When Bill and Gina Ellis, owners of Quatrine Washable Furniture, first got into the business, slipcovers featured soft, loose-fitting designs. By the mid-'90s, styles veered toward a country sensibility, with makers using four prints to make one slipcover. "Then it got a little more refined," says Gina. "We saw a Country French look with broad baggage stripes, flanges, and ruffles." While the overstuffed style is still popular today, Gina says slipcovers have become more tailored. Excess fabric tucks into crevices between cushions, and bare wooden legs show rather than hide behind gathered, full skirts. Read on for more great slipcover tips from the Ellises.
Tip No. 1. Decide if a piece is worth covering. Gina says people should decide if they really like the sofa's silhouette. If not, don't bother.
Tip No. 2. Before you have a fabric swatch made into a slipcover, wash it to test for durability and shrinkage. Gina recommends allowing 10 percent for shrinkage. For example, "If your upholsterer says you need 20 yards, buy 22."
Tip No. 3. Ask for the pattern. Many upholsterers make a muslin pattern before they make the real slipcover. You can use it for others later.
Tip No. 4. Choose fabric thick enough to hide original upholstery. Lay the new material over the old in bright sunlight to be sure you can't see through it.
Tip No. 5. Heavyweight fabrics, such as denim, last longer. Use a weight of at least 10 ounces.
Tip No. 6. Don't be afraid of white. With bleach and other whiteners, tough stains will disappear.
Tip No. 7. Though slipcover makers have turned to untraditional fabric choices, such as houndstooth and broadcloth, a beach house or casual room still looks best in lighter, solid fabrics or airy prints such as toiles.
Tip No. 8. Don't overwhelm a room with busy prints. Save complicated patterns for smaller pieces instead of the sofa.
Tip No. 9. Follow the "one for all" rule: For continuity, cover everything in a furniture group with the same fabric.
Tip No. 10. Get a cushy look. The best way to make a regular sofa look overstuffed and comfortable is to make the slipcover so that the skirt falls from just below the seat cushions. But if you're hoping to get the look of big, overstuffed furniture by simply making a slipcover, think twice. A slipcover on a scrawny sofa, says Gina, "just won't do it."