Slipcovers are not the drab option of former years

October 07, 2006|by ROSE BENNETT GILBERT / Copley News Service

Q: We are living in another professor's home while he's on sabbatical and I'm teaching his classes. The trouble is, the home is lovely and we have three young children (all under age 9). Of course, I locked away all the good breakables and traded our bed things for theirs. But I don't know what to do about the wall-to-wall carpeting and their good silk upholstery. Advice welcome. This is making me very nervous.

A: Did you hear the one about the couple who child-proofed the house, but they got in anyway.

Seriously, I can sympathize with your potential year of high anxiety. My advice: escalate your duck-and-cover campaign. First, safeguard the wall-to-wall. Figure out where the foot traffic is heaviest and lay down some inexpensive runners and area rugs, patterned ones that will effectively camouflage any household accidents.

To keep the upper rugs from crawling, you will need a thin under-layment that grips the surface of the wall-to-wall carpeting. But, beware, the cure can be worse than the cause with light-colored carpeting. Colors can bleed through, especially with inexpensive rugs. Thin polyester under-layments should staunch any such bleeding. A good floor coverings dealer can advise you.


Advice about that vulnerable silk upholstery: slipcover everything in sight. Don't shudder: Today's slipcovers are outright chic, a far cry from the shapeless, wrinkled throw-ons you may remember from yesteryear. That's a slipcover in the photo we show here, believe it or not. Made by Sure Fit, one of the oldest in the business (, it shows a great leap forward in the evolution of livable slipcovers with a separate cushion cover that makes the slipcover look more like upholstery.

Today's covers not only fit better and offer an instant change of mood in a room, they're also cheap enough (about $60 to $150) for you to simply toss out at the end of your stay. Your host's house should look none the worse for its year in the wear zone.

Q: Your recent column about how Americans are such pack rats that we have to rent extra storage units really hit home. My wife is an obsessive collector, of everything, but mainly of shoes. That's OK - she's not the president of the Philippines after all - but it doesn't seem practical to rent a shoe storage unit on the other side of town. Any other suggestions?

A: Assuming you've done all the usual things, like invest in under the bed boxes and hanging shoe bags, here's a fun idea from a couple of hip Palm Beach designers. Mimi McMakin and Brooke Huttig conjured up what they call a "shoe temple" for Laneventure furniture ( From one side, their mahogany finished "temple" looks like a handsome standing screen, complete with antiqued botanical prints.

Turn it around, however, and voila! A dressing mirror, shelves, and 70 - count 'em - 70 pockets for shoes!

Such charm doesn't come cheap, suggested retail is $2,847, but it's got to cost less than outsourcing your wife's shoe storage.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas. Please send your questions to her at Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190, or online at

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