Secrets to Slipcovers

This time of year we’re always thinking about ways to refresh our homes, and incorporating slipcovers is among our favorite tricks to transform a room. Easy and elegant, custom slipcovers are an excellent way to give a piece of furniture new life and a space a new look, so we turned to Alison Seeger, who has been creating custom slipcovers for more than two decades for clients in a number of states, for advice on selecting materials, styles, and more; here are her recommendations:

  • Select the right fabric. There are many suitable fabrics for slipcovers, but my all-time favorite (and the one I get the most requests for) is white denim. It can look classic or contemporary, depending on the style of the piece of furniture as well as the style and fit of the slipcover. I recommend using no less than a 10-ounce white denim. It washes and dries well, covers most upholstery without the need for lining, and always looks crisp. White isn’t for everyone, however; natural (unbleached) denim is a good option for people who like the light look, but feel white is too stark. Khaki and traditional blue denim are other popular choices, an heavier weight linens and cotton canvases also make great slipcovers.
  • Factor quality into cost. The biggest mistake I see people make is choosing (or settling for) a fabric because it’s cheap. Quality really does matter. A 10-ounce or 12-ounce denim that costs $15 per yard will hold up better over time than a thinner 8-ounce one that costs $8 per yard. The up-front cost of the slipcover will be a little higher, but it will last (and look better!) longer.
  • Take washability into consideration. Washability is a big factor to consider when choosing a slipcover fabric. Some fabrics are machine washable, while others need to be dry cleaned. A common mistake is not pre-washing the yardage before having a slipcover made. I’ve remade slipcovers for clients whose slipcovers shrunk the first time they were washed! Bear in mind that 100% cotton or linen will shrink more than a cotton/poly blend.
  • Have enough material on hand. Another common mistake people make is not purchasing enough yardage. Slipcovers made with printed/patterned fabrics require more yardage (to match the pattern) than solid fabrics.
  • Remember that slipcovers are a great way to change the look of a piece of furniture or an entire room. Upholstered pieces with exposed legs/feet can be slipcovered in the same fashion, so that the legs/feet still show, or sport slipcovers with skirts. Skirt options are plentiful: Short or long, tailored pleats or more feminine gathers, box pleats, running pleats, scalloped edges, banded hems—and the style can set the tone for an entire room. Additionally, added details like ties, buttons, and even monograms are ways that slipcovers can infuse personality into decor.
  • Consider adding contrast. Slipcovers are made with two fabrics: the main fabric and the fabric for the welt, and a recent trend and common request is the use of a contrast welt, also known as piping or cording. If washability is a factor, I suggest that the welt be made out of a fade-resistant fabric, like Sunbrella. That way, when the slipcover is washed, the welt fabric doesn’t discolor the rest of the slipcover.
  • Think of a good-quality, custom slipcover is an investment. Make sure the piece of furniture that’s being slipcovered is “worth it.” A good slipcover candidate is one whose frame is still in good shape/condition and whose style/lines are current or timeless. Cushions can be replaced, or they can be given new life by being wrapped in fresh batting. Over the years, I’ve helped many clients turn not-so-fabulous “hand me downs” into pieces they can be proud of…simply by adding a well-made, custom slipcover.

Expert tip from Alison Seeger of Alison Seeger Slipcovers in Savannah, GA; tip image of a project by Nancy Price of Nancy Price Interiors in Jackson, MS.