Continuing on with the Cote de Texas - Top Ten Design Elements, the choice for second place should be quite obvious to readers of this blog. Since linen took first place, slipcovers come in second place: these two elements naturally go hand-in-hand. While the benefits of slipcovers are extremely well-known, slipcovers can still be quite divisive. Some people love them and swear by them, while others loathe them with a capital L. Few are in the middle. My love of slips is solid - almost all of my furniture is slipcovered and I would never live with upholstered furniture again. Once you have lived with slips, the ability to wash them is very satisfying, especially sofas and chairs that are used on a daily basis, such as those in a family room. If you own white slipcovers you understand what I am saying. Our clothes naturally bring in dust and dirt from the outside air. The place where someone sits every day will become grayer and darker from this grime. If the fabric is white – this staining is very noticeable, and after about a month of daily use, it will be time to wash the slipcovers. If you have never lived with white fabric before, you probably have no idea just how much clothes actually soil upholstery. Imagine what might be lurking in and on a sofa’s upholstered fabric after five or ten years! OY!!!!!!!!
This room in NYC is beautiful and I have long admired it. But I always wondered about the sofa – the family living here has young children - how in the world can they possibly keep this sofa pristine looking? While the tufted back IS gorgeous, I would have used a darker fabric, or I would have eliminated the tufting and covered it in a white linen slipcover. I would love to see what this sofa looks like today – a few years after this photo shoot.
So for many, the appeal of slipcovers, besides their casual look, is the cleanliness aspect, especially for families with pets and children. I love when my slips are freshly washed and put back on the sofa, fitting slightly tighter after a spin in the dryer. To me, not being able to wash or clean my sofa would be like never being able to wash my jeans. Living with two dogs and a husband who is apt to spend the weekend sleeping all day on the sofa, makes slips essential to my life. Of course, this is only my opinion. Most of my clients vehemently disagree with me and refuse to slipcover their furniture. I can’t force a client to use slipcovers – though I do explain their benefits. In truth, slipcovers are not perfect. You must find someone who is an expert at making them, otherwise they can be a disaster. I had to replace my last set of slips when they were made without prewashed linen and shrank (of course they did!) Another issue is ill-fitting slips. If the seamstress is not adept, the fit might suffer – it can sag, bunch up, and gather in all the wrong places. Linings can be disastrous too – if they aren’t completely preshrunk – and many seamstresses do not think of the lining’s potential to shrink. So, while slipcovers are fabulous looking and wonderfully hygienic, very serious care must be taken when having them made. Spending extra to hire a competent person is well worth the money.
Uh-oh!!!! See what I see? Slipcovers that have shrunk!!!!! This should be avoided at all costs. Always prewash and dry the slipcover fabric TWICE if possible before sewing. Be sure the lining is preshrunk too. AND, just to be sure, make them a little long.
The history of slipcovers is a long one, having been around since the 17th century when they were used almost exclusively to protect furniture’s upholstered fabric. In later times, slips were used in grand houses covering furniture during off seasons when the family wasn’t in residence. In this century, slips were used seasonally to change out the decor. But, in 1989, Rachel Ashwell, from England, opened her Californian store Shabby Chic and forever changed how we used slipcovers. She began manufacturing furniture with slipcovers that were used as the primary upholstery fabric. Ashwell, with pets and young children, developed slipcovers that could be tossed into the washing machine. For Rachel, slips were an answer to the cleanliness problem. For years, her slips were rather loose, and the wrinkled, rumpled and slightly messy look was all the rage. As time has gone on, slips have become more tailored, fitting tightly onto the frame – sometimes so tightly it is almost impossible to tell a slipcover from upholstery. Today, most slips fall somewhere in between the wrinkled, loose fit and the contemporary-looking tight fit. Ashwell started a revolution in the furniture business – suddenly the demand for slipcovers was huge. To satisfy the consumer, major fabric house began selling cottons, linens, damasks, and even chenilles that were prewashed thus eliminating the need to lug twenty yards down to the washateria. Furniture stores started offering sofas and chairs with premade slipcovers. Chains like Pottery Barn and Ikea have had huge success with their slipcovered lines. And the slipped look has even influenced upholstered furniture: sofas and chairs now sport “waterfall skirts” – where the skirt falls directly from the seat in a graceful, long line – in order to simulate a slipcover!
The look that started the modern slipcover rage.
While a large segment of people who love slips do so because they have pets or children, others just like they way they look. White slips lend a casual attitude to a room. They can be either beachy, or rustic looking. But use a gorgeous glazed linen in a deep, rich color to make a slip – and they will be quite elegant. Slipcovers can add a country look to a decor, but a tight-fitting slip can look absolutely contemporary. I adore slips that have detailing, like scalloped edges or double ruffles. Also – I prefer slips with long ties and buttons as opposed to zippers for closure. Zippers can break and often do – ties won’t. Slipcovers aren’t just for the family or living room either. Each week – I get one or two emails about an inherited dining room set that looks dowdy. My advice is always to generously slipcover the chairs – by doing this, you can turn a dated, old fashioned set into something youthful and attractive looking. I also get this same email once or twice a week: “I love white slipcovers, but I’m worried about them getting dirty and stained because I have pets and children.” Those emails never fail to amuse me. Pets and children are exactly THE reason to get slips! If you spill something on them, just wash them! If you stain your slips – bleach them! For those opinionated people that hate slipcovers but have never owned any, I suggest trying them out in a small way – perhaps on your favorite TV watching chair that always gets horribly stained and frayed. After five years – the slip will still be fresh and clean, while the upholstered chair will be dirty, worn, and faded! I promise you!!
White slipcovers make great furniture for beach houses – just toss in the washing machine after a summer of sand.
Or, slipcovers can be used in more sophisticated interiors – as here in architect Bobby McAlpine’s house. Sofa by John Saladino who is also a great proponent of slipcovers.
The Houston look championed by Renae Abbott’s Shabby Slips: seagrass and white slipcovers. I love the tabbed slip on the French bergere which allows the wood frame to show. Design by Michelle Stewart.
This gorgeous room by Dan Carithers is over 20 years old! It still looks fresh and modern with its slipcovers in white and taupe striped linen.
Houston interior designer Pam Pierce’s daughter Shannon Bowers used a Rose Tarlow linen to slip her kitchen chair. Notice how beautifully it drapes, softly sweeping the floor. Perfection!
Susanne Kasler used slipcovers with ties to dress down a “grown-up” dining room table. Until recently, who would have imagined putting slipcovers in such an elegant dining room?
Charcoal linen – an unusual, yet chic choice of a slipcover fabric on a gorgeous, long Belgian-inspired sofa.
His and hers chaise lounges in white linen are a perfect alternative to a chair and ottoman.
Double ruffling is a great way to update a slipcover skirt. To copy this look, be sure to ask for the “double” or “triple” ruffle effect. Shannon Bowers again. I could stare at this picture for hours. Just gorgeous!
A single Saladino-esque chair, slipcovered, is just enough in this room. Notice the cushion is slipped separately from the chair.
In France, Kathryn Ireland slipped covered the sofas and the ottoman in plain linen. Pattern comes from the pillows and curtains. Ireland, like Ashwell, is from England and both designers helped push slipcovers into the mainstream.
In Dallas, Lisa Luby Ryan updated her dining room – going from dark to light. The chairs were covered in linen slipcovers with button detailing.
This beautiful chair by Suzanne Kasler has a light blue linen slipcover with side ties. This photograph made the cover of Southern Accents – the chair was hugely popular.
A Ross designed dining room chair with lots of detailing – her specialty: mini pleats and ties.
This beautiful Ross designed slip has short pleats which shows off the chair’s charming wheeled feet!
Belgian design: a sofa with long lean lines and no bottom or back cushions. And always, a slipcover!
John Saladino’s own apartment with his slipcovered dining room chairs with tie detailing in his favorite color. Saladino even has a line of furniture slipcovered in leather. Note – you can’t toss leather in the washing machine!
All white slipcovers with ruffles and loose cushions.
Straight back dining room chairs get tight slipcovers that play off the curvy table.
Perfectly tailored slipcovers on the club chairs show linen at it’s prettiest.
Michael Smith used slipcovers in an English inspired living room – the checks and slips make the room livable.
In the Tanglewood House, I used white linen slipcovers to update all the furniture.
Scallops and tabs were used on the French chairs in the Tanglewood House.
Interior designer Suzanne Rheinstein used a blue and white striped cotton to slip everything in her living room for the summer season. Ties are used to allow the antique frames to show through the slips.
Bunny Williams used chintz and cotton ticking to cover this furniture in a typical English inspired look.
In the Caribbean a beach house was done entirely in beige linen slipcovers. Colefax and Fowler did the design.
In Dallas, a contemporary living room with a slipcovered Belgian styled sofa.
In interior designer Dan Carither’s own home, he recently went from an all neutral interior to blues and whites with the help of slipcovers. Carithers once did an entire magazine spread on slipcover detailing: scalloping, tabs, and ties!
Windsor Smith designed a two sided slipcovered soft for her own home – complete with a mini pleat hem.
The Bennison House featured a small sofa slipcovered in linen, with a nice, long, double ruffled skirt – I love the length of this skirt! Design by Jane Wood.
At thisdining table, some chairs are slipped with a nice back pleat and tie detailing.
Design maven Ray Booth’s NY apartment features a ravishing B&B Italia slipcovered chair – barely seen here. Of course they would cut off the best part of the room!
Here is the B&B Italia chair – the slipcovered version is towards the back. This chair proves that slips can be contemporary and beautiful at the same time! I love the proportions of the slipped chair and the ottoman.
No country loves slips more than the English, and here in the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire’s (say that one fast!) new abode after having to move out of Chatsworth, Debo used slips in her darling den. Lots of Ds. Here, in her late 80s, you can see how vital her life and mind still is. Most interesting is the fabric on her sofa, which used to be in Chatsworth a long time ago.
The famous Blue Drawing Room in Chatsworth – several decades ago - with the same fabric that Debo now has in her Dowager cottage. Wonder if she bought new fabric or just used this old slipcover? This is one of my favorite rooms anywhere. The green skirted table under the grand painting is wonderful.
Again the same room - photographed in 2002, in a Robert Kime slipcover. I like this slipcover much better!!
Sophisticated dining room with beautifully tailored slips with wide banding.
And beach living with white slips can be sophisticated too – Ralph Lauren’s place, Babe Paley’s former Jamaican beach cottage.
Denim and dark green colored slips lend a casual look to dressy French antiques.
Inherited, dressy dining room furniture is made youthful with slips and pleats.
Shannon Bowers mixes slips and French antiques in her new Dallas home.
Dark, deep brown walls make this white slipcovered headboard pop. Ties keep the slip on the caned, French antique located in a West University house.
Houston designer Ginger Barber always uses slipcovers. Well, not always, but usually! Her own house has brown and white checked slips over Os de Mouton chairs and a linen slipcovered sofa.
On Lake Travis in the Texas Hill Country, an authentic centuries old log house was transported to the site. Notice the contemporary red chair placed in the mix. To read more about this fascinating house, go here.
Look for the next installment of the Cote de Texas - Top Ten Design Elements #3 to be posted soon.
I think you can all guess what it’s going to be!!!