Good-looking outdoor fabrics keep furniture clean

March 21, 2009|By ROSE BENNETT GILBERT/Creators Syndicate

Q: We're newlyweds, but this is the second time around, and we both have two kids. I want to get rid of my old furniture and start fresh, but it seems a bit crazy. Oh, we also have two dogs in our merged family. Maybe I should get plastic slipcovers?

A: Plastic slipcovers! There's a thought I haven't had in years. Not since I wrote a feature for the New York Daily News on plastic slipcovers. Researching the story, I discovered three important facts:

  • Plastic slipcovers are congenital: If your mother had them, you might, too.

  • Cats won't sit on them and small children stick to them.

  • They give interior designers a bad case of hives.

    Just kidding about the hives, but, hey, what's a home decorator to do to protect her furniture from deadly assault by children and pets? Today, there's a better answer than plastic: outdoor fabrics.

    They've been around since the 1960s, but outdoor fabrics have come a long way from those heavy, stiff and style-deprived originals that were tough enough to stand rain and sun - and looked it. In fact, today's outdoor fabrics have come indoors; they are so good-looking and appealing to the touch.


In the hands of designers like Joe Ruggiero, outdoor fabrics make themselves elegant in the most luxe of living quarters. The pictured sitting room is all about the high performance fabrics Ruggiero has designed for Sunbrella fabrics ( He has also upholstered classic furniture for companies like Miles Talbott.

For all their good looks and comfortable feel, the fabrics are more than equal to the wear, tear and spills - including red wine - inherent in most lively households. You can bet that even "The Graduate" would be quick to upgrade from plastic (slipcovers) to cool outdoor/indoor fabrics like these.

Q: We were shopping at the mall last week and saw an unusual chair in one of the high-end clothing stores (no names, but their logo is a polo pony). The chair looked like it was made of old rusted machine parts. My engineer husband went crazy for it, but the clerk didn't have a clue where it came from. Have you ever seen such furniture?

A: I think I may have a clue: Go to and have a look at some of the ingenious metal-salvage furniture that comes from a resourceful 10-year-old company called Cleveland Art. Think tables, chairs, dressers, mirrors, lamps and more made of rusting, century-old industrial scraps like gears, pipes and machinery. They're the vision of designer Jason Wein, who explained to interviewer Hamish Anderson: "Basically, I'm inspired by nature and garbage."

Wein's right on a trend - reports from the winter fashion markets say rust is in, and metallics continue to rank high on the color charts.

And early clients of Cleveland Art have included Steven Spielberg and, yes, the chain with the polo pony logo. Recently, Cleveland Art opened its own store in Los Angeles and will be at Brimfield, the famous Massachusetts antiques and flea market, in May, July and September (

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas.

Copyright 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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