**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 noticed yourself thinking these words before? It’s a common phrase thrown around amongst homeowners, and if you’re a parent, maybe you’ve whispered the words yourself as you found another Picasso-inspired Sharpie work of genius on a living room wall.
Lots of families believe that in order to embrace the messiness of life and all its changes, the decor of their home has to languish. Today, I’m going to dismiss this myth for good!
As the principal at Susan Hill Design Group, I can tell you with total objectivity and extensive experience: you really can enjoy nice things. In fact, the ideal nice things will both look great and withstand inquisitive toddlers, sporty teens, shedding pets, and a sloppy spouse all together. Here’s what I recommend…
1. Quartz for Countertops
Quartz is a very sturdy, man-made surface that is a perfect choice for countertops in a hardworking kitchen. What does quartz provide you?
- As opposed to granite, quartz doesn't need to be sealed and is fairly maintenance-free.
- Its heavy-duty strength rivals concrete and won’t chip or fracture.
- Quartz looks extravagant and maintains its sheen for a very long time.
- It appears like natural stone, with veining, swirls, and patterns similar to marble or granite, and a variety of colors ranging from browns, blacks, blues, reds, and creams.
Your kiddos’ spilled lemonade (or your spilled red wine…) is not a problem. Simply wipe it clean with soapy water, and there's no etching or staining like you’d encounter with marble.
Above: When this family of five contacted us about designing their modern-style, new build in Charlotte, we understood that multiuse, family-friendly spaces and durable materials were the number one priority. Quartz was the ideal choice for their kitchen. The space is light, airy, and great for meal prep, homework help, family dinner, and easy cleanup. Style isn’t compromised at all, am I right?
Pro Tip: When selecting your slab, be sure to stick with quartz that is manufactured in America or Europe for the highest quality material.
2. Performance Fabrics for Upholstery
Many years ago, performance fabrics were usually reserved for outdoor use only. Now, we need performance fabrics in all sorts of ways and in rooms you’d never think of. The very qualities that make it ideal outside — toughness, stain resistance, fade resistance, and water resistance — are really practical to use indoors too!
Which kind of items can be made in performance fabrics?
- Bar stools
- Window treatments
- Even pillows!
Where do we like to include performance fabrics?
- In high-traffic areas, including a dining area, entryway, mudroom, or living area
- On decor where kids and pets gather
- In any spaces with high sun exposure (to prevent fading)
The cherry on top? Today, there are many different forms of fibers being used to produce 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 lush and soft to the hand but clean up in a snap. I’ll guess you would never know it if you were standing on a PET rug!
Above: Performance fabric was our number one pick when redesigning this family-friendly home. On the left, we dressed up this sunny spot with fade-resistant fabric that will keep the cushions looking new for longer. Right, a bench topped with a resilient, stain resistant cushion and throw pillows created an inviting area 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 quickly affect your walls: sticky fingerprints, scuffs from dropped shoes and bags, spattered food in the kitchen, a rainy-day game of chase along the halls, and a wet, full-body shake from Fido all leave their marks in place. And who has time for perpetual re-touching?
Robust, washable paint will come clean with a soapy scrub and noticeably extend the life and appearance of your painted walls. So, which will you go with?
- Eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss are superb, wipeable surfaces.
- If a matte finish is your cup of tea, there are more choices becoming available as well. Ask your designer or paint professional about your possible choices.
Above: You could be amazed to learn that this soothing office space is hidden away in a hectic household. For the built-ins, I opted for this charcoal-tone satin paint with a peachy neutral on the wall. It seems soft and stylish, but you better believe that it’s scrubbable…just in case.
4. Cordless Coverings for Windows
I appreciate conventional drapery, but for families with boisterous children, I often gravitate to cordless window treatments that won’t pose a risk for toddlers who like to investigate their surroundings. What do I prefer as an alternative?
All these materials provide privacy, light control, and are simpler 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 range of color, construction, and finishing options so that sacrificing style is never a concern!
Above: In this trendy, family-friendly home, we helped design the black-framed windows to draw the outdoors in. As a child’s space, we selected “barely there” roller shades for privacy, simple cleaning, and a minimal look that matches the architecture of the home.
5. Site-Finished Hardwoods & Tile for Flooring
I’ll let you in on a little secret: site-finished hardwood floors, in any species of wood, are really easy to maintain. Site-finished signifies that the wood is transported 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 way hardwood floors have been installed for hundreds and hundreds of years! Here’s why I adore it:
- Site-finished floors are versatile and easy to maintain
- They look and feel smoother than pre-finished floors
- They can be refinished over and over again, giving you the opportunity to modify them in a number of ways.
Conversely, tile is your “BFF” (best flooring friend) for any wet space, like mudrooms, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. Tile cleans up easily, resists stains, and is hard and durable. Just be sure to select a non-slip, non-skid option 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 best choice for endurance, ease of use, customization, and maintenance. Site-finished floors are actually quite forgiving, making them an ideal option in a new build.
Final Tip: Lean on the Experts
Now you accept it, right? You can have refinement and a space that goes with life's flow! When researching your new home, renovation, or refresh, think about the stage you are in now and how your needs will change over time. Then, reach out to the experts for help! Who should you call?
If you’re building or renovating, an interior designer is your top resource for designing a home — top to bottom — with materials that look good, perform 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 Columbus), 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.