Give your furniture the slip

Before relaxing and putting your feet up, let your furniture slip into
something more comfortable.

Custom slipcovers are tailored to fit an individual sofa, chair or ottoman, and made by professional seamstresses or trades people, says Margi Kyle, president of Interior Design Society.

Unlike furniture protectors that are draped and tucked around seat cushions, custom-made slipcovers zip, button or tie to fit furnishings like a glove. A sophisticated slipcover requires exact measurements of a piece of furniture and accentuates a silhouette, whether the style is Queen Anne or contemporary.

“Especially during these difficult economic times, people might not be able to afford that new sofa for the living room,” Kyle says. “But a custom-made slipcover can breathe new life into an existing piece of furniture you already have.”

Kyle says many homes undergo a metamorphosis in the spring, thanks to a second set of slipcovers. For spring, Kyle suggests fabrics such as cotton duck or canvas; linen union (a natural fabric of linen and cotton — or linen and jute — that doesn’t readily wrinkle); and chintz (a material with a glazed finish and, most often, floral design.)

Live with a yard first
Before finalizing the fabric for your furniture’s great cover-up, Kyle suggests buying a yard to give it the wear-and-tear test. “Before having a material made into slipcovers, go ahead, spill red wine and step on the fabric sample,” she says. “Then clean it to see how it really performs.”

Unless fabric is specified to be machine-washable, slipcovers should be dry-cleaned to preserve the finish. If you have laundered a slipcover, Kyle says to place it back on the furniture while it is slightly damp. “The fabric will be more stretchable, and easier to fit on the furniture,” she says. “As the cover does its last bit of drying, it will conform to the furniture’s curves, ensuring a proper, wrinkle-free fit.”

But, a slipcover obviously can’t fix the structural integrity of a piece of furniture. “A slipcover shouldn’t be used as a band-aid for a dirty, broken-down sofa,” Kyle says. “You can’t cover up a decrepit piece of furniture.”

The cost of making slipcovers can be half as much as reupholstering furniture. Depending on usage and fabrics, a slipcover can last 10 years or more.

Kyle says a slipcover can personalize a piece of furniture, based on fabric choices and finishing details, including buttons, tassels or ties. “A slipcover can transform formal furnishings into furniture that is more casual and easy to live with,” she says.

Slipcovers can breathe new life into a family heirloom without compromising its original upholstery. Depending on the type of slipcover, some furniture can look opulently dressed, while other pieces can look reupholstered.

No matter the look you’re trying to achieve, pet hair and spills should be a snap to clean off a slipcovered set-up, according to Kyle. “Now, more than ever, families should be able to relax in their homes,” she says. “Life is busy and can be messy. It’s great having slipcovers because it makes your furniture easy to wash and live with.”