**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, perhaps you’ve muttered the words yourself as you discovered another Picasso-inspired Sharpie work of genius on the living room wall.
Many families think that in order to embrace the messiness of life and all its changes, the appearance of their home has to languish. Today, I’m going to eliminate this myth for good!
As the principal at Susan Hill Design Group, I can tell you with complete objectivity and extensive experience: you really can enjoy nice things. In fact, the best nice things will both look great and endure concerned toddlers, outdoorsy teens, shedding pets, and a cluttered spouse all at the same time. Here’s what I propose…
1. Quartz for Countertops
Quartz is a very resilient, man-made surface that is a great solution for countertops in a hardworking kitchen. What does quartz provide you?
- Unlike granite, quartz will never need to be sealed and is fairly maintenance-free.
- Its heavy-duty strength matches concrete and won’t chip or break.
- Quartz looks elegant and holds its sheen for quite a while.
- It appears like natural stone, with veining, swirls, and patterns resembling marble or granite, and an assortment 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 approached us about decorating their modern-style, new build in Charlotte, we understood that multiuse, family-friendly areas and durable materials were a high priority. Quartz was the ideal choice for their kitchen. The space is light, open, and perfect for meal prep, homework help, family living, and simple cleanup. Style isn’t lost 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 strongest quality material.
2. Performance Fabrics for Upholstery
Many years ago, performance fabrics were typically reserved for outdoor use only. Now, we incorporate performance fabrics in so many ways and in rooms you’d never think of. The very qualities that make it convenient outside — resilience, stain resistance, fade resistance, and water resistance — are really practical to have indoors too!
Which items can be designed in performance fabrics?
- Bar stools
- Window treatments
- Even pillows!
Where do we prefer to incorporate performance fabrics?
- In high-traffic areas, like a dining area, entryway, mudroom, or living area
- On furnishings where kids and pets gather
- In any spaces with heavy sun exposure (to reduce fading)
The cherry on top? Today, there are lots of different forms of fibers being used to create 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 no problem. I’ll wager you would never know it if you were standing on a PET rug!
Above: Performance fabric was our top pick when redesigning this family-friendly home. On the left, we touched up this sunny spot with fade-resistant fabric that will keep the cushions looking their best. Right, a bench capped with a durable, stain resistant cushion and throw pillows delivered an inviting place to tie shoes or pack a backpack to prep for the day.
3. Washable Paint for Walls
In my view, washable paint is a no-brainer! A home brimming 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 in the halls, and a wet, full-body shake from Fido all leave their marks behind. And who has time for perpetual re-touching?
Robust, washable paint will come off with a soapy scrub and noticeably extend the life and appearance of your painted walls. So, which do you go with?
- Eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss are nice, wipeable surfaces.
- If a matte finish is your preference, there are more choices becoming available as well. Ask your designer or paint professional about your options.
Above: You might be impressed to learn that this soothing office space is tucked away in a busy household. For the built-ins, I decided to go with 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 love conventional drapery, but for families with boisterous children, I typically gravitate towards cordless window treatments that won’t be 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 more convenient to clean than fabric curtains. And, you can make quick and simple adjustments to keep them away from little hands. They also come in a number of color, construction, and finishing options so that compromising style is never a problem!
Above: In this contemporary, family-friendly home, we helped design the black-framed windows to pull the outdoors in. As a child’s space, we selected “barely there” roller shades for privacy, easy cleaning, and a clean final look that matches 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 specific specifications.
If this sounds 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 flexible 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 a number of ways.
Alternatively, tile is your “BFF” (best flooring friend) for any wet space, such as mudrooms, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. Tile cleans up well, withstands stains, and is solid and sturdy. Just remember 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 essential part of the family, hardwood floors are the best choice for toughness, ease of use, customization, and maintenance. Site-finished floors are actually quite forgiving, making them a terrific choice in a new build.
Final Tip: Lean on the Experts
Now you understand, right? You can have refinement 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 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 best resource for designing a home — top to bottom — with materials that look good, work for your family, and are built to survive. If you aren’t searching for a full solution, just pieces here and there, consult the experts in their respective fields: window treatment pros (like Louver Shop of San Antonio), 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.