**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 saying these words before? It’s a common phrase tossed around amongst homeowners, and if you’re a parent, maybe you’ve muttered the words yourself as you spotted another Picasso-inspired Sharpie work of art on your living room wall.
Lots of families assume that in order to welcome the messiness of life and all its excitement, the aesthetic of their home has to suffer. Today, I’m going to dismiss this myth permanently!
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 ideal nice things will both look fantastic and withstand inquisitive toddlers, athletic teens, shedding pets, and a cluttered spouse all at once. Here’s what I advise…
1. Quartz for Countertops
Quartz is a very sturdy, man-made surface that is a great option for countertops in a busy kitchen. What does quartz offer?
- Compared to granite, quartz never needs to be sealed and is comparatively maintenance-free.
- Its heavy-duty strength is similar to concrete and won’t chip or fracture.
- Quartz feels extravagant and holds its sheen for quite a while.
- It appears like natural stone, with veining, swirls, and patterns resembling marble or granite, and an array of colors made up of browns, blacks, blues, reds, and creams.
Your kiddos’ spilled lemonade (or your spilled red wine…) is not a problem. Simply wipe it off with soapy water, and there's no etching or staining like you’d experience with marble.
Above: When this family of five approached us about creating an interior design for their modern-style, new build in Charlotte, we understood that multiuse, family-friendly rooms and durable materials were a high priority. Quartz was the ideal choice for their kitchen. The space is light, airy, and perfect for meal prep, homework help, family life, and simple cleanup. Style isn’t jeopardized at all, am I right?
Pro Tip: When picking out 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
Back in the day, performance fabrics were generally reserved for outdoor use only. Now, we need performance fabrics in all sorts of ways and in rooms you’d never have thought of. The same qualities that make it great outside — resilience, stain resistance, fade resistance, and water resistance — are really practical to keep indoors too!
Which items can be made in performance fabrics?
- Bar stools
- Window treatments
- Even pillows!
Where do we love to include 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 reduce fading)
The cherry on top? Today, there are countless different kinds 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 easily. I’ll guess you would never realize it if you were standing on a PET rug!
Above: Performance fabric was our number one 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 looking new for longer. Right, a bench topped with a long-lasting, stain resistant cushion and throw pillows delivered an inviting spot to tie shoes or organize a backpack to prep for the day.
3. Washable Paint for Walls
In my opinion, washable paint is a no-brainer! A home filled with activity will swiftly have an effect on your walls: messy fingerprints, scuffs from dropped shoes and bags, food messes in the kitchen, a rainy-day game of chase through the halls, and a wet, full-body shake from Fido all leave their marks in place. And who has time for nonstop re-touching?
Tough, washable paint will come off with a soapy scrub and significantly extend the life and aesthetic of your painted walls. So, which will you choose?
- Eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss are nice, wipeable surfaces.
- If a matte finish is your favored look, there are more options becoming available as well. Ask your designer or paint professional about your possible choices.
Above: You could be pleased to know that this soothing 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 sumptuous, but you better believe that it’s scrubbable…just in case.
4. Cordless Coverings for Windows
I appreciate traditional drapery, but for families with young children, I often gravitate to cordless window treatments that won’t present a risk for toddlers who like to investigate their surroundings. What do I prefer instead?
All these choices provide privacy, light control, and are easier to clean than fabric curtains. And, you can make quick and painless adjustments to keep them out of reach of little hands. They also come in a variety of color, construction, and finishing options so that compromising style is never an issue!
Above: In this modern, family-friendly home, we helped design the black-framed windows to bring the outdoors in. As a child’s space, we chose “barely there” roller shades for privacy, easy cleaning, and a clean final look that complements the architecture of the home.
5. Site-Finished Hardwoods & Tile for Flooring
I’ll offer up 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 precise 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 versatile and easy to maintain
- They look and feel smoother than pre-finished floors
- They can be refinished again and again, giving you the freedom to personalize them in a number of ways.
Conversely, tile is your “BFF” (best flooring friend) when it comes to any wet space, like mudrooms, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. Tile cleans up with ease, resists stains, and is solid and durable. Just be sure to pick a non-slip, non-skid material 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 top choice for resilience, ease of use, customization, and maintenance. Site-finished floors are actually very forgiving, making them a quality option in a new build.
Final Tip: Lean on the Experts
Now you understand, right? You can have sophistication and a space that meets your life's needs! When planning your new home, renovation, or refresh, consider the stage you are in now and how your needs may change 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, work for your family, and are built to endure. If you aren’t searching for a full solution, just pieces here and there, consult the professionals in their respective fields: window treatment pros (like Louver Shop of Atlanta), 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.