Home Decorating for Rank Amateurs

1: Hunting for that Dream Slipcover

Many of us fantasize about having a living room that looks like this:

Oh come on!  This is TOO perfect!
Oh come on! This is TOO perfect!

For most of us, the activities of human life produce a reality more like this:

No, this is NOT my living room.
No, this is NOT my living room.

Some of us even have furniture that looks like this:

I'm not saying anything.
I’m not saying anything.

That last piece was probably acquired from the estate of Aunt Betsy, who had five cats and a Shih Tzu and who hadn’t bought anything new since 1985.

Those of us who have Chippendale tastes and a thrift shop budget have one hope when burdened with a piece of furniture that saw its best days ten years ago*: slipcovers.

In the old days, a woman made her own slipcovers out of whatever she had around the house, and if any of those same covers still survive today in decent condition (i.e. if nobody ever sat on them) they can fetch thousands of dollars on EBay. This doesn’t help whoever made them back in 1900, but it gives today’s descendants a reason to rummage around in the attic.

Most of us nowadays can barely thread a needle, let alone make our own slipcovers.

That’s where the Internet comes in. You google “inexpensive slipcovers,” being too embarrassed to type the word “cheap.” Because you are looking for something that is both frugal and of good quality, you choose a website that specializes in overstocked items – you know, a cyber space Big Lots. You forget what Mom said about how you get what you pay for, and browse among all the slipcovers on the site, sorting them according to “lowest price.” This is a mistake, because what comes up first are things like pillow shams, dining chair skirts, a steering wheel cover, something that looks like a pet bed, an umbrella cover, throw pillows and other things that have nothing to do with what you are looking for.

The only thing to do is to sort by “relevance.” This brings up sofa and loveseat covers, which means you now have something to look at. Good.

All of these covers have one thing in common. They look fabulous in the pictures. Visions of Living Room No. 1, above, float in your brain. You almost forget to check the product descriptions and the customer reviews.

The product descriptions give the dimensions, among other things. Oops! It never occurred to you to measure the thing that needs to be covered. It takes 20 minutes to find the tape measure, which, for some idiotic reason, is in the kitchen cupboard next to the vanilla extract. It takes another 10 minutes to measure the piece of furniture, because you have to move other pieces of furniture to get to the parts that have to be measured.

One stubbed toe and one pulled shoulder muscle later, you are back at the computer, ready to compare measurements.

It is then that you discover that your piece of furniture does not conform to any measurements known to humanity. Everything you see online is either too big or too small, often by only a couple of inches.

After another hour of flipping through one screen after another and surfing the Internet to see if any other website has anything better (they don’t), you finally decide on a “stretch” cover that is a couple of inches too small, figuring that you can get a friend to hold it down on one side while you pull like the devil on the other side.

You hate all the colors that the “stretch” cover comes in, but you finally choose the least offensive one just because it won’t clash with everything else in the living room. You make a mental note to order a cover for the recliner in a similar color, just so the two pieces will match. The recliner doesn’t need a cover, but that’s beside the point.

You submit your order online, then wait in trembling anticipation for two weeks, until the shipment arrives.

What happens next is a whole other story, for another time.

*… or pets with claws and teeth to use for interior decorating

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7 thoughts on “Home Decorating for Rank Amateurs”

  1. I always loved the slipcovers that just had approximate sizes, and then sashes to pull tight. Can’t remember what they’re called, but I still have one on my (it was free, and we took it from the side of the road) love seat. Yep, got that in the divorce, and it counted, because they said all the furniture was so expensive. Ha ha. Still a great slipcover, though.

  2. I didn’t know what a slipcover was. I do now. Also, Jill Y is calling me things right now that are not repeatable.

    1. It is a fortunate person indeed who never had to try to make old furniture look good when they didn’t have the money to just turn it over to a professional upholsterer.

      I would write something about those ads on TV for something that you just smear on a torn leather couch to magically make the holes disappear. I can’t do that, though, because I have never actually tried that. They always tell us to write what you know, so that’s what I’m doing! LOL!

      I will be very good, and I won’t ask you what Jill Y was calling you.

  3. Haha…this kind of reminds me of looking for a foundation to wear under my mother-of-the bride dresss. Like, no real size for every body, not the right color, having to call a friend over to stretch it into place….sound familiar!! Can’t wait for part 2, Kathy!

    1. ROFL! Yes, foundation garments are another sizing nightmare.

      I notice that things that used to be labeled “one size fits all” are now labeled “one size fits most.” There must have been a few lawsuits!

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