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Before reviewing paint swatches or flipping through wallpaper patterns, designer Maggie Dillon sat down with her clients, a young couple who had recently closed on their dream home in Greensboro, North Carolina, to discuss her ultimate childproofing hack: Fiber-Seal

“I always do my best to search for any kind of performance fabric, but never want to sacrifice too much, whether it’s a texture or the right print,” explains Dillon. “That’s where my peace of mind comes in with fiber protection services—it makes it so I don’t have to water down our designs.” And with two young children (at the time, a 1-year-old and 4-month-old), that meant the homeowners didn’t have to worry about striking a balance between the soft, plushy textiles they loved and those that could withstand sticky hands and toddler-size messes

Scalloped Lampshade, Etsy.

But here’s the thing: You can’t buy it at a store. As a patented treatment, it requires the help of a professional. “I usually work with a husband-and-wife duo out of Raleigh, Fiber-Seal of the Triangle and Triad,” says Dillion. “They come in wearing booties, with a 5-gallon jug that looks pretty similar to a weed sprayer. If I’m working out of town, I’ll ask them for recommendations in a different city, but you can Google and search ‘fiber protection service’ to find someone near you.”

Swivel Chairs, Highland House; Grasscloth Coffee Table, Society Social.

They can treat an entire home, one room, or even just a single piece of furniture, which Dillon has done on more than one occasion, ever since her 25-pound Labradoodle decided a vintage waterfall bench was her personal perch. Now, even when Dillon doesn’t catch a muddy paw print right away, she’s been able to vacuum up spots no problem. The invisible coating usually works on any type of fabric, from linen to velvet to even the fanciest of silks, and doesn’t alter appearances at all (though Dillon recommends testing first). “Instead of immediately seeping through, spills bead up at the surface,” she explains, thanks to suspended polymers. “There’s no odor and Fiber-Seal is GreenGuard certified (an independent, indoor health standard), so it’s safe for kids and pets.” 

Wallpaper, Ottoline.

And it doesn’t take terribly long to apply, unlike installing hardwood floors or tearing out kitchen cabinets. For this project, the process was roughly three hours, plus a couple extra to account for drying. Fiber-Seal shouldn’t run you as much in cost either—a room usually sets Dillon back by only about $1,500, which she argues is nothing when the result is a decade of stain-free custom drapes or upholstery. 

Sisal Rug, Prestige Mills.

Just a hair shy of 200 square feet, the small space Dillon tackled was an awkward connector between the kitchen and dining room, but didn’t serve much of a purpose otherwise. The goal was for it to be extra space for the young ones to hang without a screen during the day, then a modern, English-inspired cocktail lounge when the kids are asleep and company is over. 

A funky floral pattern started it all. The previous owners had used a different wallpaper in the room, so it was easy to envision, though every other available inch was covered in pink paint. “They wanted to get rid of that as quickly as possible and thankfully they trusted me,” recalls Dilon. “The only pushback I got was on a plum-purple for the trim.” 

Yellow Pitcher, R. Runberg.

They went with Benjamin Moore’s Shady Lane, a mossy green, instead. Soon after, everything else fell into place, from the velvetlike couch (that’s 100 percent polyester, so it’s durable and affordable) and diamond-woven sisal rug to the scalloped lampshades and plaid pillows. Besides the fact that it’s all protected by Fiber-Seal, Dillon argues prints, especially on a small scale, are far more forgiving with stains than solids. Bring on the melted chocolate candies and grape juice splatters.