As someone who likes the idea of a home bursting with people but struggles with mess-induced OCD, I've fallen hard for anything that gets better with
abuse age. Last week's feast and festivities sealed the deal— hardwearing all the way.
In my experience, by and large this means embracing natural materials — wood, stone, linen, leather, jute — and new items that gain character with signs of age like rust. You see, I've had my flings with sleek and flimsy synthetics, and I can certainly appreciate their stylistic draw, but at this point in my relationship with my home I'm ready for commitment — I want everything substantial in it to be in it for the long haul. And not just in it, but in it with style.
Granted, not all natural materials withstand the initial blow (ding, stain, etc.) as well as the synthetic alternative, but that's not the point. It's how they look after multiple hard hits and years of wear and tear. A line I read in Natural Decorating by Elizabeth Wilhide and Joanna Copestick, drove the point home for me: "While there is something utterly forlorn about aged synthetics, the patina of old wood or weathered stone flags is both uplifting and reassuring."
However, despite the apt explanation above, I don't think this means submitting to the mundane, only buying old things, or warding off all synthetics as a rule. It means considering how an item will age, and then embracing the imperfection of age and the beauty that goes along with it. The key to embracing this patinated style is to accept the first blow — that first scratch in the leather chair, oil stain on the raw wood table — and look forward to more. The collective imperfection is where the beauty lies. The man, the legend, Sir Terence Conran has a great discussion of this point in his New House Book in which he explains, "The problem with having an absolutely brand new house is that the only sensation you're likely to have is: 'It's getting old and dirty and losing its pristine quality.' But you need courage. Remember that buildings are alive and even the most unlikely modern materials improve with age."