If slipcovers bring to mind imagery of sticky plastic and ill-fitting fabric, be prepared to banish those ideas forever! Chic, attractive slipcovers are experiencing something of a revival among decorators, and there are numerous ways to thoughtfully and tastefully incorporate them into any room.
This guide will both show you several ideas for how to make slipcovers work in your room, as well as some reasons why slipcovers are a great option. You’ll learn how to incorporate patterns and colors, whether to pick custom-made or pre-made, the pros and cons of white, and lots more.
Think of slipcovers like any other piece of furniture, and your palette will be opened up onto a vista of possibilities.
1. Don’t be afraid of frills
Because of their texture, tasteful frills can add a bright touch to any room. The cover on this couch has a decidedly Victorian feel and would work well with dark woods, parquet, and lots of floral and tea stained lace.
2. White oasis
A clean, white slipcover can be an anchor of graceful purity within a busier color scheme. The white of this slipcover remains cool yet inviting, and pairs nicely with the warmer rusts and cooler blues.
3. Move out of the living room
Traditionally, slipcovers were a staple of living room decor. But in recent years, well-designed ones have made debuts in dining rooms, sitting areas, and anywhere you can logically put seating. This set, which graces a dining room in Portland, is an excellent example of the elegance and high taste slipcovers can add to your decor.
4. Try a modern look
In both cut and pattern, slipcovers can easily add a modern (or, vice versa, traditional) feel to an older couch. This example from Pottery Barn creates a smooth, sleek look that also has the advantage of anchoring the room.
5. Try matching
There are multiple ways this can be done. The easiest is to simply cover two (or more) pieces of furniture with the same color and style cover. A possibly more challenging but more fun way is to choose an anchoring piece that you already like and then cover a piece of furniture to match it. Here, the decorator re-covered a sofa and matched it to the ottoman.
6. Consider a second life
Admittedly, this option is limited to those with talent, or who know someone who has it! Consider taking a vintage or antique fabric, maybe one found at a yard sale (as this old quilt was), and repurposing it as a slipcover. If done right, you can combine history and elegance in one fell swoop.
7. Think about contrasts
Because sofas are often the anchoring point of a room given their size, they can be an easy way to introduce color or texture contrasts with the rest of the room. The soft neutrality of this off-white cover only highlights the cheery blue of the pillows and the warm yellows throughout.
8. Pick some patterns
Patterns, of course, must be integrated wisely. One does not want a garish, unseemly, or overly-busy print that ends up being a tasteless distraction! But fun and attractive patterns do exist, like the one draping these dining room chairs. Note how the navy pairs well both with the cherry of the table and the blue in the watercolors.
9. Know the difference between custom and prefab
This is an important decision to make when buying slipcovers. Most people can do just fine with pre-made ones in standard sizes. However, unusually-sized and otherwise unique furniture would be better served by the attentiveness of a custom-made cover. Many quality furniture stores and draperies offer this kind of service, like the examples from this company in Ann Arbor.
10. Consider wear and tear
Since most slipcovers are going to be placed on frequently-used furniture, ideally they will be (1) easily washable) and (2) durable, so as to hold up under frequent abuse from guests, pets, spilled snacks, and afternoon naps. This is an example of a lovely denim slipcover created by an upholsterer in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
11. White? Yes and no
There is nothing wrong with white furniture. It can be elegant and its placid blankness goes with everything. But, some people might be uncomfortable decorating with white heavily-used furniture because of the potential stain risks. Some decorators advise having a tasteful throw or quilt that can be placed over furniture, to both tie the room together and reduce the need for frequent washing.
12. Mix it up
This combines several of the ideas in prior suggestions. The example above uses a different pattern on every piece of furniture, yet because of common tones and colors, it ties together seamlessly.
13. Consider a looser fit
Many slipcovers, especially custom-designed ones, come in individual pieces--separate covers for each cushion, pillow, and the entire frame so that the look is really one of new upholstery rather than fabric draped atop another piece of furniture. However, a carefully-chosen loose fit slipcover can introduce cheer, warmth, and a country feel to a room.
14. Pick a uniting color
The genius of slipcovers is that they give you a new piece of furniture for a fraction of the cost. If you're planning on redecorating an entire room, consider using the color of the slipcover to create a unifying theme for the room. This custom-made slipcover expertly ties the different shades of blue in the decor together.
15.Tie it up
Given that they're designed to be put on and easily removed, some slipcovers are designed to incorporate beautiful touches in the very mechanisms used to secure them--such as ribbons and buttons. This set of dining room covers adds a beach house flavor to this room with a thick fabric and practical back ties.
16. Try pairing
An interesting and fun way to incorporate different colors within your broader color scheme is to use both of them in the same slipcover--not in a pattern, but in covering different parts of the furniture. This example disperses grey and white equally throughout the piece by covering different aspects with either color. (Note the subtle use of differing textures, too.)
17. Just cover the cushions
One final way to decorate with slipcovers is to only cover part of the piece. Say you have a chair whose back you really like but loathe the cushion (or vice versa). Then just cover the cushion! You’d be surprised how much new life and zest a different cushion can bring into a room, like with these frilled dining room chairs.
No longer do slipcovers have to be awkward, shapeless, burlap-bag-esque, strictly functional shields against the attacks of pets and rambunctious children. No longer do the legs of our guests have to be waxed from sitting on uncomfortable plastic for too long. Decorators, interior designers, and frustrated homemakers across the land are rising up and saying, “No more!” Hopefully this article is a clarion call to join the new wave of creatives who are using slipcovers not out of bald necessity, but as an integral and beautiful piece to complement any room.