That chair in your bedroom needs help — the worn upholstery is faded, and the pattern heralds back to sometime in the late 1990s when you had a strange affection for burnt-orange and brown. But it’s a nice chair, high quality, and so comfortable. Is there a way to “upcycle” without spending a fortune at the upholstery shop? If not, the chair might have to go out with the trash. 

Before you give the chair its last rites, consider a slipcover. I’m not talking about the horrible plastic covers people used back in the 60s (does anyone do that anymore?), but an elegant approach to reviving furniture and completely transforming the look.

Chairs, sofas, benches, ottomans, and even tables can be completely or partially slipcovered. You can buy slipcovers or even make them yourself if you have a sewing machine, and there are entire worlds of decor fabric to choose from. (Jo-Ann Fabrics, Mood Fabrics, and Fabric.com are all good options for quality fabrics at good prices.) If you hesitate to completely cover your piece but would like protection from pets and kids, you might instead consider a protector. Our line includes many colors, and the fabric is comfortably quilted. 

Measuring your piece

No matter if you are buying or making the slipcover, it’s wise to measure the piece to ensure your new slipcover will fit properly. To measure, you’ll need a measuring tape flexible enough to fit into curves and groves. A sewing measuring tape is best, but you can also use a construction measuring tape if the metal strip making up the ruler portion isn’t too rigid. Take your furniture and set it up in an open area so you can access all sides. If you are measuring a large item, move it out from the wall to make the process easier.

With a piece of paper, pen, or phone nearby, begin your measurements by visualizing the piece as a box or rectangle — you want to see it like a designer would. Mentally divide the piece into sections — front, back, sides, seat depth, and overall depth — and write down these categories on your paper. Take your measuring device and begin at the top, holding the tape taut and drawing it out firmly. Identify the measurement and write it down. Move on to the next section and repeat for all parts of the chair.

Choosing the slipcover 

With your measurements in hand, it’s time to shop for the slipcover. You’ll find a range of styles at varying levels of quality, so the biggest challenge will be to narrow the focus onto those that suit your decor theme and style. A plain white slipcover in a luxurious fabric like velvet makes a chic and elegant statement, but if your room needs some excitement you might go for an pattern or bright color instead. Look for durable fabrics that will lightly cling to the upholstery underneath, but don’t compromise on comfort. A soft jersey like our option from Madison Home is strong, soft, and washable. 

Compare the measurements you recorded to the measurements of the slipcover itself. It’s unlikely you will find a perfect match, but remember that slipcover fabrics often stretch to fit the piece. Note also that some slipcovers are manufactured in several pieces. For example, a recliner might have pieces for both arms, the back and seat, and the pull-out portion. Slipcovers for dining chairs might be one or more pieces, depending on the length and type of embellishments (such as ruffles or flouces) is included in the design. If your furniture is hard to fit, consider a loose design such as a throw cover. Throw covers are also good options for simple furniture protection. Use them in guest rooms or cottages between seasons to prevent dust build-up. The same goes for outdoor furniture — our vinyl covers are an affordable way to keep your patio set pristine.

Putting on the cover

Once you have the slipcovers, remove them from the package and follow the instructions when putting them on. Now is the time to note any sizing issues — maybe the fabric is too snug in one area or too loose. Move excess fabric to the back or into hidden areas of the piece. As with any kind of home decor, you might need a few pins or a thread and needle to get the kind of coverage you prefer. Hopefully, you have close to a perfect fit. If you want to wash the slipcover before using it, make sure to check the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.

With your slipcover in place, you not only have a new look in your room, you also have protection from dirt, pets, and other environmental allergens. Have some fun dressing up the cover with decorative pillows or another warm item like our Amber Diamond Medallion Reversible Quilted Throw. Now that you are slipcovered in style, kick back with a book and enjoy the next new chapter of clean, comfortable relaxation.