Q: It's time to redo our family room, which has sustained a lot of wear and tear from three super-active children. What sort of furnishings would you suggest? My own stylistic preference can best be described as relaxed and comfortable.
A: While the size of your budget will be the determining factor, I hope your do-over can involve more than just the furnishings. Floor coverings, fabrics and various bits and pieces contribute just as much to a comfortable and relaxed look as do tables and chairs.
Let's start at the bottom. I can think of several floor-covering options that may make sense in your circumstances, but the best choice might be wall-to-wall carpeting in nylon or a nylon-and-wool combination. Besides being relatively inexpensive, that type of carpeting -- perhaps in a small textured-tweed pattern -- will offer easy maintenance and considerable durability.
An area rug could be a good alternative if you want to show off attractive flooring material. Perhaps you fancy something like the multicolored hooked rug shown in the photo. Its rustic American styling would fit with a relaxed family-room setting, particularly since a rug like this can absorb plenty of scuffing without looking worn-out.
Pine might make a charming choice for your new furniture. Style-wise, it will certainly look good in a country-type interior. But pine is a soft wood, and for heavy-duty use I would opt for something sturdier, such as oak and cherry, especially for the desks, work tables and storage cabinets.
I also recommend that you avoid antique or even second-hand seating pieces. Newly manufactured chairs and sofas are much more able to withstand abuse, and they generally conform better to today's anatomy and lifestyles.
Take a look at the rocker in the photo. It clearly owes its inspiration to the American arts and crafts movement which, by the way, is enjoying a healthy revival these days. This contemporary chair is a traditional product of the American heartland, having been manufactured by the century-old Flexsteel Co. of Dubuque, Iowa.
The blue steel used in the rocker's construction makes it virtually indestructible. This particular model is done in leather. Whether that material is appropriate in your own situation will depend on how well it's cared for.
Leather is durable, however, so it should be able to survive a certain amount of climbing, jumping and spilling. And if you care about fashion trends, you probably know that leather is currently a hot item in the design world. No longer thought suitable only for club-type seating, leather will fit right into a rustic-style setting.
In residential interiors, I think leather-covered furniture looks especially good in combination with fabric upholstery. In your family room, it might be attractively used along with geometric patterns.