While some might decide to wait until their children are older to decorate, I never wanted to sacrifice my interest in design to wait until my children are "old enough" to appreciate it or understand "not to touch"something, and I don't think you should either. Who knows when they would ever be "old enough" (especially with two boys). And I don't want them to be afraid of a room or space, because they can't go near it. I say that now maybe because we have nothing of great value in our house, minus one, very sturdy and large, piece of furniture that I have which has been pasted down several generations. Other than that we have not invested in expensive art or accessories, and to me furniture is meant to be used by a family, not just for admiring.
I'm sure there are lots of tips and ideas online to help decorate around the kiddos. HGTV has some good tips, especially for older children. I will talk about some of those and some from my personal experience (I only know what I know about a child under 2 - so far). I'm sure I will have updated blogs as my children grow and throughout different holidays (a Christmas tree will be new found territory, for us, this year...)
Since I have a 21 month old son and a soon-to-be-newborn (November 2015) I am just starting to experience this predicament. My first taste was when my son was starting to get around and was pulling himself up on things. TIP * Bolt things to the wall! I needed to get rid of my super-cute glass cocktail table in our Family Room. It was sad day for me (very cute table), but children (especially small ones) do not understand not to lean on glass; plus the finger prints are not worth dealing with. I have vivid memories of my grandmother repeatedly telling us to not to rest our weight on the glass top kitchen table. For a while we had nothing in place of the cocktail table, the spaced opened up for his toy area, while I decided what I wanted to replace it with. We ended up with a solid wood, trestle-based cocktail table, that matches some other furniture in our house. This however is a piece of furniture that remains empty, or topped with a book/toy of his. It is where we like to color and eat some snacks. Since it is his height I decided not to decorate this table top with anything I don't want him to touch, included remotes. It won't be like this forever, but we have to get through the "putting everything in his mouth" stage. It is a sturdy piece of furniture, because he is now at the stage where he likes to climb on top of the table while I am not looking.
We also have a very inexpensive rug in our Family Room. You can definitely find stylish rugs for a reasonable price. Ours is certainly something that I don't mind if there are spills on it, because I know there will be (and have been). The area in our house needs a rug because we have an open floor plan and it is one of the only things that defines the space, but maybe you decide to opt out of carpet and rugs while they are very young.
TIP* Don't buy something you can't part with when the kiddos do what they do best!
As far as accessorizing, I have come to terms that minimalistic is better these days, but that doesn't mean giving up all fun things. I have put the accessories that I cherish most (photos frames, books, candles, plants) out of reach. There is nothing too small that could hurt them around anymore (you know the nick-nacks that you collect and love but that have no purpose). Consolidating accessories on a table (my Dining Table - for example) is pleasing to the eye and helps keep things away from the edge, in grabbing distance. We are not at the point where he is climbing on the dining table via the chairs. So I do have a small tray as a center piece. It contains, a couple candles, some olive oil (purely because I needed the height and liked the bottles - thank you Homegoods), napkins, salt and pepper, and a water jug, which actually holds hand sanitizer for those times we get him in his high chair and have forgotten to wash his hands, or have a food disaster at the table. The water pitcher is also used as a flower vase when I feel the urge to buy/ pick flowers for the house.
Here is a picture of the tray on my Dining Table, and it can be decorated differently for each holiday. (yes, the Halloween decorations will be making an appearance in our house very soon)
Another way to add in your precious accessories is by grouping them in a glass front china hutch or glass cabinet. You will be able to see them without having little hands touch. Doing this adds interest and color to a room while your keep sakes remain safe, and organizing a hutch or glass cabinet can be a lot of fun!
TIP* Don't forget how you actually live in a space. Something may look great on Pintrest or in a magazine, but if you can't enjoy your daily life in the space its not worth having (in my opinion).
TIP* Don't forget easy ways to add color, though art and pillows. There are great colorful inexpensive pillows out there, keep them simple with no fringe or buttons, around the kiddos).
TIP* I learned a long time ago, before kids, Satin or Eggshell paint is much easier to wipe down than flat paint. Instead of alway repainting, start out with one that has a little sheen, and most scuffs will easily be wiped away.
Happy Toddler Friendly Decorating!