**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 found yourself exclaiming these words before? It’s a frequent phrase cast around among homeowners, and if you’re a mother or father, it may be that you’ve whispered the words yourself as you spotted another Picasso-inspired Sharpie work of genius on the living room wall.
Some families believe that in order to accept the messiness of life and all its moving parts, the appearance of their home has to suffer. Today, I’m going to dispel this myth forever!
As the principal at Susan Hill Design Group, I can tell you with complete objectivity and extensive experience: you really can have nice things. In fact, the right nice things will both look good and resist inquisitive toddlers, outdoorsy teens, shedding pets, and a cluttered spouse all together. Here’s what I advise…
1. Quartz for Countertops
Quartz is a very resilient, man-made surface that is a terrific choice for countertops in an industrious kitchen. What does quartz provide you?
- As opposed to granite, quartz doesn't need to be sealed and is comparatively maintenance-free.
- Its heavy-duty strength rivals concrete and won’t chip or crack.
- Quartz appears extravagant and keeps its sheen for quite a while.
- It resembles natural stone, with veining, swirls, and patterns like marble or granite, and a variety of colors made up of browns, blacks, blues, reds, and creams.
Your kiddos’ spilled lemonade (or your spilled red wine…) is no problem. Simply wipe it clean with soapy water, and there's no etching or staining like you’d face 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 solid materials were a top priority. Quartz was the ideal choice for their kitchen. The space is light, open, and ideal for meal prep, homework help, family living, and easy cleanup. Style isn’t compromised at all, am I right?
Pro Tip: When selecting your slab, try to stick with quartz that is manufactured in America or Europe for the highest quality material.
2. Performance Fabrics for Upholstery
Not that long ago, performance fabrics were normally reserved for outdoor use only. Now, we employ performance fabrics in so many ways and in rooms you’d never think of. The very qualities that make it great outside — toughness, stain resistance, fade resistance, and water resistance — are quite practical to use indoors too!
Which items can be generated in performance fabrics?
- Bar stools
- Window treatments
- Even pillows!
Where do we love to include performance fabrics?
- In heavily used areas, including a dining area, entryway, mudroom, or living area
- On furniture where kids and pets gather
- In any spaces with high sun exposure (to reduce fading)
The cherry on top? Today, there are many different kinds of fibers being used to produce new, innovative fabrics that are environment-friendly. 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 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 touched up this sunny spot with fade-resistant fabric that will keep the cushions looking new for longer. Right, a bench capped with a resilient, stain resistant cushion and throw pillows fashioned an inviting spot to tie shoes or load up a backpack to prep for the day.
3. Washable Paint for Walls
In my view, washable paint is a no-brainer! A home filled with activity will easily impact your walls: sticky fingerprints, scuffs from dropped shoes and bags, splattered 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 for posterity. And who has time for constant re-touching?
Tough, washable paint will clean off with a soapy scrub and substantially extend the life and aesthetic of your painted walls. So, which should you choose?
- Eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss are great, wipeable surfaces.
- If a matte finish is your cup of tea, there are more materials becoming available as well. Ask your designer or paint professional about your favorite colors.
Above: You may be impressed to know that this soothing office space is hidden away in a bustling household. For the built-ins, I decided to go with 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 classic drapery, but for families with young children, I usually gravitate toward cordless window treatments that won’t pose a risk for toddlers who like to explore their surroundings. What do I prefer as an alternative?
All these materials provide privacy, light control, and are more convenient 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 number of color, construction, and finishing options so that giving up style is never an issue!
Above: In this contemporary, family-friendly home, we helped design the black-framed windows to draw the outdoors in. As a child’s space, we chose “barely there” roller shades for privacy, fast cleaning, and a minimal 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 signifies that the wood is shipped to your home raw, from the mill, installed in your home, and then sanded and finished to your exact specifications.
If this seems new, guess again. This is the technique hardwood floors have been installed for hundreds and hundreds of years! Here’s why I love it:
- Site-finished floors are forgiving 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 multiple ways.
On the other hand, tile is your “BFF” (best flooring friend) regarding any wet space, including mudrooms, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. Tile cleans up well, withstands stains, and is hard and sturdy. Just make sure to find a non-slip, non-skid material by looking at the “wet coefficient” — this will keep it safe for everyone, no matter the age!
Above: When pets are an important part of the family, hardwood floors are the top choice for toughness, ease of use, customization, and maintenance. Site-finished floors are actually really forgiving, making them a terrific choice in a new build.
Final Tip: Lean on the Experts
Now you accept it, right? You can have elegance and a space that goes with life's flow! When designing your new home, renovation, or refresh, look at the stage you are in now and how your needs may 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 greatest resource for designing a home — top to bottom — with materials that look good, function for your family, and are built to endure. If you aren’t hunting for a full solution, just pieces here and there, check with the specialists in their respective fields: window treatment pros (like Louver Shop of North Alabama), your local countertop stone and paint suppliers, etc. There is no alternative 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.