I see it all the time. Furniture retailers and designers (famous ones, too!) alike lauding the merits of slipcovered furniture as a great solution for busy households with kids and pets.
You know what I’m talking about – best typified by the many slipcovered sofas and chairs at Pottery Barn. Is a slipcover removable? Yes, of course. Is it washable? Indeed. Is it a great look for a casual and/or coastal home? Sure. But is it family-friendly? I say, NO.
Here are come common myths about slipcovered furniture I’d like to address…
Slipcovers are low maintenance.
Do you love doing laundry enough to add to your chore list a weekly removal, machine wash, dry, (maybe) iron and reapplication of slipcovers to your furniture? Probably requiring multiple loads? During which time you and your family have to stay off your furniture? If so, slipcovers may be for you. Seriously, I don’t know why they are billed as a low-maintenance solution. The typical cotton twill fabric of a slipcover at retail is a magnet for dirt and other stains, requiring frequent cleaning to keep looking good. For me, and for most moms I know, additional housework to maintain furniture does not rank high on my wish-list. Those who are mindful of their impact on the environment will also want to consider all the additional water required for this laundry.
A white slipcovered sofa is great because it can be bleached.
While you can certainly bleach the heck out of a white cotton slipcover, remember that frequent bleaching of 100% cotton fabrics may turn your pristine white-as-snow slipcover into a yucky yellow. Here, too, the environmental impact of the manufacture and run-off of bleach is a major factor for many eco-conscious families.
My chair will look like new after I wash the slipcover and put it back on.
Have you ever been to someone’s house and seen their slipcovered furniture after they’ve owned it for awhile? I can assure you, it looks like anything but “new.” In addition to the cleaning maintenance and chemicals, over time slipcovers also take on a very worn, rumpled, and yes, even sometimes shrunken appearance. This may be completely fine for some people who want that super shabby chic look, but if you don’t…buyer beware!
A slipcover is very durable.
Think about that old, favorite t-shirt you wear all the time. It’s been around the block more than a few times, and seen its fair share of machine washing cycles. Maybe the silk-screened printing is fading, or perhaps there are a few holes emerging around the seams. It’s even becoming a bit threadbare, isn’t it? Well, the same is true for a frequently washed cotton slipcover. You could also say the same for many upholstery fabrics (that they wear out quickly) – but my point is, if durability is a concern (which it absolutely should be in a family setting where furniture is used often), there are so many better upholstery options available, both through designers and at retail. The “before” picture below shows an slipcovered ottoman after only 6 years of use! Upholstered pieces can and should last MUCH longer than that without looking so worn out.
People love slipcovers!
I have worked with several clients who had slipcovered pieces in their homes. In each and every case, they have lamented to me how much they regretted those purchases. For all of the reasons I mentioned above. I think people like the idea of furnishings they can maintain themselves, without having to have things professionally cleaned, or worrying about stains getting into “permanent” upholstery. The problem is, I don’t think slipcovers live up to their various promises, and they therefore often disappoint and frustrate their owners. If you’re considering purchasing slipcovered furniture, make sure you talk to people you know (and trust) who have actually owned and lived with these pieces, not just a furniture store sales associate who never sees them again once they leave the showroom floor. And really think about whether or not they work for your design aesthetic, and your lifestyle.
Of course, these are my opinions based on my own real-world experience and conversations with clients who represent the core audience for this blog. I’m curious – and I’d love your honest opinions, as well – what do you think about slipcovers? Yay or nay for families?