**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 saying these words before? It’s a common phrase tossed around between homeowners, and if you’re a mother or father, perhaps you’ve muttered the words yourself as you found another Picasso-inspired Sharpie work of genius on your living room wall.
Lots of families believe that in order to embrace the messiness of life and all its excitement, the appearance of their home has to waste away. 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 decades of experience: you really can own nice things. In fact, the best nice things will both look fantastic and resist curious toddlers, athletic teens, shedding pets, and a messy spouse all at the same time. Here’s what I propose…
1. Quartz for Countertops
Quartz is a very durable, man-made surface that is a terrific option for countertops in a hardworking kitchen. What does quartz offer?
- Compared to granite, quartz doesn't need to be sealed and is fairly maintenance-free.
- Its heavy-duty strength matches concrete and won’t chip or fracture.
- Quartz appears high-class and holds its sheen for a very long time.
- It appears like natural stone, with veining, swirls, and patterns like marble or granite, and a variety of colors including browns, blacks, blues, reds, and creams.
Your kiddos’ spilled lemonade (or your spilled red wine…) is not an issue. Effortlessly 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 recognized that multiuse, family-friendly spaces and sturdy materials were a top priority. Quartz was the best 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, 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 usually reserved for outdoor use only. Now, we incorporate performance fabrics in all sorts of ways and in rooms you’d never think of. The very qualities that make it convenient outside — toughness, stain resistance, fade resistance, and water resistance — are really practical to have indoors too!
What items can be generated in performance fabrics?
- Bar stools
- Window treatments
- Even pillows!
Where do we like to include performance fabrics?
- In high-traffic 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 varieties 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 in a snap. I’ll guess you would never know it if you were standing on a PET rug!
Above: Performance fabric was our top 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 in great shape. Right, a bench capped with a resilient, stain resistant cushion and throw pillows delivered an inviting place to tie shoes or load up a backpack to prep for the day.
3. Washable Paint for Walls
Personally, washable paint is a no-brainer! A home filled with activity will easily have an effect on your walls: sticky fingerprints, scuffs from dropped shoes and bags, food messes in the kitchen, a rainy-day game of chase along the halls, and a wet, full-body shake from Fido all leave their marks for posterity. And who has time for nonstop re-touching?
Robust, washable paint will come clean with a soapy scrub and substantially extend the life and beauty of your painted walls. So, which do you pick?
- 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 preferred colors.
Above: You might be amazed to learn that this relaxing office space is tucked away in a bustling household. For the built-ins, I chose this charcoal-tone satin paint with a peachy neutral on the wall. It feels 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 young children, I typically gravitate to 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 options supply privacy, light control, and are simpler to clean than fabric curtains. And, you can make quick and simple 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 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 decided on “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 let you in on a little secret: site-finished hardwood floors, in any species of wood, are really 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 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 chance to personalize them in multiple ways.
Conversely, tile is your “BFF” (best flooring friend) in regards to any wet space, like mudrooms, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. Tile cleans up with ease, stands up to stains, and is solid and resilient. Just be sure to pick a non-slip, non-skid flooring by looking at 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 best choice for resilience, ease of use, customization, and maintenance. Site-finished floors are actually quite forgiving, making them an ideal solution in a new build.
Final Tip: Lean on the Experts
Now you understand, right? You can have elegance and a space that rolls with life’s punches! When planning your new home, renovation, or refresh, look at the stage you are in now and how your needs may develop over time. Then, get in touch with 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, perform for your family, and are built to endure. If you aren’t hunting for a full solution, just pieces here and there, talk to the specialists in their respective fields: window treatment pros (like Louver Shop of Knoxville), 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.