While I wandered absent minded through the aisles of T.J. Maxx's home goods decor section yesterday, surreptitiously straightening the merchandise, I heard a faint cry of distress. "Help!" it said. "I have an ugly couch!" Actually, it sounded more like the bing from my smart phone when I get an e-mail. But I sensed it immediately. A reader had written to ask for help disguising a rather large, rather blue couch, and wanted to know - "sofa slip covers? Yea? Or no way?!"

Oh, slipcovers. If we were to draw up a graph of top 10 decor horrors, slipcovers would register somewhere between dream catchers and faux wood paneling. Done right, they can save a piece of furniture - even a room - but mostly, they're done wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. Which is a shame, because upholstered furniture is a large part of many rooms, both in the literal and budget sense. If you change your look more often than you change salaries, you have a couch that's soiled or slightly out of date, or you want to freshen up a favorite piece of furniture, slipcovers can make a big difference. The very best way to use them is to hire someone in your area to custom-make a slipcover for you. It's much cheaper than reupholstering, and the look can be just as good. However, if that's still out of your budget, it's time to turn to the world of pre-made.

A slip-covered sofa in Lonny Magazine (be sure to check out this month's issue - it's fantastic). Embracing the casual style of this slipcover, Kate Spade's Creative Director, Deborah Lloyd, made it her own in a country house, using clean, simple lines and bold colors.

For a casual look, there are a lot of options. These choices from Sure Fit have a country flair, and priced from between $40 to $60, they're among some of the cheapest choices out there.

The biggest issue with pre-made slipcovers is the cushions. Why do most non-custom slipcovered couches look like they just gorged on a bag of marshmallows, and then swallowed a manatee? Because the couch and the cushions disappear into one dense blob. Best solution? Separate the cushions. While this is challenging to do with pre-mades, there are some options.

An upholstered couch - and a look to shoot for.

For do it yourselfers with some cushion staining to conceal, this is an easy alternative to a complete makeover. Measure your cushions, hem your fabric, and tie off the ends. No complicated fitting involved, and the look is charming.

For those of you looking to re-do an ("ahem") cheaper investment, there's the Bemz company, whose sole purpose in life is to recover IKEA furniture. Not kidding. They have designs perfectly tailored to just about everything IKEA makes - simply select your couch style on the website, choose from dozens of colors and patterns, and you're done. The price (averaging around $300) may seem a little steep to dress up a relatively inexpensive purchase, but the results look fantastic. And, you can even customize the body, cushions, and pillows in different fabrics for a unique look. 

Many slipcover options are in the traditional white/cream/tan shades. Or conversely, patterns that shouldn't exist. Don't be scared to experiment outside the box, like with this lovely mattress-ticking stripe in a room from Country Living Magazine.

For an all-American look that's crisp and widens the color palette, I'm in love with L.L. Bean's slipcovers. They offer patterns and solids that look great. Who knew they'd graduated from making tents?! And if you like the navy and white stripe above, they offer a similar style.

If you believe "shabby chic" is a contradiction in terms, there's always the tailored look. Crate and Barrel has some offerings, and the other traditional box stores like Pottery Barn are good sources too. But remember, this is a tough look to pull off pre-made; there's a reason most options are baggy. The slipcovered couch on the left is from Lonny Magazine.

Pottery Barn also offers some designs that have the cushions separated. The style is very chic (no marshmallows!) and I love the box pleats on the option below. I've shown them all in white, but they come in several basic shades.

The company Stretch and Cover has an impressive array of pre-made slipcovers, many of which convincingly mimic upholstery. Yay! Their genius idea is to add a bit of stretch to everything, making the fit as smooth as possible. They also allow you to order cushions by size, so you can really make your sofa spiffy. And don't miss the leather-look style below!
Of course, some pieces of furniture are impossible. But if you can't find a pre-made slipcover to fit your endearing, but weirdly shaped furniture, you can still cover it up. Get creative with throws, quilts, and the like. An oriental carpet will give your living room a European flair, and no one will ever object to being seated on something so cushy as a sheepskin (just so long as they aren't clad in black).
For a guide on how to measure for your slipcovers, visit the Real Simple website's mini tutorial.That's all folks! Have a question for Sanity Fair? Email me - sanityfairblog(@)
All images:  items for sale, companies as attributed; room images Lonny Magazine and Country Living Magazine.


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