Don’t surrender yet. A few tricks of the design trade can give you photo-worthy rooms that don’t require trailing after your kids or pets all day with cleaning supplies.
1. New furniture? Go for the upgrades.
“Buying a sofa is like buying a car,” says Debbie Wiener, owner of Designing Solutions in the Washington, D.C., area. “There’s the showroom option and the 12 other extras.” She upgrades all her clients’ seat cushions without even asking. There’s standard foam, but you can spend more for better foam or even what’s called spring down (a bit like a mattress). The upgrades hold their shape better and longer.
This room features scratch-proof leather on the sofa, upgraded seat cushions all around and Slobproof!-brand chairs with special moisture-blocking fabric.
“It’s so relaxing,” says Warrenetta Baker, whose family lives in this Bethesda, Md., home. “I don’t have to worry about anything. My furniture still looks new even with two dogs and two boys.”
2. Color is your friend. (Pattern, too.)
Is your sofa covered in grape juice stains? Stop fighting the inevitable and replace it with a stylish red couch. “Think of color as camouflage,” Wiener says. “Anything in neutral is just another child that needs to be taken care of. No one walks in the house with neutral mud on their shoes. No one spills neutral-colored fruit juice.”
Don’t be afraid to indulge in a red, blue or green sofa. Then add a patterned chair or rug. As you can see here, a thoughtful mix of color and pattern adds style and punch to a room. Wiener even added a personal color splash to this space by turning family photos into Pop Art.
3. If you really, really want a light-colored room …
It’s all about the latest stain-resistant fabrics. Like Baker’s Bethesda space, this sleek and sophisticated room also stands up to two little boys and two large dogs -- because everything is slipcovered or upholstered in Sunbrella indoor-outdoor fabric. It’s stain-resistant and washable with up to a 4% bleach solution. In addition, the furniture was stain-treated, and while the carpet looks like wool sisal, it’s actually Stainmaster nylon.
“If you haven’t bought furniture in a while, the fabrics out there are so far superior to what was available even five years ago,” says Suzy Watkins, ASID, principal of Sterling Design Group in Warrenton, Va.
Another secret to this room: The distressed dining room table looks even more rustic when it gets dinged.
4. Keeping it sleek. (Or hiding the kid stuff.)
Katrina Kimpel planned to use her new storage ottoman to tuck away her and her husband’s stuff. But when it arrived, her 3-year-old immediately claimed it for his trucks. “I don’t even have to look at toys in my living room now,” says the mom of two, who worked with Wiener. “It gives my husband and me a place to go after the boys are in bed to relax. We’re not stepping on cars, because we’ve giving the 3-year-old a place to put them.”
To keep your home looking chic and stylish, Watkins says you need to take advantage of every inch of storage. She’s helped clients install everything from bookcases under stairways to open wooden lockers to capture backpacks, coats and shoes. A playroom helps, too.
5. The secret to teen and tween rooms.
Your son’s or daughter’s room might not be the most trafficked area of the house, but your inner style diva would still like to avoid walls plastered with images of pop stars. How do you add style that stands up to your teen’s or tween’s sense of independence? Let him or her take the decorating lead, with guidance.
For this room, Jennifer Agus, owner of Agus Interiors in New York, took its 13-year-old occupant shopping and ran the choices by her mom after. “It wasn’t me imposing the mom’s ideas on the child,” she says. “We let the child put her artistic touch on it.”
No budget for a designer? The same approach might work with a favorite aunt or uncle.