**This article is a guest post by Susan Hill, the principal of Susan Hill Design Group, and appears here and on her website. Enjoy!**
“This is why we can’t have nice things…” Have you ever caught yourself thinking these words before? It’s a common phrase thrown around among homeowners, and if you’re a parent, perhaps you’ve muttered the words yourself as you discovered another Picasso-inspired Sharpie masterpiece on the living room wall.
Many families assume that in order to accept the messiness of life and all its changes, the aesthetic of their home has to suffer. Today, I’m going to dismiss this myth forever!
As the principal at Susan Hill Design Group, I can tell you with full objectivity and decades of experience: you really can have nice things. In fact, the best nice things will both look fantastic and withstand curious toddlers, sporty teens, shedding pets, and a sloppy spouse all together. Here’s what I suggest…
1. Quartz for Countertops
Quartz is a very durable, man-made surface that is a terrific solution for countertops in an industrious kitchen. What does quartz offer?
- Unlike granite, quartz never needs to be sealed and is fairly maintenance-free.
- Its heavy-duty strength rivals concrete and won’t chip or break.
- Quartz appears high-class and retains its sheen for quite a while.
- It appears like natural stone, with veining, swirls, and patterns like marble or granite, and an assortment of colors ranging from browns, blacks, blues, reds, and creams.
Your kiddos’ spilled lemonade (or your spilled red wine…) is not a problem. Effortlessly wipe it off with soapy water, and there's no etching or staining like you’d encounter with marble.
Above: When this family of five approached us about decorating their modern-style, new build in Charlotte, we recognized that multiuse, family-friendly rooms and durable materials were a high priority. Quartz was the best choice for their kitchen. The space is light, breezy, and perfect for meal prep, homework help, family dinner, and easy cleanup. Style isn’t jeopardized at all, am I right?
Pro Tip: When picking out your slab, make sure to stick with quartz that is manufactured in America or Europe for the strongest quality material.
2. Performance Fabrics for Upholstery
Back in the day, performance fabrics were typically reserved for outdoor use only. Now, we incorporate performance fabrics in all sorts of ways and in rooms you’d never think of. The same qualities that make it ideal outside — resilience, stain resistance, fade resistance, and water resistance — are quite practical to use indoors too!
Which kind of items can be generated in performance fabrics?
- Bar stools
- Window treatments
- Even pillows!
Where do we prefer to feature performance fabrics?
- In busy areas, such as a dining area, entryway, mudroom, or living area
- On furnishings where kids and pets gather
- In any spaces with prolonged sun exposure (to minimize fading)
The cherry on top? Today, there are many different varieties of fibers being used to create new, innovative fabrics that are more sustainable. Recycled water bottles are being mixed into fabrics and PET fibers are woven into rugs that feel sooo plush and soft to the hand but clean up in a snap. I’ll wager you would never know if you were standing on a PET rug!
Above: Performance fabric was our number one pick when decorating this family-friendly home. On the left, we spruced up this sunny spot with fade-resistant fabric that will keep the cushions looking new for longer. Right, a bench topped with a durable, stain resistant cushion and throw pillows delivered an inviting spot to tie shoes or organize a backpack to prep for the day.
3. Washable Paint for Walls
In my opinion, washable paint is a good investment! A home filled with activity will easily have an effect on your walls: messy fingerprints, scuffs from dropped shoes and bags, spattered food in the kitchen, a rainy-day game of chase through the halls, and a wet, full-body shake from Fido all leave their marks behind. And who has time for perpetual re-touching?
Tough, washable paint will clean off with a soapy scrub and substantially extend the life and appearance of your painted walls. So, which should you go with?
- Eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss are great, wipeable surfaces.
- If a matte finish is your cup of tea, there are more options becoming available as well. Ask your designer or paint professional about your options.
Above: You could be impressed to know that this relaxing office space is nestled away in a busy household. For the built-ins, I chose this charcoal-tone satin paint with a peachy neutral on the wall. It looks soft and stylish, but you better believe that it’s scrubbable…just in case.
4. Cordless Coverings for Windows
I adore conventional drapery, but for families with young children, I typically gravitate to cordless window treatments that won’t present a risk for toddlers who like to check out their surroundings. What do I prefer instead?
All these materials provide privacy, light control, and are easier to clean than fabric curtains. And, you can make quick and easy adjustments to keep them out of the way of little hands. They also come in a variety of color, construction, and finishing options so that compromising style is never an issue!
Above: In this trendy, family-friendly home, we helped design the black-framed windows to pull the outdoors in. As a child’s space, we decided on “barely there” roller shades for privacy, fast cleaning, and a minimalist look that suits the architecture of the home.
5. Site-Finished Hardwoods & Tile for Flooring
I’ll share a little secret: site-finished hardwood floors, in any species of wood, are quite easy to maintain. Site-finished means that the wood is shipped to your home raw, from the mill, installed in your home, and then sanded and finished to your precise specifications.
If this feel new, guess again. This is the method hardwood floors have been installed for hundreds and hundreds of years! Here’s why I prefer it:
- Site-finished floors are forgiving and easy to maintain
- They look and feel smoother than pre-finished floors
- They can be refinished again and again, giving you the freedom to modify them in a variety of ways.
Alternatively, tile is your “BFF” (best flooring friend) in regards to any wet space, like mudrooms, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. Tile cleans up easily, stands up to stains, and is solid and sturdy. Just take care to pick a non-slip, non-skid material by checking the “wet coefficient” — this will keep it safe for everyone, of every age!
Above: When pets are an important part of the family, hardwood floors are the ideal choice for endurance, ease of use, customization, and maintenance. Site-finished floors are actually really forgiving, making them an ideal solution in a new build.
Final Tip: Lean on the Experts
Now you believe it, right? You can have elegance and a space that rolls with life’s punches! When designing your new home, renovation, or refresh, think about the stage you are in now and how your needs will change over time. Then, contact the experts for help! Who should you call?
If you’re building or renovating, an interior designer is your best resource for designing a home — top to bottom — with materials that look good, work for your family, and are built to survive. If you aren’t looking for a full solution, just pieces here and there, consult the professionals in their respective fields: window treatment pros (like Louver Shop of Pittsburgh), your local countertop stone and paint suppliers, etc. There is no replacement for experience!
Until next time, I hope you get a little (or a lot) closer to a home with you at its heart.
Susan Hill is the owner and principal of Susan Hill Interior Design Group, where they believe in homes that support a family’s lifestyle and stand the test of time. For 20+ years, she and her team have served Charlotte, NC, and the surrounding areas with custom home design, construction management, and complete interior furnishings.