**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 frequent phrase cast around among homeowners, and if you’re a mother or father, maybe you’ve murmured the words yourself as you discovered another Picasso-inspired Sharpie masterpiece on the living room wall.
Many families assume that in order to embrace the messiness of life and all its moving parts, the aesthetic of their home has to waste away. Today, I’m going to dismiss this myth forever!
As the principal at Susan Hill Design Group, I can tell you with complete objectivity and decades of experience: you really can own nice things. In fact, the ideal nice things will both look fantastic and withstand concerned toddlers, sporty teens, shedding pets, and a cluttered spouse all together. Here’s what I recommend…
1. Quartz for Countertops
Quartz is a very sturdy, man-made surface that is a terrific choice for countertops in a busy kitchen. What does quartz have going for it?
- Unlike granite, quartz will never need to be sealed and is comparatively maintenance-free.
- Its heavy-duty strength matches concrete and won’t chip or crack.
- Quartz looks high-class and maintains its sheen for a very long time.
- It appears like natural stone, with veining, swirls, and patterns resembling 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 no problem. Simply 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 called us about decorating their modern-style, new build in Charlotte, we knew that multiuse, family-friendly rooms and resilient materials were a top priority. Quartz was the perfect choice for their kitchen. The space is light, breezy, and perfect for meal prep, homework help, family life, and easy cleanup. Style isn’t affected at all, am I right?
Pro Tip: When choosing 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
Back in the day, performance fabrics were generally reserved for outdoor use only. Now, we use performance fabrics in lots of ways and in rooms you’d never think of. The exact qualities that make it convenient outside — resilience, stain resistance, fade resistance, and water resistance — are just as practical to have indoors too!
Which kind of items can be generated in performance fabrics?
- Bar stools
- Window treatments
- Even pillows!
Where do we like to incorporate performance fabrics?
- In heavily used areas, like a dining area, entryway, mudroom, or living area
- On furniture where kids and pets gather
- In any spaces with prolonged sun exposure (to avoid fading)
The cherry on top? Today, there are countless different forms of fibers being used to make new, innovative fabrics that are eco-friendly. Recycled water bottles are being blended into fabrics and PET fibers are woven into rugs that feel sooo luxurious and soft to the hand but clean up no problem. I’ll bet you would never know it if you were standing on a PET rug!
Above: Performance fabric was our best pick when redesigning 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 created an inviting area to tie shoes or load up a backpack to prep for the day.
3. Washable Paint for Walls
In my opinion, washable paint is a must-buy! A home brimming with activity will swiftly affect your walls: smeared fingerprints, scuffs from dropped shoes and bags, splattered food in the kitchen, a rainy-day game of chase in the halls, and a wet, full-body shake from Fido all leave their marks in place. And who has time for perpetual re-touching?
Tough, washable paint will clean off with a soapy scrub and noticeably extend the life and appearance of your painted walls. So, which will you pick?
- Eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss are great, wipeable surfaces.
- If a matte finish is your favored look, there are more materials becoming available as well. Ask your designer or paint professional about your favorite colors.
Above: You could be impressed to find out that this calming office space is nestled 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 sumptuous, 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 typically gravitate toward cordless window treatments that won’t present a risk for toddlers who like to investigate their surroundings. What do I prefer instead?
All these materials supply 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 giving up 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 decided on “barely there” roller shades for privacy, simple cleaning, and a clean final 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 very easy to maintain. Site-finished means that the wood is transported to your home raw, from the mill, installed in your home, and then sanded and finished to your exact 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 like it:
- Site-finished floors are flexible 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 personalize them in many different ways.
Alternatively, tile is your “BFF” (best flooring friend) regarding any wet space, such as mudrooms, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. Tile cleans up well, withstands stains, and is hard and sturdy. Just make sure to choose a non-slip, non-skid option by finding the “wet coefficient” — this will keep it safe for everyone, of every age!
Above: When pets are an indispensable part of the family, hardwood floors are the top choice for resilience, ease of use, customization, and maintenance. Site-finished floors are actually quite forgiving, making them an ideal choice in a new build.
Final Tip: Lean on the Experts
Now you understand, right? You can have refinement and a space that rolls with life’s punches! When designing your new home, renovation, or refresh, consider the stage you are in now and how your needs will develop 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, function for your family, and are built to last. If you aren’t hunting for a full solution, just pieces here and there, consult the experts in their respective fields: window treatment pros (like Louver Shop of New Jersey), 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.