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Who said you can't have nice things when you have a furry friend? Here are simple ways to make your pet friendly home fabulous.

By Caylin Harris
March 08, 2021
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woman petting orange and white cat on couch
Credit: Lucas Ottone/Stocksy

You can have nice things (fur real!). With a little ingenuity, your home will hold up—and look stylish—no matter what your pet or kids throw at it. Here are simple ways to make it work.

Pet-Proof Your Furniture

Invest in the right fabrics

To survive the antics of a terrier, a tabby, or a toddler, durability is key. Choose pillow covers, couches, and upholstered chairs with care. "My living-room sofa is made with Sunbrella's outdoor fabric. It's super-stain-resistant and still looks beautiful," says Sabrina Soto, HGTV host and mom of a 5-year-old and a labradoodle. "You can even find outdoor fabric that mimics linen or leather." Speaking of, leather (real or faux) is tough, it can be wiped, and it repels hair. Other sturdy picks are solution-dyed acrylic, canvas, and cotton bull denim. (Skip velvet, suede, and loosely woven fabrics.)

Consider color

Pillows, throws, and curtains can attract fur like crazy. "Solids show hair more, so try a pattern instead," Soto says. If you're shopping for a new sofa or upholstered chair, you may want to take along a lock of Fido's fur. It's a smart idea to choose a tone that's in the same color family as your pet's hair so it will blend in between lint rollings—and steer clear of any colors that will make it stand out (think black hair on a tan couch).

Go washable when you can

A regular spin in the washing machine cuts down on stains, odors, and pet-hair buildup. Buy accent pillows with removable covers and throws that aren't dry-clean only. A slipcover that detaches for a thorough cleaning is also convenient. (Air-dry or dry on no heat to avoid shrinking.) Or DIY your own to protect against puddles of fur: Drape a boldly patterned sheet or blanket over the furniture and tuck it under the cushions.

Opt for functional flooring

Thanks to fancy fabric technology, indoor-outdoor rugs aren't that plasticky texture you might expect, and you can pick up a large one for a fraction of the cost of wool. "They're soft, and you can spill practically anything on them and stains come off with soap and water," Soto says. Other advancements to check out: stylish, washable cotton rugs by Lorena Canals, Flor carpet tiles that swap out if there's a stain, and Ruggable rugs (shown on the floor in the photo, below), which include a washable rug cover and a nonslip base.

appenzeller sennenhund dog with bone pillow
Credit: Courtesy of @Wafflenugget for Ruggable

Keep paws out of plants

"We learned the hard way after our puppy, Patches, destroyed several plants," says Shira Gill, organizing expert and author of the upcoming book Minimalista. "We keep them on higher surfaces like mantles and console tables instead of on the f loor." A plant stand with legs that lifts plants up removes some of the temptation. You can also put smooth stones over the soil to play interference.

Organize All the Pet Stuff

Feeding area

Set out food and water away from foot traffic, such as in the corner of the kitchen or in a laundry room, so your pet can eat in peace. This minimizes clutter, eases your animal's anxiety, and may protect your kid from getting nipped. "Pets should eat in a safe space. It's important that children leave them alone when they're eating," explains Terri Bright, Ph.D., BCBA-D, certified applied animal behaviorist, and director of behavior services at Angell Animal Medical Center, in Boston. Decant kibble and treats from bulk bags into glass or ceramic canisters with a tight seal so food is presentable on a shelf and stays fresh, Gill says.

Medicine chest

Choose a lidded container with dividers to neatly store pet meds and first-aid supplies. "Make sure to toss anything that has expired, and minimize packaging to keep it from feeling cluttered," Gill says. "I tuck mine into a utility cabinet out of reach of my kids."

yorkie dog in white mudroom
Credit: Greg Scheidemann

Dog-walking station

A row of child-height wall hooks in the entryway is a streamlined way to corral collars and leashes. Stash poop baggies, a travel water bowl, and outdoor toys in a hung-up tote bag that kids can grab if they're taking the pup outside. Hide an old towel in a separate tote or bin for easy cleanup when they return.

Grooming caddy

Store your pet's shampoo, brushes, and nail clippers in a portable basket stowed away in a closet or a cabinet that's convenient to carry to the bathroom, garage, porch, or wherever you use the supplies most frequently.

Toy bins

Nice-looking baskets placed on the ground or on low shelves give pets better access to playthings and make it much easier for kids to pick up after their animals, Gill says. Either way, "there's going to be stuff on the floor, so let go of the idea of things being immaculate."

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's April 2021 issue as "Best-in-Show Decorating Tips." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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