To look at the furniture offered by Purrniture is to wish that you were a cat. Personally, I would give anything to be able to hole up in the Fat Cat Cubby for a few precious hours, dig my claws into the length of rope coiled around the Tom Towers, or perch high atop the Chateau de Gato and silently judge everyone around me.
Purrniture offers precisely what a little regal rascal would desire of its furnishings. The St. Paul store was founded by Darryl Michaelson, who as a younger man was motivated by both his love of cats and his tight budget.
“When I was 23 years old I got a couple of kittens named Rufus and Dimitrious,” said Darryl. “I had cats all my life, but I only thought to buy furniture for those two. That’s when I found out that store-bought cat furniture is lightweight and flimsy – though somehow still expensive. I decided I could do much better.
“One Saturday morning in June of 1990 I set out to warehouses and loading docks in search of old two-by-fours, pallets, and any other wood I could use to make my own cat furniture. By the end of the day I had built a structure the size of a refrigerator and covered it with old carpet I found in my landlord’s basement. It wasn’t an inspired design, but it had a step system, plenty of space for scratching, and most importantly Rufus and Dimitrious loved it instantly. I became hooked on building cat furniture.
“I soon started looking for better materials. I found a pile of discarded electrical spools, which are great because they contain several sizes of plywood discs. Fence companies turned out to be a reliable source for old four-by-fours. I learned that paper companies are always trying to get rid of long cardboard cylinders which are four times thicker than the concrete form tubes sold at hardware stores. Carpet suppliers especially loved when I came to visit, because I bought up scraps that they would otherwise have had to pay to throw away.
“After a year of making cat furniture just for fun, and realizing there’s an endless supply of materials out there, I figured why not make some money out of it? So I took photos of my designs and drove around town to post flyers at veterinary clinics.
“Just for the heck of it I filled out an application to show my furniture at the State Fair. I couldn’t believe when they called back to offer me a spot. The only catch was that I couldn’t show up as a guy who makes cat furniture – I had to be a company that makes cat furniture, with insurance, a tax ID, and a name.
“Those first two things were easy enough, but for the name I turned to my sister for help. She just looked blankly at me for a few seconds and finally said one word: ‘Purrniture.’ I knew it couldn’t get any better than that.
“Thirty years later, I’m still committed to building far higher quality cat furniture than you could ever find at a big box store. Cats have a lot of energy – especially when they live indoors – so they need a sturdy jungle gym to practice their leaps and bounds on. They’re also hunters, so they prefer perching high above the ground. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but when a cat sits down, it doesn’t do it in the shape of a square. That’s why our pieces of furniture have round sitting surfaces, with circular rims for added feline comfort.
“And there’s more to our furniture than a cat can appreciate. Our designs have a modern look that better complements a home than boxy, uninspired mass-produced cat furniture. Since we buy remnants from the same carpet suppliers that serve landlords and contractors, our furniture is likely to match your carpeting. We’re also a green company, in a sense, because we’re stopping a lot of new production materials from going into landfills. We even offer reupholstering.”
Purrniture is located at 2242 University Ave W in St. Paul. Go there and see Darryl’s full line of attractive, sturdy and stimulating cat furniture, and take a piece home for your little Bella or Tiger or Luna to wear themself out on. You can also shop online at purrniture.com.
By David Scheller