Do you have allergies? Your home should be a safe haven and not a place that resounds with your sneezing and sniffling. Let's start with the basics to make your home as hypoallergenic as possible.
The floors should be hard, such as wood, tile, marble or linoleum. Carpets, unfortunately, attract dust mites, which become airborne when you walk on the carpet; and then you inhale and — aaachooo!
If too much hard flooring seems unlivable, add area rugs that can be removed and cleaned on a regular basis. A throw rug by the bed makes getting up in the morning a little more comfortable underfoot. An area rug in the family room helps make the room feel more homey and comfortable.
Perhaps your allergies aren't that bad. Okay, so you can keep your carpet, but be sure to vacuum regularly — and that doesn't mean just once a week. Vacuuming should be done at least three times a week to keep dust mites in check. Some manufacturers suggest vacuuming daily. And don't forget to move the furniture and vacuum in those hiding places.
The walls should be wallpaper-free wherever possible. If wallpaper is a must, use smooth paper and not any grass cloth or nubby-type paper. Wipe the walls (papered or not) often because dust can settle and the incessant sneezing will start. Minimal wood trim on the walls is better because dust gathers easily in the crevices of the wood.
Leather furniture is ideal for those with allergies, as the dust mites can't live or colonize in leather or vinyl. If replacing your current upholstery with leather isn't feasible, get that vacuum out again and vacuum the furniture frequently. Or use throws or washable slipcovers on the couch or chairs.
Window shutters or wood blinds are better than cloth draperies in that they can be wiped clean regularly. Draperies can be dry-cleaned, but that is a chore and an expense.
What if you have pets? It's best to frequently wash and brush them. Consider creating a pet-free area in the family room and the bedroom where you spend most of your time. Dogs can be trained to stay in a certain area. A special dog bed or rug that can be washed easily and frequently is a good idea.
Cats are tougher, as they have minds of their own, plus the cat doesn't have to be in the room for allergens to be present. The allergens from cats are airborne and come from their personal grooming. Be sure to vacuum and wash clothes and fabrics frequently.
If all else fails, keep those tissues handy.
Rosemary Sadez Friedmann, an interior designer in Naples, is author of "Mystery of Color."