The Best Materials for a Luxurious, Family-Friendly Home in Alexandria | Louver Shop of Northern Virginia
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The Best Materials for a Luxurious, Family-Friendly Home

**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 exclaiming these words before? It’s a common phrase tossed around between homeowners, and if you’re a parent, maybe you’ve murmured the words yourself as you spotted another Picasso-inspired Sharpie work of genius on a living room wall.

Some families believe that in order to welcome the messiness of life and all its moving parts, 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 complete objectivity and decades of experience: you really can enjoy nice things. In fact, the ideal nice things will both look fantastic and withstand concerned toddlers, sporty teens, shedding pets, and a messy spouse all at the same time. Here’s what I advise…


1. Quartz for Countertops

Quartz is a very resilient, man-made surface that is a great option for countertops in a busy kitchen. What does quartz provide you?

  • As opposed to granite, quartz will never need to be sealed and is comparatively maintenance-free.
  • Its heavy-duty strength matches concrete and won’t chip or crack.
  • Quartz feels luxurious and keeps its sheen for many, many years.
  • It seems like natural stone, with veining, swirls, and patterns like 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 clean 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 recognized that multiuse, family-friendly rooms and sturdy materials were a top priority. Quartz was the ideal choice for their kitchen. The space is light, airy, and perfect for meal prep, homework help, family dinner, and easy cleanup. Style isn’t compromised at all, am I right?

Pro Tip: When choosing your slab, try 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 usually reserved for outdoor use only. Now, we use performance fabrics in lots of ways and in rooms you’d never think of. The same qualities that make it great outside — toughness, stain resistance, fade resistance, and water resistance — are just as practical to use indoors too!

What items can be designed in performance fabrics?

  • Sofas
  • Chairs
  • Bar stools
  • Rugs
  • 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 extended sun exposure (to minimize fading)

The cherry on top? Today, there are many different forms of fibers being used to make new, innovative fabrics that are more sustainable. Recycled water bottles are being blended into fabrics and PET fibers are woven into rugs that feel sooo plush and soft to the hand but clean up no problem. I’ll bet you would never know it if you were standing on a PET rug!


Above: Performance fabric was our number one 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 looking new for longer. Right, a bench topped with a resilient, stain resistant cushion and throw pillows created an inviting spot to tie shoes or load up a backpack to prep for the day.

3. Washable Paint for Walls

Personally, washable paint is a good investment! A home filled with activity will quickly affect your walls: messy fingerprints, scuffs from dropped shoes and bags, spattered food in the kitchen, a rainy-day game of chase through the halls, and a wet, full-body shake from Fido all leave their marks behind. 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 should you pick?

  • Eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss are great, wipeable surfaces.
  • If a matte finish is your preference, there are more options becoming available as well. Ask your designer or paint professional about your favorite colors.

Above: You might be surprised to know that this relaxing office space is hidden away in a bustling 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 love classic drapery, but for families with young children, I usually gravitate to cordless window treatments that won’t be a risk for toddlers who like to investigate their surroundings. What do I prefer instead?

All these materials supply privacy, light control, and are easier 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 number of color, construction, and finishing options so that sacrificing style is never an issue!


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 selected “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 share a little secret: site-finished hardwood floors, in any species of wood, are really easy to maintain. Site-finished requires that the wood is delivered 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 technique 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 repeatedly, giving you the opportunity to customize them in many different ways.

Conversely, tile is your “BFF” (best flooring friend) for any wet space, like mudrooms, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. Tile cleans up well, resists stains, and is solid and resilient. Just make sure to pick a non-slip, non-skid flooring by looking at the “wet coefficient” — this will keep it safe for everyone, regardless of age!


Above: When pets are an important part of the family, hardwood floors are the ideal choice for endurance, ease of use, customization, and maintenance. Site-finished floors are actually quite forgiving, making them a quality choice 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 designing your new home, renovation, or refresh, consider the stage you are in now and how your needs might evolve 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 top resource for designing a home — top to bottom — with materials that look good, function for your family, and are built to survive. If you aren’t hunting for a full solution, just pieces here and there, consult the experts in their respective fields: window treatment pros (like Louver Shop of Northern Virginia), 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.