The question has been on my mind lately, as I've noticed that many of my design clients assume that because I have kids, I will suggest materials that hide the maximum amount of dirt possible. Depending on the surface in question, I'm a flip-flopper, but for the most part, I'm with Conran. I like to know when something needs to be cleaned before it starts reeking. The key, as Conran suggests, seems to be picking quality materials that age well. Ones that look good — or even better — with a little patina of wear and tear. And, I would add, ones that can be cleaned effectively. Nix the upholstered white silk blend settee if you have a house full of puppies.
Recently, we tore up a berber carpet that literally swallowed dirt. We used to brag to friends to not worry about messing up the carpet with muddy shoes, because within minutes it would be gone. It was gone from sight, but man, when it was time to rip it up, I nearly threw up. Years and years worth of dirt is a nasty thing, my friends.
However, hard flooring is a different story. In our previous house, we installed dark wood floors, and every speck of dust showed. I became a sweeping maniac, but was still haunted by renegade dust bunnies that would somehow manage to show up as soon as I had put down the broom. It was maddening, and actually made it difficult for me to relax at home. The honey-colored and natural-stained flooring in our current house is a much more forgiving surface. It needs to be swept regularly, but it doesn't mock my efforts.
So, let's hear from you. Deal with dirt or disguise it?
PS – Ralph's house, pictured above, is definitely a "deal with" it space.