Good Budget Upholstery and Family Friendly Fabrics

After Monday's post - with me saying what I think doesn't work- I received a bunch of questions about what I think does work concerning upholstery on a budget and concerning kid (and pet!) -friendly fabrics & options.  I dissed microfiber (even tough I have some in my own home) and bulky silhouettes.  If your sofa is in a an often-used room, then I'd say that it's worth spending on if it's in the budget.  But if a high-quality sofa isn't in the budget, I have a few  favorites. 

I'm going to start at Ikea.  I've personally used a couple of Ikea pieces and some are more comfortable than others but most have held up pretty well for me.  (And we really beat up things in our house!)

I'm sure you've heard of Ikea's Ektorp sofa:

{Shown here in beige for $599. But it starts at $399 for a washable white slipcover and comes in multiple fabrics.  Joni from Cote de Texas hass mentioned this baby before and it really can be the perfect backdrop sofa.  If they slimmed out those roll arms just a little, it would be much betta!!}

Here's the Ektorp storage ottoman in a gray slipcover:

{I have this at home.. I think it cost me around $130 and sometimes in a tight budget I'll have my workroom do a slipcover in a custom fabric...  The slipcovers they come with start a little short & then get shorter as you wash them even if dried on low heat.  If You ditch the handles and do a waterfall skirt, this piece gets prettier. }

I think this Ektorp chaise is super cute and love it:

I haven't seen this Kivik footstool in person but it looks pretty good to me:

And this Kivik sofa looks "almost" there to me, although if it were a single cushion and there were a skirt across the bottom I'd like it a lot better.  It's $597.

I also like the Tullsta chair and have two myself.  ($129) The seat cushion is very hard for long sits and I feel a little numb in the behind when I get up.  I've considered having new seat cushions made.  The slipcovers are also too short as you can see in this picture and they're worse in person:

{But, for $129, I'm cool with that.}

Going a little bit up in the budget, there are some options I like from Pottery Barn.  I haven't checked them out in person but they look great.  My favorite is the Carlisle Sofa, their English arm sofa.  This apartment sofa (only 78") is pretty:

{Starts at $1299}

Here it is slipcovered:

{$1300- $1800}

Here's the upholstered version with loose back cushions and a 90.5" width:

{$1349- $1649...  I wish they did the tight back version in this size. I wonder if the back cushions were removed and if you did throw pillows?  It might work for tall ppl...}

Their Charleston ottoman is really pretty:

{$499- $599}

Their "PB Square" slipcovered sofa is almost there (If they slimmed out the arms a little I'd like it a lot better)
but looks okay:

( Approx $1200- $2000)

Ballard Designs' Slipcovered Hollis Sofa starts at $988:

Their Baldwin Slipcovered sofa from $1328:

And I like their Davenport Slipcovered sofa from $1279:
{I like how the rolled arms are tucked further into the sofa vs. flaring out as much as some of the others.  The two cushion seat is pretty.}

Crate & Barrel has some beautiful upholstery.  There are also some nice wallet-friendly options available.  I like this Willow sofa from $1699:

{Great arms}

I like this Lounge Slipcovered Sofa for $1999 and it's 93" long which is pretty large:

{Love its lines}

The Klyne Sofa is only $1200 but is only 80" wide:

Anyway, these are just a few of the many sofas out there, but what I like about most of them is that they have fairly nice lines.  I'm drawn more towards the piececs whose arms don't flare out as much and the ones that are a bit less bulky-looking.  I was lucky and found my own high quality sofa on craigslist for around $300.  We reupholstered it and ended up spending around $1600 total.  I did it in a green velvet and planned on having a washable slipcover made for it eventually but loved the green so much, I decided to wait.  The velvet takes a lot of abuse, but the one abuse that's really taken its toll was baby spit-up.  (Oh I know how gross this is sounding to you :)  When Justin (my second son) was born, he had acid reflux and spit up like CRAZY.  And this inclcuded on the sofa seat.  At the time we'd just grab whatever was near us - usually baby wipes- to get it up so the spit-up/ smell was gone.  Well, fast-forward to a year later and I have started to see light spots on the seat cushions where the spit up was.  The acid & baby wipe & sun combination was not good.  Thank goodness we never flipped our seat cushions so I was able to flip them to the clean sides & it's perfect again, but I've learned my lesson: Although baby wipes are AMAZING, don't use them on upholstery.  And milk is a horse of another color so be sure to get it up completely.  The acid can be really damaging to color when mixed with bright sun.  We should have properly cleaned the mishaps.  Also, I'm considering having a slipcover made for the sofa when the next baby comes in case we get another spitter. (Our #1 was also a spitter so I'm betting on another) 

As far as our velvet goes, we've had red wine spilled on the sofa and it's come out without a stain.  I've also had some chocolate on it (Yes, I know I have a problem) and the kids BEAT it up and none of this shows.  We're trying to put a stop to it but right now their favorite game is to stry to chase each other OVER the sofa. 

For kid-friendly fabrics, you can go the slipcovered route and you get the benefit of using wh.  I myself like a slightly oatmeal white slipcover because I have to wash it less, but others love pure white because they can bleach out anything and they never fear.    I have a slipcovered sofa in a twill but linens and denims work beautitfully  too.  Even painters dropcloths!  (My photographer, Helen Norman who took the photo above- uses dropcloths throughout her home on upholsery & loves it.  Brooke & Steve Giannetti (of Velvet & Linen) also wrote about this in their new book Patina Style.  (Which I'll be posting about soon.. I AM IN LOVE WITH IT!!!)  It's important to remember that not all slipcovers are loose and many are very tailored.  Sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference between an upholstered piece and a slipcovered one. 

If you prefer an upholstered piece, there are so many family-friendly fabrics out there.  I'm using a light poly-blend fabric right now for a client that looks like linen but is super durable.   Velvet is also very kid-friendly and there are commercial grades available.   There are linen-poly blend fabrics and cotton-poly blends that work beautifully.  Heavy-duty denims in off-white/ natural and painter's dropcloths work well and there are a ton of beautiful indoor-outdoor fabrics out there too.  Of course patterns are amazing on upholsterry for kids & pets because they hide so much.  I would never go with pure white upholstery in a room where kids will be spending a lot of time  (Only slipcovers in white.)  but there are a lot of fabrics out there that can look very pale and can read white although they are beiges, grays, naturals, oatmeals, etc.  (So  you can still get a light family-friendly look without actually going pure white.)   

I also recommend stain-treating upholstery so you can be worry-free.  (Too bad I didn't follow my own advice before my spitter came along! ;)  Upholstery also typically needs to be professionally cleaned every 2-3 years.  You should vacuum it a couple of times a month and flip the cushions ever month or so to keep it looking good & wearing evenly.    (Oh thank God I didn't do that when Justin was a baby!!)

I'm off for the day but enjoy yours!!  Hope this rundown helps!

xoxo, Lauren

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.


lemondropdreams said...

I'm all about the slipcover, and I have white with four kids!! But the best part is it's washable AND I have a great source for a new one when it needs to be replaced!

Wives said...

Lauren, I think you might be the most insightful blogger out there. Not only do you rant, you also provide solutions. Such a good philosophy. And, you put out so much content about design and why things work - not just pretty pictures all the time. Thanks for all of your insights!

lisaroy said...

I've had microfiber and it's fantastic. Even still, I'm a huge white slipcover fanatic! Even with a dog with muddy feet and frequent puking (I know, gross) I've never had a worry. I've ordered a new linen English roll arm but plan to sew up a white slipcover for it when it arrives. Though we no longer have a dog, pizza Fridays and escapee Chinese sweet & sour sauce are enough reason to do so. And there's nothing like that fresh just-washed feeling of a white slipcover. :)

Suzanne said...

This company makes slipcovers that fit Ikea sofas...

just something to keep in mind if anyone out there wants the Ikea prices, but not the Ikea looks... :)

Allison said...

JC Penny offers some nice looking pieces as well...I think their Linden Street line is a Pottery Barn knock-off...

And I highly recommend Folex upholstery cleaner (sold at Home Depot) is the best, not toxic, not smelly and really gets the stains out of rugs and upholstery...I have a toddler and two cats, so I use this stuff often;)


Luciane at said...

GREAT post! I really enjoyed reading your imputes one each of them.


Luciane at

ewmackey said...

as a non-designer, i really appreciate this post -- your tips are so insightful.

one question related to your previous post: i also hate rugs that are too small, but how do you determine the proper proportion of a rug for a room? i've been wanting to buy a rug for my apartment, but i'm so worried about buying the wrong size that i've put it off for over a year!

Anonymous said...

I would also include Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. I recently purchased a slipcovered sofa there and was shocked at the extremely reasonable price. Like so reasonable that PB should be frightened. :)

Barbara Matson said...

Thanks for the tips. I am guilty of the whole suede thing and frankly am tired of it. I think I will slipcover the sectional. AS for Ektrop, just bought a loveseat for our kids games room and LOVE it. Did you know they have a 10 year warranty? Not bad in my books. I am also guilty of buying leather {I bought all this pre-blogs} and while it is great to clean up, it can rip and tear. But I spent so much on the set {yes, I bought a set - shoot me} I have to wait a while {or win the lottery} before I can convince the hubs we need something else!

Anonymous said...

Where did you get your living room chairs? I keep hoping someone else will ask and maybe they did and I missed it.

MandaMaj said...

Had to comment on this post. I actually have the 90 inch Carlisle from PB. The cushions are just big pillows and aren't attached in any way. Sometimes I leave them on but generally I take them off as the back is a nice smooth line. Then I load it up with pillows. The seat is so deep that it works really well. Best sofa I've ever owned (plus I got it as a floor sample for HALF PRICE!)

Leanbean said...

You should write a book and title it "how not to make your house look like crap". I would totally buy it.

Catherine said...

Great post Lauren! We just got the Ikea Ektorp sofa and ottoman in white for our den and it's been perfect.

Can't beat the price!


Barbara Bussey {The Treasured Home} said...

Hi Lauren,
Great post! I love the price and lines of the Ballard sofas. Do you have any experience on how they wear? I've used the painter's drop cloths before to make slipcovers and they work great. Just make sure you pre-wash, because they're not pre-shrunk!

Unknown said...

Lauren, thank you so much for this (and the previous) post. So much helpful info! I'll definitely be referencing back to this post when it comes time for future purchases! xoxo

The Buzz Blog @ Diane James Home said...

Another fantastic post filled with great advice... and so timely since my living room sofa (aka my 13-year-old son's lounging on his computer area) is in dired need of slip-covering or upholstering! It's a wonderful solid oak frame with down pillows that is over 40 years old (very similar to the first Ikea one). I have my eye on a beautiful Lee Jofa but the way the sofa is being used, I'd be better off covering it in a plastic tarp!

Kathysue said...

Lauren I bookmarked this post and I am going to refer people to this post when they ask about sofas. I think you gave a wonderful selection and reasons to purchase one over the others. You gave great looking sofas at three different price points. I bought a slipcovered sleeper settee from Ikea for my playroom. I love it, It looks like the Ektorp had a baby.The arms are slimmer, as you mentioned ,that you love. It fit perfectly between the two bookcases in the room. I did a post on it a while back on my finished playroom post. It is perfect for the playroom and the kiddos feel like it is their very own living room. Kathysue

AnneHH said...

Great post, Lauren, as was your last one about microfiber and sofa lines. Just one observation from my experience--I bought four slipcovered pieces from Crate and Barrel a while ago and have never been happy about how the slips fit and after washing it was even worse! Some way too big, some way too tight!! I almost feel like you should buy the sofa you want and then find a really good specialist in slipcovers to make them for you--with affordable fabric that has been preshrunk. I so wish that someone had given me this advice before I invested so much at Crate and Barrel!
Thank you for your amazing posts!!

Fiona said...

Lauren, not to get all fan-girl on you, but I really like your posts because you can tell you are very concerned about your readers and you explain everything so well.

Thank you!

under spanish moss said...

Love the kid friendly advice. It's so important for families to have furniture they can live on and not stress out about.
XO Angela and Renee

Velvet and Linen said...

Ok, I need to visit Ikea. It has clearly been way too long. The Kivik footstool is so nice and simple... not huge and overstuffed.
We just received our new Crate and Barrel catalogue. They have some great reasonably price pieces.
I feel the same way about micro fiber. It's a love/hate relationship.
Thank you for the Patina Style shout out.
Thank you for your friendship.


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Anonymous said...

What a great follow-up post! I just have to say that if you have pets that shed, both microfiber and velvet can be major fur magnets... at least, that's been my experience with 4 cats and 1 dog. I've done waaay better with 100% cotton slipcovers. Fur just doesn't cling to my cotton stuff as much, especially when it's on the slick side (my Bemz slipcovers are this way).

Jen said...

I have 3 kids and a cat - and the Ektorp in white. LOVE it. Bought an extra set of slipcovers so while one is in the wash, the other is on the couch. I can bleach out anything, and I can flip the seat covers for double the wear before washing. For small stains, I use a Tide pen and, if necessary, a bleach pen - eliminates the need to wash the whole thing for small spills.

Pam said...

Great helpful post, thanks!

silly6 said...

I have a great rolled arm, low to the ground and low back couch that was my grandmaothers. EXCELLENT Quality. I want to reupholster it in a velvet because I have 4 kids (ages 4, 7, 9, & 12). Can you recommend affordable but good quailty velvet fabric? What should I look fro? Cotton, Mohair (too expensive), cotton/poly blend??? Thanks for the advice!

Elizabeth said...

I love your blog! Have been reading for quite some time now. Would love your opinion on the Restoration Hardware Belgian Classic Roll Slipcovered Sofas. We are thinking of ordering two for our family room when we do the remodel in the dark charcoal. 3 young kids and a white sofa - gone bad have led us to go with a dark sofa and keep everything else very light. What do you think of this line? Is it worth the $? Top priority is it has to be slipcovered and has to be comfy!
Would love your opinion! Thanks. Elizabeth

Laura Lynn said...

Love the information.

From personal experience I have never had good luck with attached back or semi attached back cushions. They tend to look shlumpy after a while. I have 5 kids and with just normal use, they sag and pull, even on a well-made sofa. They can always be replaced but the tight backed furniture we had always stayed so nice.
I'm going back to it!

Anonymous said...

I have one additional great source to add. Room& Board makes sofa with great shapes. And they have wonderful and durable fabric choices.
BTW, I used a Crate & Barrel sofa with denim slipcovers in a family room recently. It didn't even last 5 years. The slipcovers frayed ( and being denim it was only washed a couple of times) and the cushions completely lost their shape. While 3 teenaged boys used the room, there were no pets.
I think it should have lasted longer than 5 years....
The Room & Board stuff I spec'd has worn much better. One client with SEVEN! kids still loves it after 8 years.
All best,
Lynn from Decor Arts Now

Kerry Steele- Design du Monde said...

Great post. I got a second hand sofa that was seriously ugly, think '70s orange flowers, but it had great lines so we had it reupholstered in a dark pewter color. I used a heavy duty upholstery weave for durability and it spot clean nicely. Total cost $1500 and it will last a lot longer than an Ikea sofa. I have one of those too and the whole family hates it. It is hard as a rock.

Erin Southwell said...

Hi Lauren!

We have the Pottery Barn Carlisle sofa (the larger one) and I do love it. It looks great with the back cushions removed too. I love that the slipcover is washable (toddler!) but looks so tight when on that it has an upholstered appearance.

I just love your blog.

Erin @ Rare & Beautiful Treasures

Lovely Little Nest said...

So many great options! We were gifted a hideous couch and chair which we slipcovered in a soft oatmeal cover ~ no one believes me when I say they're slipcovered until I flip up the sides and show them what's underneath!

Anonymous said...

I have drop cloth slips on two sofas and a chair and love them! They are super durable and easy to clean- just be sure to wash in hot water and bleach and dry on hot heat with lots of fabric softeners.

Great article with lots of terrific price points!

Dana said...

Lauren - Hi. Your blog was the first I ever read & now I'm hooked; all on design, family, etc. I read about you in a mag at Christmastime and loved your style!!

My question is that I'd like to start a blog (I'm not a designer, like you - so no competition) but wanted to ask how do you save photos from magazines, catalogs, etc. thatyou'd like to refer to? Of course, I know that they must be credited but other than scanning, do you have a system? I have not started it yet, but other than photos of projects I've taken myself, have no idea how to include photos. Thank you for all of your inspiration!!!!!

bungalow said...

Hi Lauren,

Where did you get the glass bottom table lamp (close-up picture of stone fireplace, your paisley curtains, small table with lamp on top)?

Thank you, Carol

bungalow 000 at yahoo dot com

Suburban Style said...

Thank you for these back-to-back posts! It IS ok to buy nice things while you still have small children at home. Often, I think people buy things because that is what stores are selling, even though they may want something very different. And I know I am guilty of buying right away because I want to fill a space, rather than waiting (and saving) for that special piece that I will love.
Secondly, thank you for introducing me to the Color Me Happy blog…what a wealth of information. It’s always best to have a friend’s recommendation, and I feel like that happens when one blogger recommends another. :)
As for rugs, Craigslist worked for me. I needed at least a 7x9 for my dining room, and I was beginning to think it would be a while to save for nice rug. Luckily, I spied a custom rug for sale on Craigslist. After some online research, I learned it was an indoor/outdoor rug...a very stylish choice that will stand up to my 5 little ones.

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bj0161 said...

What search did you use to find your sofa...I have been looking for exactly the same with no luck!

redhairedgirl said...

Hi Lauren,
I know it has been forever since you reupholstered that craigslist sofa in green velvet but I was wondering if you remembered the name of the fabric you purchased at Calico Corners? I love this color so much.