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Lines on Design: Furniture can withstand kids and pets

People can be hesitant to buy new furniture because of the mess and wear and tear that children and pets cause. Instead,
People can be hesitant to buy new furniture because of the mess and wear and tear that children and pets cause. Instead, people should look for features and attributes that can prevent problems. (Erin Owen )

Many people have to deal with messy hands or muddy paws on a regular basis. They’re a challenge, for sure, but are they deal-breakers when it comes to buying and maintaining quality furniture?

I don’t believe they are. Children and pets are vital considerations when purchasing furniture as they will spill, shed and scratch. They are no reason to delay a purchase, but keeping furniture clean will require some vigilance and maintenance.

Don’t break out the plastic slipcovers yet. The only time plastic is an appropriate covering for furniture is during transportation. It’s unnatural to stick to a seat. Thankfully the peak of plastic furniture coverings has subsided, but they’re still being sold.

It’s understandable why grandmothers across America wanted to protect their purchases. Luckily today, technology has come to our rescue. Manufacturers have developed fabrics that better resist different environmental damage.

Performance fabrics, including Crypton and Revolution, are widely available. Made of fibers that resist absorption and stains, they are the first line of defense. It is always important to know the recommended cleaning method and treat the spill as quickly as possible. Be cautious about applying a fabric protection product, because that may void a warranty from the manufacturer.

With pets it’s best to avoid textural fabrics that could invite them to scratch. Loosely woven textiles are likely to catch their nails. A tightly woven fabric or microfiber provides better protection, but both will require cleaning with a lint roller or vacuum.

Besides fabric, the furniture construction can enhance durability, especially when a sofa becomes a jumping platform for children.

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Furniture frames with integral legs will be stronger than ones with attached legs. Cushions with a firm sit are going to withstand usage better than pillowy, down cushions. Reversible cushions allow movement and rotation to distribute the wear evenly. A closed base help ensures little ones can’t crawl under or lose toys underneath.

Children and pets need to learn how to coexist with their environment. Baby gates and pet crates can limit their space, but it’s better when the whole family can be in one room. That time will be better spent not worrying about the condition of the furniture.

We can’t be drones surveilling surfaces all day. Something will sully the cushions. That’s when it’s time to schedule a professional cleaning.

Remember, in the end, the owners of those messy hands and muddy paws mean more to us than any piece of furniture. Oh, and plastic doesn’t belong on furniture.

Erin Owen graduated from the interior design program at Kirkwood Community College. She has worked as a commercial and residential interior designer. Comments: erin.n.owen@gmail.com

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