Have great-looking washable throws on hand to protect couches or chairs from spills, stains and paw prints. Leather upholstery is pricey but nearly indestructible; scratches, wear and even stains just add to its patina. Have carpets and area rugs cleaned often, even three or four times a year. Dirt, stains and pet hair show up more on very dark and very light fabrics. Medium tones and patterns provide more camouflage. Use sisal or sea grass for wall-to-wall carpets or area rugs for their stylish durability. An Oriental rug or faux animal hide can add color on top. Slipcovers today are less slouchy, more fitted, with a tailored skirt pleat and no ruffles, but they're as washable as ever. When upholstering furniture, buy an extra yard or two so if mishaps occur, you can replace one cushion instead of the entire couch. Adding decorative trim to inexpensive upholstered pieces gives them a high-price custom look. Windows can be well-dressed without costing a fortune. Check Home Depot for inexpensive woven shades and Ikea and Target for simple drapery panels. The layering adds interest. Choose (relatively) unbreakable accessories, such as baskets or bowls filled with moss balls, or books. If you like the fragile look, turn to eBay and flea market finds that aren't too expensive. A good time to invest in art is when children are really young. They can't reach it. Shelves, bookcases and other ready-made case goods can get a custom look with paint, reinforced shelving and the addition of crown molding at a fraction of the cost of custom-built furniture. When furnishing a home where children live, less is more. They need room to move and play; add furniture as they grow. Above all, declutter: Almost any room looks better with some careful editing.

Have great-looking washable throws on hand to protect couches or chairs from spills, stains and paw prints. Leather upholstery is pricey but nearly indestructible; scratches, wear and even stains just add to its patina. Have carpets and area rugs cleaned often, even three or four times a year. Dirt, stains and pet hair show up more on very dark and very light fabrics. Medium tones and patterns provide more camouflage. Use sisal or sea grass for wall-to-wall carpets or area rugs for their stylish durability. An Oriental rug or faux animal hide can add color on top. Slipcovers today are less slouchy, more fitted, with a tailored skirt pleat and no ruffles, but they're as washable as ever. When upholstering furniture, buy an extra yard or two so if mishaps occur, you can replace one cushion instead of the entire couch. Adding decorative trim to inexpensive upholstered pieces gives them a high-price custom look. Windows can be well-dressed without costing a fortune. Check Home Depot for inexpensive woven shades and Ikea and Target for simple drapery panels. The layering adds interest. Choose (relatively) unbreakable accessories, such as baskets or bowls filled with moss balls, or books. If you like the fragile look, turn to eBay and flea market finds that aren't too expensive. A good time to invest in art is when children are really young. They can't reach it. Shelves, bookcases and other ready-made case goods can get a custom look with paint, reinforced shelving and the addition of crown molding at a fraction of the cost of custom-built furniture. When furnishing a home where children live, less is more. They need room to move and play; add furniture as they grow. Above all, declutter: Almost any room looks better with some careful editing.

The Washington Post