**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 frequent phrase tossed around between homeowners, and if you’re a parent, perhaps you’ve whispered the words yourself as you spotted another Picasso-inspired Sharpie work of genius on the living room wall.
Some families think that in order to embrace the messiness of life and all its excitement, the aesthetic of their home has to suffer. Today, I’m going to dispel 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 right nice things will both look good and withstand inquisitive toddlers, sporty teens, shedding pets, and a cluttered spouse all together. Here’s what I propose…
1. Quartz for Countertops
Quartz is a very sturdy, man-made surface that is a perfect option for countertops in an industrious kitchen. What does quartz provide you?
- As opposed to granite, quartz never needs to be sealed and is relatively maintenance-free.
- Its heavy-duty strength rivals concrete and won’t chip or fracture.
- Quartz appears extravagant and holds its sheen for a very long time.
- It looks like natural stone, with veining, swirls, and patterns like marble or granite, and an assortment of colors made up of browns, blacks, blues, reds, and creams.
Your kiddos’ spilled lemonade (or your spilled red wine…) is no problem. Just wipe it away 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 creating an interior design for their modern-style, new build in Charlotte, we understood that multiuse, family-friendly areas and solid materials were a high priority. Quartz was the best choice for their kitchen. The space is light, airy, and ideal for meal prep, homework help, family life, 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 highest quality material.
2. Performance Fabrics for Upholstery
Many years ago, performance fabrics were normally reserved for outdoor use only. Now, we employ performance fabrics in lots of ways and in rooms you’d never consider. The very qualities that make it ideal outside — durability, stain resistance, fade resistance, and water resistance — are just as practical to have indoors too!
Which kind of items can be made in performance fabrics?
- Bar stools
- Window treatments
- Even pillows!
Where do we like to incorporate performance fabrics?
- In high-traffic areas, including 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 lots of 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 lush and soft to the hand but clean up no problem. I’ll guess you would never realize it if you were standing on a PET rug!
Above: Performance fabric was our best pick when designing 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 topped with a durable, stain resistant cushion and throw pillows delivered an inviting place to tie shoes or organize a backpack to prep for the day.
3. Washable Paint for Walls
Personally, washable paint is a must-buy! A home loaded with activity will quickly have an effect on your walls: sticky fingerprints, scuffs from dropped shoes and bags, splattered 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 for posterity. And who has time for perpetual re-touching?
Strong, washable paint will come off with a soapy scrub and significantly extend the life and appearance of your painted walls. So, which should 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 may be amazed to learn that this relaxing office space is hidden away in a busy household. For the built-ins, I chose 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 love classic drapery, but for families with boisterous children, I usually gravitate towards cordless window treatments that won’t pose a risk for toddlers who like to explore their surroundings. What do I prefer in its place?
All these options supply privacy, light control, and are easier to clean than fabric curtains. And, you can make quick and easy adjustments to keep them away from little hands. They also come in a number of color, construction, and finishing options so that giving up style is never a problem!
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, easy 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 requires that the wood is shipped to your home raw, from the mill, installed in your home, and then sanded and finished to your specific 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 like it:
- Site-finished floors are forgiving and easy to maintain
- They look and feel smoother than pre-finished floors
- They can be refinished repeatedly, 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 easily, stands up to stains, and is solid and durable. Just take care to pick a non-slip, non-skid material by checking the “wet coefficient” — this will keep it safe for everyone, regardless of age!
Above: When pets are an essential part of the family, hardwood floors are the top choice for durability, ease of use, customization, and maintenance. Site-finished floors are actually very forgiving, making them a great solution in a new build.
Final Tip: Lean on the Experts
Now you understand, right? You can have elegance and a space that meets your life's needs! When planning your new home, renovation, or refresh, look at the stage you are in now and how your needs could evolve over time. Then, contact 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 last. If you aren’t looking for a full solution, just pieces here and there, check with the professionals in their respective fields: window treatment pros (like Louver Shop of Tampa), your local countertop stone and paint suppliers, etc. There is no substitute 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.