Slipcover Trends and Styles

Thinking about slipcovers? Find tips and hints on how to decide if a slipcover is your best solution, or should you go one step farther and reupholster.

By: Lisa Frederick

Slipcovers, which stole the design spotlight during the shabby-chic boom of recent years, are practically synonymous with seasonal makeovers. What feels fresher for spring than a crisp, clean face on a chair or sofa that’s showing its age? Before you start pinning fabric or browsing the shops, though, keep these pointers in mind.

The Big Question: To Slipcover or Not?

First things first: Is a slipcover your best solution, or should you go one step further and reupholster? Before you get ready to toss a piece of fabric over a sofa that’s seen better days, think about a few key points. How much do you like the lines of the piece? If a chair or a loveseat has a silhouette that’s too modern or old-fashioned for your taste, a slipcover won’t fix that — you’re better off with a new model. On the other hand, if you love the basic shape (but nothing else), a slipcover might be a cost-conscious way to update it. The same goes if a piece isn’t of sufficient quality to make reupholstery worthwhile. And if you have small kids or pets, slipcovers’ washable nature might tip the balance that way.

Also, know that slipcovers aren’t miracle workers. They can’t smooth lumps from a sofa or make an uncomfortable chair fun to sit in. If your piece is beyond cosmetic rescue, it may be time to rehab it from the inside out or replace it entirely.

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Sure Fit

Sure Fit

Super-stretchy versions, such as this one, lend a sleek look and highlight the form of a piece of furniture.

Choosing Standard or Custom

Settled on slipcovers? Here’s the second question to consider: Will a standard slipcover work for your piece, or do you need a custom one? There’s no getting around the fact that custom slipcovers will almost always give you a crisper profile — most pre-made styles simply can’t compete with that level of individual tailoring. But there are a few criteria that can help you decide whether you really want or need to make that investment. Think about the following:

What style is your room? If it’s decorated with cottage comfort or an eclectic mix, it can handle a slipcover that’s a little bit baggy or rumpled. But a strongly traditional or contemporary space begs for a contoured fit. Consider what works best with the look.

What shape is your piece? Whether they’re loose or fitted, pre-made slipcovers tend to follow simple silhouettes. If you have a sofa with an unusual form or a very overscale chair, it will be tougher to find standard options that do their job well.

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If you go with a premade slipcover, you might choose a multi-piece version that clearly delineates cushions for a crisper look.

How big is your budget? Custom slipcovers are significantly more expensive than pre-fab versions. If the cost isn’t in the cards, a standard slipcover may be the way to go. Or, if you’re confident in your sewing and upholstery skills, you could try your hand at stitching a slipcover on your own.

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Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn

Slipcovers aren’t limited to chairs and sofas—they’re a great way to revive ottomans as well. The pleated skirts on this pair add a flirty note.

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Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn

There’s nothing easier than tossing a sheet of fabric over a sofa, then pinning and tucking it into shape. But you can give it a little extra moxie by using a fringed blanket, oversize shawl or other cover with fun trim.

What type of fabric do you want? It used to be that slipcovers came only in a few basic neutrals, but that’s changed — nowadays, you can buy them in bold colors, lively patterns and interesting textures. However, if your heart is set on an extremely specific motif or an exact color, you may not be able to find it ready-made.

These days, slipcover options stretch far beyond white versus cream. These striped versions appear tailored and elegant enough for a traditional space.

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Shane Inman

Shane Inman

Keeping It In Shape

After you’ve chosen the right slipcover for your space, you can take it easy — almost. A big part of slipcovers’ appeal lies in their ease of maintenance, but they still need some attention. Unlike upholstery, you can remove and clean them, and small stains are simple to spot-treat.

Over time, they’ll most likely slide a bit (less of a problem with custom versions), so you may need to tug them back into place or tuck loose fabric between the cushions periodically. For a custom slipcover, consider investing in extra covers for the seat cushions, which are hot spots for wear and tear.

Most will come with specific care instructions, but in general, you’ll want to wash them every few months in cold water on a gentle cycle and dry on low heat. If you’re making a slipcover from scratch, be sure to wash and dry the fabric in advance to pre-shrink it.

Depending on how often you launder them and how sturdy the fabric is, slipcovers generally will last for a few years before they need replacing.

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Rate My Space contributor nishag83.

Rate My Space contributor nishag83.

Slipcovers are an ideal way to relax a formal dining area and hide spills. Tight-back versions are in keeping with the contemporary look of this space.

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