Your Go-To Guide to High-Quality Home Interior Materials

Your Go To Guide To High Quality Home Materials

Choosing the right home decor and furniture materials for your lifestyle — based on the level of durability you need and how much maintenance you're able to provide — is key to creating your sustainable home.

“This is why we can’t have nice things!” may be the most common phrase used in my house. I have a tendency to drop things, my fiance spills everything he touches and our two puppies rip to shreds whatever they can reach. For these reasons, I need to be mindful of the products I bring into my home, but I am also not willing to sacrifice aesthetics or healthy attributes for durability. 

This may sound like a losing battle, but over the years through both my work as a designer and some trial and error at home, I have learned it is absolutely achievable. The best approach to selecting products that are both beautiful and durable enough for you is to first understand your lifestyle and select materials, colors, textures, and finishes based on it. 

We are all on our own path. Whatever your path — whether you are striving to live more simply, thoughtfully, sustainably, or otherwise, surrounding yourself with products that will not only last, but perform well in your home will save you time, money, and frustration. It is also a way to live more thoughtfully as the most sustainable products are the ones you want to keep long term. 

This approach is a game-changer and a process that can benefit all of us, no matter our lifestyle or budget. All it takes is a bit of upfront research (which I am here to help with) and a ‘let’s get real’ conversation with yourself and/or those you share your home with. 

The ‘let’s get real’ conversation can be difficult to have, but it is essential. The answers you gather will help you select quality products and materials that can survive your lifestyle. You will want to ask questions like: 

  • How much time do you have to clean and maintain your furniture, rugs, floor and wall finishes, art, etc.? 
  • Do you have the time and bandwidth to commit to the specialized care instructions that certain products require? 
  • What are the products you bring home likely to face once they are in use? Do hungry puppies await them with sharp teeth and claws? Do you have roommates or family members who aren’t quick to clean up the spills they create? 
  • What kind of climate will your products interact with? Do you have an apartment on the beach with a salty breeze coming in through the windows daily? (If so, can I come live with you?) Are you likely to trek across that new rug with snowy boots at the end of the day? 

How to Identify the Best Materials for Your Lifestyle 

With your unique circumstances at the top of mind, it is simpler to identify some must-haves when making purchases. As a starting point, below are three general categories that may resonate with you. 

We are not easily packed into tidy, generalized boxes, so your lifestyle may be a combination of these categories depending upon the time of year or even day of the week. Use them as a general guide to help you find the right balance of delicate and durable materials for your home.

The ‘Handle With Care’ Home

You like to surround yourself with beautiful products and have time to follow the specific care instructions for those products you treasure most. Your home and lifestyle can handle materials on both the delicate and durable sides of the spectrum. 

Textiles & Upholstery

When selecting textiles such as rugs, pillows, soft seating upholstery and draperies, natural materials with looser weaves, light colors, and patterns are all fair game in your home.
Examples: Silk, linen, chenille, velvet, mohair, lightweight cotton, sisal, jute, seagrass, and light-colored wool. 

Hard Surfaces & Objects

When searching for hard surfaces or specialty objects, your home can handle high gloss finishes such as polished metals, as well as light-colored stone or glass. In addition, specialty products and objects such as inlaid or slatted wood, loose woven baskets, and handmade artisanal art and objects are likely safe in your home. 

Tip: Keep in mind that light colors, high gloss finishes, and delicate fabrics are more likely to show fingerprints, stains, and dirt, so I recommend finding a balance between delicate and durable that is right for you. Items in higher traffic areas like sofas, lounge chairs, coffee tables, and entry rugs are the pieces to keep on the durable end of the spectrum. (Read on for other lifestyle categories below.)

Products We Love: 

The ‘On the Go’ Home

Whether you are moving from apartment to apartment, city to city, or meeting friends for happy hour, you have a busy schedule and do not have a ton of time to dedicate to specialized upkeep and care. Your home and lifestyle are suited for materials that are both beautiful and durable.

Textiles & Upholstery

When selecting textiles like rugs, pillows, soft seating upholstery, and draperies, natural materials with tight weaves, medium to darker colors and patterns are all fair game in your home.
Examples: Leather, wool, tight weave cotton or organic cotton, denim, upholstery blends *favoring those with recycled content*, seagrass. 

Hard Surfaces & Objects

When searching for hard surfaces or specialty objects your home will benefit from a durable foundation of materials like wood, stone, glass, raw, brushed, or powder-coated metals. In addition, specialty products and objects such as ceramics, terracotta, woven baskets, chunky knit blankets, and fringed details are likely safe in your home.

Tip: If you’d like to introduce more delicate materials into your home but are worried about the upkeep, start with low traffic areas such as window coverings, tops of mantels or wall hangings. 

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The ‘Set It & Forget It’ Home

You are busy and have lots of responsibilities. Whether you have little ones to take care of (little humans or fur babies, I don’t discriminate), messy roommates (aka my fiance), you travel often- whatever the circumstance, your home and products need to fend for themselves to some extent so you can keep those juggling balls in the air.

Textiles & Upholstery

When selecting textiles like rugs, pillows, soft seating upholstery, and draperies, heavy-duty natural materials with tight weaves, medium to darker colors and patterns are all fair game in your home. In addition, removable, washable covers are a great plus for furniture and pillows.
Examples: Heavy-duty tight cotton weaves like canvas and denim, washable slip-covers, leather (be mindful that animal claws can damage leather), dark-colored and/ or patterned wool, seagrass

Hard Surfaces & Objects

When searching for hard surfaces or specialty objects your home will benefit from a durable foundation of materials like solid wood, sealed stone, raw, brushed or powder-coated metals, porcelain, and ceramic tile. In addition, specialty products and objects such as terracotta, terrazzo, concrete (in small amounts as the manufacturing of concrete is energy-intensive and therefore it is not a very sustainable product), and tightly woven baskets work nicely in your home.

Tips: Wool is very durable, naturally resistant to liquid and stains but can be difficult to clean when stains set in so be mindful of the colors you select, especially in high traffic areas.

Opt for low pile or flatweave rugs in regularly trafficked spaces. The higher the pile of the rug, the more dirt, stains, and smells can get trapped inside. 

If you plan to use any kind of Robo-vacuum avoid fringed edges on rugs.

Products We Love: 

Tips for all homes and lifestyles. 

High Traffic / Low Traffic

Think about your products in terms of how much contact they’ll receive on a daily basis. If you touch them, sit on them, throw your bags on them throughout the day, these are your high traffic objects and should be the most durable.

Products you interact with every couple of days are your medium traffic objects and they should be durable but could be slightly less so than your high touch objects.

Products you only look at from a distance (and are out of reach from little humans or furry ones) are your light traffic objects. These are an opportunity to introduce delicate materials or higher investment finishes you may want to surround yourself with but don’t want to get destroyed. 

Investigate before Investing

Read the details or product specifications to be sure you understand what materials and finishes make up the product and how to care for them. If that info is not clearly indicated, reach out to the support team from the vendor and ask. They will provide you with the maintenance info you need to make an informed decision. If they cannot or will not provide that information I recommend you shop elsewhere – transparency is important and a sign of a responsible company. 

Be Mindful of Materials You Bring Into Your Home 

Although the promise of stain resistance can sound too good to pass up, avoid fabrics or products with chemical finishes promising water and stain resistance. These contain strong chemicals harmful to you, and the environment

The same is true for products with applied antimicrobial finishes or applied flame retardants, common in mattress, sofa, or lounge chair padding. 

Opt for Natural 

The recommendations in this guide intentionally place an emphasis on natural materials. The products we live with have the capacity to influence our health, the health of the people manufacturing them as well as our air quality and environment. For that reason, it is a good idea to invest in materials that are as natural as possible wherever you can.

No matter your lifestyle, there are beautiful options out there durable enough to thrive in your space! As with most things, it is all about finding a balance and being mindful of your selections. With a bit of up-front research and planning, you can be confident knowing you are investing in products that will last you for years to come – perhaps even generations to come. 

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