**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 thinking these words before? It’s a common phrase thrown around between homeowners, and if you’re a mom or dad, maybe you’ve murmured the words yourself as you found another Picasso-inspired Sharpie masterpiece on your 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 once and for all!
As the principal at Susan Hill Design Group, I can tell you with full objectivity and decades of experience: you really can own nice things. In fact, the best nice things will both look fantastic and withstand curious toddlers, outdoorsy teens, shedding pets, and a sloppy 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 choice for countertops in a busy kitchen. What does quartz provide you?
- Unlike granite, quartz never needs to be sealed and is relatively maintenance-free.
- Its heavy-duty strength matches concrete and won’t chip or crack.
- Quartz looks high-class and maintains its sheen for many, many years.
- It seems like natural stone, with veining, swirls, and patterns resembling marble or granite, and an array of colors ranging from browns, blacks, blues, reds, and creams.
Your kiddos’ spilled lemonade (or your spilled red wine…) is not an issue. Effortlessly 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 called us about decorating their modern-style, new build in Charlotte, we knew that multiuse, family-friendly areas and solid materials were a high priority. Quartz was the perfect choice for their kitchen. The space is light, open, and ideal for meal prep, homework help, family dinner, and simple cleanup. Style isn’t lost at all, am I right?
Pro Tip: When picking out your slab, be sure to stick with quartz that is manufactured in America or Europe for the best quality material.
2. Performance Fabrics for Upholstery
Not that long ago, performance fabrics were normally reserved for outdoor use only. Now, we incorporate performance fabrics in so many ways and in rooms you’d never have thought of. The same qualities that make it great outside — durability, stain resistance, fade resistance, and water resistance — are just as practical to use indoors too!
Which kind of items can be made in performance fabrics?
- Bar stools
- Window treatments
- Even pillows!
Where do we prefer to incorporate performance fabrics?
- In heavily used areas, including a dining area, entryway, mudroom, or living area
- On furnishings where kids and pets gather
- In any spaces with prolonged sun exposure (to prevent fading)
The cherry on top? Today, there are many different forms of fibers being used to make new, innovative fabrics that are eco-friendly. Recycled water bottles are being mixed into fabrics and PET fibers are woven into rugs that feel sooo luxurious and soft to the hand but clean up easily. I’ll wager you would never know it if you were standing on a PET rug!
Above: Performance fabric was our best pick when decorating this family-friendly home. On the left, we dressed up this sunny spot with fade-resistant fabric that will keep the cushions looking new for longer. Right, a bench capped with a long-lasting, 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
In my view, washable paint is a no-brainer! A home loaded with activity will easily affect your walls: smeared fingerprints, scuffs from dropped shoes and bags, spattered 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 for posterity. And who has time for perpetual 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 choose?
- 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 possible choices.
Above: You may be surprised to know that this relaxing office space is tucked away in a busy household. For the built-ins, I opted for this charcoal-tone satin paint with a peachy neutral on the wall. It feels soft and sophisticated, but you better believe that it’s scrubbable…just in case.
4. Cordless Coverings for Windows
I adore classic drapery, but for families with small 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 in its place?
All these materials offer 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 range of color, construction, and finishing options so that compromising style is never a concern!
Above: In this modern, 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 minimalist look that matches 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 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 sounds new, guess again. This is the way hardwood floors have been installed for hundreds and hundreds of years! Here’s why I adore it:
- Site-finished floors are versatile 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 personalize them in a variety of ways.
On the other hand, tile is your “BFF” (best flooring friend) for any wet space, like mudrooms, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. Tile cleans up with ease, withstands stains, and is tough and durable. Just be sure to pick a non-slip, non-skid flooring by finding the “wet coefficient” — this will keep it safe for everyone, of every age!
Above: When pets are a major part of the family, hardwood floors are the preferred choice for toughness, ease of use, customization, and maintenance. Site-finished floors are actually very forgiving, making them a great 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, consider the stage you are in now and how your needs may 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 hunting for a full solution, just pieces here and there, check with the experts in their respective fields: window treatment pros (like Louver Shop of Richmond), 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.