functional for, you know, comfort that they don’t have labels and stitching that’s gonna irritate their neck, for example, if they do have short hair or no hair. So it’s definitely a balancing act.
But the biggest thing that I guess we put a lot of thought into is, you know, those little details is making sure that it is functional and it’s comfortable. That’s the first and foremost thing that has to be for the dog, but also for the owner. Like even with the leads, you know, you’re holding that every day. And especially with a dog that pulls, you don’t want something, you know, from a very thick leather or material that’s really going to feel uncomfortable to hold. So our products are made from natural leather, which just softens over time. So we wanna make sure that, yeah, the materials we use are really high quality. We wanna make sure that they age really well and they’re going to last, so that there’s value for money.
So, trying to get all that right can be very difficult. I really push my manufacturer to find new, I guess, techniques to bring all the components together. And we have to make sure that if it’s not right, we’re just not gonna release it. So we spend a lot of time in the sampling phase, you know, starting from scratch sometimes or just tweaking little things until we’re just absolutely certain that it’s comfortable, that it’s functional, and that it’s gonna last the test of time, as well as being beautiful. So it’s definitely a juggling act. But if we find that we just don’t have that right balance, then we just scrap it altogether.
Will: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense as well. If you’re gonna buy something for your home as well as your dog, you’re buying from a style perspective, if you want that to last, right? You don’t want it to be one of those throwaway collars that only last a few months or something like that, so that makes a lot of sense.
Angela: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Like even the dog bed, something about the dog bed that was really important to me is, you know, in your home, it’s such a centerpiece of your home. And like everything else, like with your couch or your lounger, you can change up the style of your home if you get bored with it by, you know, changing your throw rug or your scatter cushions or what have you. But a dog bed is a dog bed, you can’t change that. So what we decided to do is make the cover interchangeable. So, you know, if your decor goes from black to brown, then all you have to do is just change the cover. So yeah, just making sure that we’ve got versatility in the pieces that we release and make sure that, you know, they’re neutral times and they’re classic so that they will, you know, I guess, carry on and really integrate seamlessly into your lifestyle.
Will: Yeah, I think that’s one thing that really caught my eye with your brand is the neutral times or the, like, understated kind of elegant style of all the products. I mean, automatically, I could picture it in my house, but I’m sure there’s… I mean, is there a certain style of decor or style of a person that would more likely like your products, do you think, or is it…? Well, having those understated tones and everything, is that make it more applicable to everyone?
Angela: Yeah, well, I guess having it very minimalistic means that it does have the opportunity to fit into multiple different sort of styles and decor. That’s definitely the main thing I would say to people is just keeping it simple definitely makes things a lot easier for them to become seamless, but also, two, is, you know, the materials you use, like I say, with the natural leather, that they age gracefully with the way that they continue over time and they become softer, that, you know, a lot of different fabrics, the more they age, the more they look old and awful. With ours, the more they age, the more subtle they become in their appearance. So yeah, that’s something that I’ve definitely thought about is just making sure that it’s going to be easy to integrate into most people’s homes. Definitely, your modern minimalistic homes is sort of what I had in mind, but what I’m finding is because we are keeping it simple, it’s making it easy for just about anyone to integrate our pieces.
Will: Yeah, that makes sense. Do you have any, I guess, understanding of what type of dogs your customers have? Is there any common themes or anything like that or is it kind of a huge range?
Angela: No, it’s such a big range. Yeah, a lot of different brands, you know, they cater more for large dogs or small fluffy dogs. I’m finding that we’re such a mix, which is great. And I think that’s because we’re not catering just to the dog, it’s really a lifestyle for the owners as well. So people are saying our pieces and they’re not just thinking about their dog, they’re thinking about themselves as well. So that’s, I guess, been really interesting to see that, you know, who’s purchasing from us, it just varies so much.
Will: So, what process would you say someone should go through? Let’s say they’re trying to, you know, add a little touch to their home which, you know, goes with their dog style and the home style or maybe they’re starting from scratch, maybe they’ve just moved into a new home, and they’re trying to do the decor from kind of the beginning. How do they go about finding the right, you know, colors, and products, and things to make it all look good, and kind of match with, I guess, what they like as well?
Angela: Start with a blank canvas. So, I always suggest, find a section in your house that is going to be where, I guess, the hub of the home is because the dog likes to be near us. But make sure it’s just not where it’s too chaotic because if you do have people over, then they wanna sometimes find their own little quiet space where they feel safe and secure. So, find a section of the home that’s just close enough to be where everyone’s interacting but far enough away where they can feel that that’s their own little space. And then just building it up from there.
So, a color palette, you know, keep the color palette consistent to what’s going on in the rest of your house. So for us, for example, the color palette in our house is mostly blacks and grays. So when I’m thinking of pieces for Molly and her space, I always start with something that’s going to ground the space. So we’ve got a cowhide rug that I brought from my old place here, and that’s gone down first. And I guess that’s sort of setting the scene for the rest of the pieces. Her dog bed’s then gone on top of that, and again, it’s black, which is bringing up the turns from the rug underneath. Then I’ve got a basket. Now the basket I did have in my old place where I had some scatter cushions, and I also have a matching one where I put a big pot plant in there. So it’s the same basket. And it’s just from Kmart. It cost me a couple of dollars. And that’s where I put all her toys and her lead and things like that.
So her things aren’t scattered throughout the home. She’s got a nice safe space where her bed is and her toys are just next to that. So if she wants to play, that’s her little area where she sort of just could congregate and like a child’s bedroom really, but the pieces all integrate with the rest of the house. The basket is already carried through other areas of the house. In terms of I’ve got to throwrug there because when she sleeps at night, for some reason, she just loves the blankets thrown over the top of her, like a cubby house. It’s quite weird. But again, the blanket is in the same textures as the cushions we’ve got on the couch and it’s a dark color too. So it integrates, you know, with the black from the cowhide rug and the black from the basket and from the cover on her bed.
So again, keeping the color palette consistent and just keeping it really simple and minimalistic is, I guess, the best place to start. You can always add things after that. But just having a space that’s just theirs and keeping it simple, that’s the best place to just sort of start.
Will: Yeah, the thing I like that you said about, I guess, the throw and the basket for the toys and things like that, it’s really helpful when you’re having people over and, like, you may have a tendency, you know, traditionally, just clean all the dog stuff up and throw it somewhere. But if you’ve got a nice basket, which fits with the decor, and you’ve gotta throw it that you can kind of put on the couch or on the bed, you don’t need to, you know, put everything away. You can just…the space can stay the same. So…
Angela: Yeah, exactly. And on our couch, because she does like to pop up on the couch at nighttime and have a cuddle, we’ve got a black sheepskin at the end of the chaise and that’s her spot, and she knows that only for her, and that’s where she’ll go. So, you know, when people come over, I can just take that outside and give it a throw, get the hair off and the whole couch is still hair-free, but also to that her saved spot on the couch because people know that’s where the sheepskin is, that’s Molly’s spot.
Will: Right. So I had a question about, you actually donate a portion of your profits from the Wear collection to Assistance Dogs Australia. Can you tell me a bit more about, you know, why that’s important to you and maybe a little bit about the organization as well?
Angela: Yeah, absolutely. Assistance Dogs Australia is such an important and amazing organization. So, they train and provide dogs to people that need assistance, whether it be from disability, autism, family with children that have special needs, people with PTSD. So these dogs perform a whole range of different tasks, from physical tasks, whether it’s going to grab someone’s shoes, getting different items from them or just supporting them mentally, whether they’re having a panic attack or whether helping them become calmer when they leave the house, so that they can just function day to day. And some of these families, it really changes their life. They’ve now got this animal that’s come into their life, that is a support, not just physically but mentally as well.
But what a lot of people don’t realize is that it costs $35,000 to train one dog. And that’s just so realistic for a lot of people, especially the people who need it the most. A lot of them are already suffering financially because of disability or different aspects in their life. So, the amount of support that, you know, we can give to Assistance Dogs Australia and the donations, every little bit helps, and they do just such wonderful work.
Will: Yeah, that sounds like a great cause. And, you know, I applaud you for putting all of your efforts into supporting that as well and having a special line for it. So, for people out there, what comes in the Wear collection that they can get?
Angela: So, there’s a dog bandana. And that isn’t just for dogs. So, I’ve often won it as a hair scarf, and Molly wears her bandana, and we’re matching, which is, you know, either cute or cheesy, however, you wanna see it. And then there’s a t-shirt as well, so a t-shirt for humans. And that’s got a really cool sort of logo or print that we’ve designed. But on the back, it has the #onteambarker. So that when people are on social media or our community, they see #onteambarker, they know that that’s part of our community, and that’s the support that we’re giving to Assistance Dogs Australia.
Will: Oh, that’s great. That’s a cool hashtag. I’m gonna have to use that when I get my shirt very soon as well.
Angela: Yes, exactly.
Will: Okay. So if I was to take away one thing about dog style and home decor from today’s interview, what do you think that’d be?
Angela: Definitely keep it simple. Keep the same consistent with your own style, and decor, and the color palette as well. So as long as you’ve got consistency between the theme, the color palette, and you’re not going over the top, just keeping it very minimal, then you really can’t go wrong.
Will: Cool. So, I, for one, love your Instagram feed, which is where I initially found you and started to check out all the products. But where would you recommend people can find out everything that Molly Barker is doing and, you know, look at your products, check out the Instagram feed? Is that the best place to go?
Angela: Yeah, Instagram is fantastic because we try and keep updates on there as much as possible. But probably even better would be our website, which is mollybarker.com.au. You’ll be able to find links to our Instagram or Facebook page there anyway. But also, you’ll find links to our YouTube channel where you can see all the tutorials that we do from whether it be products or, you know, styling your dog space. We’ve got blogs as well and a whole range of different topics. And also you can just see and hear a little bit more about us and our story as well.
Will: Perfect. So I’ll share the links to all those different channels in the show notes, on YouTube, and everywhere else that I’m publishing the podcast. So Angela, thanks so much for coming on “The Dog Show.” It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you. I can’t wait to share this with everyone and also create a bit of exposure for your brand, which I absolutely love.
Angela: Thank you so much. It’s just been so much fun. I really appreciate it.
Will: Have a great day.
Angela: Yeah, you too. Thank you.