Creating a cozy hearth for the family
Stephanie Nickolson has designed residential, commercial and eco-conscious environments for more than 24 years. Her firm, Stephanie Nickolson Design, promotes the use of sustainable, non-toxic, recyclable and environmentally-friendly products and services. The firm works largely with clients who have allergies, chemical sensitivies or who have children with special needs.
Kids and furniture don’t always mix, especially if you happen to be a fan of light colors and dainty, lightweight fabrics and upholstery. One accident with a nerf ball hitting a floor lamp and that fixture is history. Kids don’t always understand (mine never did) that a sofa isn’t a trampoline and that they can’t sink into a chair by diving off the sofa (said trampoline) and not ruin it, or themselves. A sticky, brownie-covered hand doesn’t hide-so-easily on that newly expensive papered wall. So, what’s a parent to do? How can a home look nice and well-decorated without looking like a man cave or institution-like? Well, parents and care-givers, you can take heart. There are kid-friendly furnishings available that wear well and will last more than a week in your home.
Fine furniture isn't always durable enough to stand up to children. Photo Courtesy Lee Industries.
The good news is that the distressed, unpolished, textured look is in. The look in my own home is seamless; all of the dents, scratches and nicks blend well together with the overall distressed, casual look.
Furniture: A very high-end furniture manufacturer actually manufacturers a line that requires a 16-step finishing process to create the illusion of age and use. The end result? A product that looks great but that you’re going to pay for. You can achieve that same look without the high price by opting for products that will, within time, withstand abuse. One company that offers sustainable upholstered furniture is Lee Industries. Its product naturalLEE features soy-based cushions, recycled fiber filling for pillows, organic and natural fabrics, FSC- and SFC-certified wood frames and uses water-based finishes. Lee's products are also made in the USA. In addition, the company also offers slipcovers, which are a great option, as they can be taken off and washed when needed. They may also be temporary until the children get older or when you’re ready for a new look. You can also change it seasonally. You can view their products at http://www.leeindustries.com.
Flooring: The hand-scraped wood flooring option is a very popular look that (I hope) is here to stay. This particular product is bamboo, an extremely hard species of wood. Unlike other species of wood that take 30-50 years to be reforested, bamboo is actually a grass which is reharvested every three to four years. It’s an extremely hard species, even stronger than red oak. A great option for children and/or dog owners.
Ambient's carbonized strand woven bamboo flooring is durable enough for pets, kids and high-traffic areas. Photo Courtesy Ambient.
Upholstery: Leather is a very durable, strong and cleanable choice. I would suggest a grade that is aniline dyed. An analogy to aniline dyed would be if you take a piece of chalk and break it, the color can be seen throughout. Similarly, if you’ve ever seen or sat on a non-aniline piece of leathered furniture and it gets scratched, you’ll see a white line where the dye didn’t penetrate. The purchase of an aniline dyed piece of leather furniture avoids this problem. Distressed leathers are also great for disguising wear and tear.
Ultrasuede is also an excellent option due to its durability and washability. The color choices are vast and beautiful.
Fabrics: A company that offers environmentally friendly fabrics is Crypton. I have used this company's fabrics and was equally impressed when I received a bag in the mail from the company, a cute little test kit with the following contents: sample packs of jelly, mustard, a crayon, a sample fabric, a brush and detergent packet. I decided to take the company's “Live Clean” motto seriously after completely erasing the crayon mark and mustard spill that I deliberately poured on the fabric. You can read more about them or order a sample test kit at www.cryptonfabric.com.
And lastly, but most importantly, I’d suggest bringing home samples of products to test out in your home. If they’re flooring samples, put them on the floor and have children and pets walk across them. If they’re fabrics, throw them over the sofa and see how they perform for a few days. This way, you won’t have any surprises when the products are permanently in your home.
~ Don’t stress; distress...
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