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12 Tips for Pet-Friendly Decorating (page 1 of 5)

Don't let your house go to the dogs and the cats. Follow these tips and you can keep your floors, walls and furniture looking great.

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Pet experts — Julia Szabo, columnist for the New York Post and author of Animal House Style: Designing a Home to Share With Your Pets (www.animalhousestyle.com), and Chicago interior designer Nan Ruvel, who designs pet-friendly interiors for her clients — share tips on pet-friendly decorating.

"The key is choosing the right materials and accommodating your animals' needs," says author Julia Szabo, who shares her digs with a dozen rescued dogs and cats. She says an animal-friendly house is more comfortable for humans too. "If a house doesn't work with dogs, it won't work with children or guests either."

Don't buy expensive rugs

Yes, you can use rugs. The trick is to buy inexpensive ones. Unlike carpet, rugs can be picked up and cleaned or thrown out. Sisal or seagrass mats are a good choice, says Julia, because they provide an elegant, neutral backdrop that will go with any decor. They're durable enough to withstand pet traffic, and they're cheap enough to toss when they get grungy. If disposable rugs strike you as an expensive way to keep your house chic, consider that it's cheaper to toss that $99 sisal rug than it is to pay for the skin problems your Newfoundland mix will develop when you put her in the yard in July.

Got an incredible heirloom Persian rug you absolutely cannot live without? Treat it as art and hang it on the wall, where your dog or cat can't reach it.

Skip wall-to-wall carpet

Carpet absorbs odors, traps pet hair and soaks up inevitable pet-related stains like a sponge. "I try to steer pet owners away from carpet," says Chicago interior designer Nan Ruvel, who designs animal-friendly interiors for clients and lives with three cats. "It's difficult to keep clean. It's a bad idea."

If you must have carpet, she says, choose a low pile. "It's easier to clean if there's an accident." And avoid continuous-loop carpet because a pet toenail can unravel it by catching a single woven loop.

Or try modular carpet tiles. "They're great," says Julia. "If a dog pees or a cat vomits, you can pull up the dirty tile and replace it with a new one. It's much cheaper than replacing an entire rug."

Choose hard surface floors

Bare floors are the way to go, but bare doesn't have to be boring. Painted concrete is lovely and durable, as are terrazzo and brick. Hardwood floors are simple to mop or vacuum and add a warm glow to a room, but keep in mind that large dogs can scratch wood.

The best floor is ceramic tile because it's easy to clean and resistant to any stain an animal can dish out. Tile is toenail-proof, makes a room look sleek and elegant and gives furry animals a cool place to nap during hot weather. Porous materials like marble or other natural stones aren't as pet-proof as other hard surfaces, since acids present in pet spit-up can stain them, even if they're sealed, designer Nan Ruvel says.

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