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Slipcovers or Upholstery?

Deciding between slipcovers and upholstery can be a difficult decision. I looked at all the pros and cons and came to an easy decision. And I love the outcome.

Deciding between slipcovers and upholstery can be a difficult decision. I looked at all the pros and cons and came to an easy decision. And I love the outcome.

When it comes to having chairs and sofas redone, there are usually two choices, slipcovers or upholstery.

Either will give you a lovely end result – a new outside garment for a piece of solid furniture. But how do you decide between slipcover or upholster? It’s important to consider the use, the condition of the furniture piece, and cost.

A few years ago I was trying to decide what to do with my living room sofas. I absolutely loved the slipcovers that my friend Liz Marie Galvan had in her home. Those pleats are to die for!

liz marie slipcovers

I love the look of Liz Marie Galvin’s slipcovers 

Slipcovers or Upholstery

So which is it? Slipcovers or upholstery?

Here are some questions to consider when making this choice:

  • How is the piece of furniture used?
  • Is it likely to get dirty and will you want to be able to throw the slipcover in the laundry?
  • Is there a lot of wood on the piece that might make a slipcover not practical?
  • Is your piece of furniture worth saving?

If your couch or chair is well built and sturdy then you will probably want to invest the money and pay to have your piece reupholstered or slipcovered. If the furniture is well made and quality workmanship, then do it.

If the furniture is cheap and flimsy, don’t bother. I think second-hand or vintage furniture is usually well made and better constructed than what most of us are buying today. Unfortunately to buy quality, new furniture today is very expensive.

Look at these chairs again Liz Marie had slipcovered!

liz marie galvan sitting area

I love the look of Liz Marie Galvin’s slipcovers 

I finally decided to send our living room couches out to be slipcovered. That’s because they use to look like this. The couches were well made but dated and “grungy looking”. 

Living Room Before Photo

I really wanted a lighter and more neutral palette in our living room. And you can find out why here.

All I did was print a photo of Liz’s chairs and hand it to my local upholstery guy. I told him I wanted my couches to have a pleat like hers!

Which is More Expensive?

I found it interesting that the labor was much cheaper for slipcovers. For example, it cost me $300 to have a slipcover made whereas it was $400 to have the same chair upholstered. It also costs $300 more to have my sofa upholstered than to have a slipcover made.

The fabric yardage amount and cost was the same for a slipcover or upholstery. I chose slipcovers because they are more practical to wash (especially since I chose white fabric) and I just like the look more of slipcovers versus upholstery.

The End Result

pleated slipcovers

Don’t these look a gazillion times better?

Here are some of the items featured in our living room.

Plus, look at how the style of the couches even looks different. In the before photo, the style looked dated. But now, with the white slipcovers, they look great.

living room slipcovers

And the best part?

I had these couches slipcovered five years ago and I still haven’t had to wash them. They are in our living room, which means we don’t use them as often, but I have comfort knowing I can wash them any time.

If you want to know how to wash your slipcovers, be sure to read this post How to Clean Slipcovers.

Which do you prefer?

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Slipcovers vs. Upholstery

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about leslie


Welcome to My 100 Year Old Home. I started my blog so I could share my passion for entertaining, décor, cooking, and crafts. You will find all this and more right here. Read more…

28 Responses

  1. Your advice is so practical yet elegant. I love the fresh, crisp look of the furniture. Absolutely beautiful.

  2. Just spent over $500. to have a slipcover made from a high end retail store. It took both my husband and I to tackle the slipcover together to get it to fit correctly. Lots of difficult tucking. I can not imagine going through this again if I ever have to launder it. At its best it still looks “rumpled”.

    1. Hi..then it’s either too big of too small…give it time for the fabric to relax and see how it fits at that point.

  3. Several years ago, I had two beautiful antique wing-back chairs reupholstered in a beautiful neutral fabric. The fabric that was on them was in perfect condition but I was tired of looking at the floral tapestry they had been wearing for thirty years! I suppose because I lived in a small rural town with only one business that did re-upholstery, they capitalized on that fact, and it cost me nearly $2000! Long story – short, my cat has decided she loves the new fabric, and has turned the chairs into her personal scratching posts. I have decided to slipcover!

  4. No slipcovers for me. No matter how much tucking you do they always look crooked and rumpled. And if there’s any type of skirting or pleats they look crooked. Nope, beautiful upholstery is the only way I go. No matter how much you pay, the outcome is the same. But this is my opinion only!

  5. You don’t really live in a space that has five-year-old slipcovers that have never been washed!!

  6. Hi there: Thank you for your beautiful blog. You provide such helpful and inspiring information.
    I just love the slipcover look. And, your couches and home decor are beautiful.
    I’m considering slipcovering our 2 living room couches, which we bought in the 90s from a high end furniture store in CA; paid quite a bit of money for them and they are very good quality, sturdy and well made. They are both in perfect condition and I would hate to get rid of them.
    The upholsterer that I’ve consulted with asked me to pick out and purchase the fabric, however I’m not sure what to choose. What type of fabric was used for your white slipcovers? Thank you in advance for your response.

  7. Love, love, love your slipcovers Leslie!! It makes SUCH a difference with your couch!! I’ve always had slipcovers too and everyone is always amazed that they stay so clean. The key is that I can WASH them -and you just can’t do that with upholstery. For me, it’s just more practical with having a kid and a dog. 🙂 I’m actually looking for a good (hopefully affordable) upholsterer -and I’m local. Can I DM you on IG for his/her info?

  8. Hi again. I really love the couches and pleating too. So pretty.

    Leslie, my sofa is quite nice, well made, but old and worn out from 9 small grandchildren. They are older now so want to move forward on this. The insides of the couch and cushions need refilled/rewired maybe. So even if I wanted slip covers, an upholsterer would have to rebuild it first……right?? So, maybe just reupholster $$$$ am I correct?

  9. Hi again. I really love the couches and the pleating makes such a difference. They really turned out so beautiful. My question is simple, and I probably know the answer, but just to confirm with you (since I have never reupholstered/slipcovered anything EVER…) If my sofa is hard-wood framed and well built, but old and worn by grandchildren when they were small…..a professional would probably need to rebuild the current upholstery and stuffing, before they could even slip-cover the couch……RIGHT?????? And if that is true, as I suspect, it would cost more than just buying something new, slip-covered, from say, Pottery Barn, correct? PLEASE ADVISE. Thank you Thank you Thank you

    1. You CAN buy something new but will never get the quality you have unless you spend a gazillion dollars. I think Leslie said that if the piece has a lot of wood, upholstering may be the better option. You do save by slipcovering but the difference seems relatively small. The benefit is the ability to remove and wash them.

    2. Leslie,
      Can you pls share (I will dm you too) who did the slipcovers? Also what type of fabric did you use?
      Thank you!!

  10. I loved my slipcover couches!
    Could you please tell me who you used to make your slipcovers? If you live in Ca might be worth the drive for me!

  11. Hi Leslie. Your home is stunning! I love how much info you share about your style. I live in LA and was wondering if you would mind sharing your slipcover contact. I have some old Shabby Chic couches I need to recover and I don’t think I want to go through the store.
    Thank you in advance and if you do not feel comfortable I understand.

  12. Leslie:
    Which fabric did you use for your slip cover? If you are in California, who made your slip cover?
    Thank-you, Jeani

  13. I purchased a slip covered sofa and LOVE it. I wash the covers every six months or so and they look just as nice as when first purchased. And it’s white…
    I make sure to dry on LOW for a while then hang to dry. works wonderfully.

  14. Hi, I noticed several people ask about your slipcovers and where you had them made and type of material?? But never answered..maybe I missed it..I love ur whole house!!! So lovely and everything I love..especially slipcovers..thanks so much..

    1. I had them made locally. I showed the upholsterer a photo of the pleated slipcovers and he made them exactly how I wanted! I used a heavy cotton duck and I preshrank the fabric first!

  15. For those who fin the rumpling to be too much- make sure there is enough fabric to tuck it in where the back meets the seat. Put a piece of 1/2″ PVC pipe in the crevice to hold the fabric tight. This allows for easier removal to wash while giving a tight fit.

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