Let's Talk about my white sofa

I've received a bajillion emails and messages with questions about my new white sofa so I thought I'd share some details & info on it.

{My tiny guy & my new white sofa}


It's from Restoration Hardware and it's the Belgian track arm sofa.  It was a bit of an impulse purchase... one we thought long & hard about (is it weird to talk about the purchase of a sofa for hours over the course of a couple of weeks??) but an impulse purchase nonetheless because I didn't really think it through the way I should have.

With my clients, I keep them safe...  In my own house, I take the hits.  We're the guinea pigs.  We try things I would never be comfortable recommending until I'd tried myself.  Case in point: a white sofa.  I have never recommended a pure white UPHOLSTERED sofa to a client.  Washable slipcovers, yes, but nonwashable, no neva.

So... before I ordered the sofa, I got the sample of my fabric- the Indoor-Outdoor Perennials Linen Collection in White- and I trashed the thing.  I smeared a greasy gob of tomato from a pizza on it.  I let it sit a while and then I worked the stain out.  It came out perfectly clean!!  You could basically just hose this thing off and it came out perfect!  Over the course of a few weeks, I'd take the memo out and shake my head that there was no residue from the nasty stain I'd made and that's really what sold me.

{And the fact that it's totally gorgeous}


I thought about using my usual trade sources but I was impatient and had already seen the magic of the fabric, so I went with Restoration Hardware.



But I'd forgotten my own previous experience with a nonwashable white sofa which is- it's not the stains that get you because they can usually be worked out, it's the daily dinge and grime that kills the sofa.  We've had a couple of times where I've had to work out stains from the sofa and it's done really well, but it's when we have lots of people over and there are lots of blue jeans and bare legs and feet on my sofa that really mess it up.  I've tossed a pretty blanket over the back rail because it's in a major walkway of the house where people tend to lean on & touch so there's no problem there but the bottom seat cushion itself didn't stay  looking good for very long.  It started looking a bit gray and just not fresh at all like the rest of the sofa.

I started thinking of my back-up plan...  (This had secretly been in my head all along but I hadn't wanted to go there.)  The indoor-outdoor fabric isn't supposed to be machine washable.  But I took a deep breath one day and threw it in the washing machine.  I couldn't take looking at the dinginess anymore.  I put it on cold & gentle and used a ton of spray & wash and it came out perfectly white.  I let it air dry.

My sofa looked so good again!!  I only washed the seat cushion and am dreading having to wash the sofa slipcover itself (and may never have to- at least for a long while) because things can tear and get messed up in the washing machine if they're not meant to be washed and I've got to worry about the shape--- but I'm definitely going to keep washing the cushion covers.

The perennials fabric itself attracts little bits of lint from people's clothing and so it looks a little pilly.  The washing didn't get rid of those and so to get rid of them, I literally have to pick them off like lint on a sweater.    It is what it is.


It's super-comfy, really pretty and a bit of a pain to deal with.

So- would I recommend this sofa?  Sofa itself, I like.  Perennials in WHITE??  Not so much.  I know that when I'm washing it, I'm getting rid of whatever is on it to make it bullet-proof.  (Washing treated fabric also washes away the treatment.) So if you HAVE to have a white sofa like I did-  I'd really recommend going washable.  At this point, I'm just telling myself I own a sofa with a washable white slipcover and I'm forgetting that it had any magical stain-proof qualities.  As a washable white slipcovered sofa- I like (and kind of love) it.

So for me, it's a "yes."  For a client?  I'd still have to say "no" because it's pretty risky.  If it was in another color other than white (the natural, for example) it would probably be great because even a slight color off from white hides the daily grime although the fuzz/pills would still slightly bug me.  (We have a very light- almost white- "natural"-colored twill slipcover upstairs and have had it for 5+ years and it still looks amazing.  (Also by Restoration Hardware!)

I will probably keep washing mine for a few years and I do plan on having an alternate slipcover made some time (way) in the future to be able to switch it up.

Anyway, hope this helps!!




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53 comments:

Kerry Steele- Design du Monde said...

I have a gray sofa that collects little pills from peoples clothes. It drove me nuts until I tried a sweater shaver on those things. Much faster than picking at it.

Bethany [at] Powell Brower Home said...

wow - great review. the kind of detail you dont get from anyone when buying a sofa until they've actually lived with it! ok - so my biggest question after sitting in these is how does the one bottom cushion hold up? is it better than two or three? or does it get lumpy a lot quicker and you just flip?

psuj9 said...

Any chance you can recommend a neutral sofa with slipcovers that are truly washable (read: I won't totally wreck them when I attempt a wash)? Nothing fancy, doesn't need to be sleek-fitting. Would love to be able to pull them off once a year for a freshen-up. Keep thinking that I would need to have someone make them for me, but that seems as expensive as buying a whole new couch! What fabrics are the most furniture- and washing machine-friendly?

Razmataz said...

Hi Lauren,

I love the sofa and having all white in my house too, I have a tip that may work for you. On my sofa I bought an inexpensive white thin quilted blanket from a store like Target. mine looks like this http://www.pineconehill.com/product/view/argyle-quilt--Q241

I then wrapped the entire seat in it, tucking it in like a bed. Because of the weight of the quilt it stays in place and also is thick enough to absorb any spills. It isn't really that noticeable and I can throw it in the wash every couple of weeks. Here is a link to my blog and you can see my sofa with the quilt on the seat.
http://www.razmatazblog.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2013-01-15T19:17:00-05:00&max-results=12

Kirsten Braddock said...

We own this sofa too and love it. We opted for the standard linen color. I have 2 kids (4/6) and it still looks great and is super comfy. The delivery guy was like, good luck with your white couch when he brought it in the house and saw I had little kids. We were a bit worried about it, but it has a lot of texture which is very forgiving with kids and a black dog and the fabric is very strong. I would highly recommend.

Danielle said...

I love that sofa! I've been dying for a white sofa for a couple months, but after doing a "test drive" with a white slip-covered ottoman, I don't think a white sofa is for me. But I love to look at other people's white sofas :)

AntiqueChase said...

I almost bought the track arm but took a trip to the RH outlet and the English Roll Arm in Tan Linen was available that afternoon and about 1/3 the price since it was at the outlet. done.

however, every other couch in my house is white. washable and white. BUT, you can't just throw the big slip in the wash.. too big. at least at my house.

anyway, i wrote a post about how I keep mine clean with teenagers, guests etc... it's my best keep secret... and it will set you back $20.

I am posting the link and hope you don't mind...

http://antiquechase.blogspot.com/2010/08/white-sofas.html

Not your grandma's plastic but really really works!!
Marcy

Diane Haynie said...

Appreciate your honesty about the fabric and admire your courage about choosing a white sofa with three little boys! but I went with my guts when my daughter was little and we had white dining room chair seats and a beige rug underneath. I believe that a child needs to learn to respect and take care of belongings and a home does not need to look like the local kindergarten classroom just because you have kids. We simply placed towels over the seat covers during dinner but never had a spill on the towels either and loved that dining room set until we moved and I recovered them in red suede. And I tell clients that dark colors like black and brown show stains as well as every piece of lint and hair that ever existed.

-amy said...

It seems weird to me when people ask if I'm not worried that my white (washable slipcovered) will get dirty. They mean to ask if I'm worried it will LOOK dirty because all sofas pretty much experience the same challenges. The only difference here is that I can wash my slipcovers if someone leaves a fingerprint or their clothes shed color. With other sofas, that stuff just stays there.

That being said, I plan on having a grey wool cover made for next fall, mainly because what's the point in having a slipcovered sofa if I can't change her outfit with the seasons?

Deidre Interiors said...

I have a cream sofa and it hides the dirt pretty well. I wash the seat cushions and "green machine" the back and sides. One super good thing about it is that it's an antique and has wood trim all along the back. If someone leans on it they are leaning on trim, not fabric! I love the pure white though, so pretty!

Mary Ann at classic•casual•home said...

This is a great post! My kids are grown...and they basically grew up with slipcovered white sofas. When my son comes home from college and then leaves...they get a good wash and are like new again. I just wrote a post about slipcovers: http://www.classiccasualhome.com/2013/01/what-you-need-to-know-about-slipcovers.html
Thanks for your honesty ...I think your sofa and baby look heavenly.

Maureen@CheekyinBlue said...

I want this! I'm still too scared, three dogs, two of which are black, and they track in giant muddy paw prints quicker than I can mop them up! One day maybe!!

jane said...

Thank you so much for this post! I was one of the people wondering about your sofa (and was intending to write since my husband just gave me the new sofa go-ahead over the weekend). I want a white sofa really badly but most people think I'm so crazy - 3 kids and a dog and a cat and just generally not the tidiest house ever. I'm going to check out some of the other links posted in the other comments re: their white sofas but like another poster, I was wondering if you knew of a white slipcovered sofa that would hold up to my family. Or does a slightly off-white make that much of a difference? Anyway, I love your blog - and your new house looks dreamy - can't wait to see more photos! Good luck!

carol jane said...

Your sofa is gorgeous! Love the sleek lines, and the 1 long cushion on seat and back. Your little guy is adorable and looks so teeny tiny sitting there. I have a slip covered sofa from Arhaus furniture. I love it, except to purchase a new slip for it, costs around $1000. Yikes! That is the only drawback. Other than that, I love having a slip covered sofa. Oh, and mine is white,too.

Dana said...

Great info, thanks. The sofa may get a little (lot) dirty but just look at that beautiful baby boy - perfect!!!

Tracey G said...

I am so glad you posted on this. It is my #1 fear about a white sofa (even a slipcovered one) because I have white hand towels in my 1/2 bath, and I have 3 kids. Even with bleach, they always have that dingy gray quality after some time. I am afraid that my sofa would look like my towels :( (At least those are easy to replace). Thanks for the honest info.
Tracey

LindsB said...

I have a white sofa and I think I feel the exact same as you. I love it for me, but for a future client, ehhh I dont think I would recommend. At this point there are a few pretty set in stains that bug me, but since its an apartment sofa I chalk it up to just that. Its the future basement kinda of sofa for now :)

Ashley said...

I too have a white slipcovered sofa and Iove the look. I had imagined that I would be able to wash just one cushion cover if it got dirty, however, when you wash just one the rest of the sofa looks dingy, so I almost always have to wash the entire sofa. That said, the only thing I haven't been able to get out of it is dry erase marker, which was artfully applied by my son who was 2 at the time! Otherwise I wash it in hot with Oxyclean and it looks just like new.

Kristen said...

LOVE the way this sofa looks! I'm a sucker for all white but ALWAYS go washable. Bold move, but it looks amazing!

cindy hattersley design said...

Lauren
I am honestly addicted to your blog. I admit it! First of all I am a designer who isn't very good at the "business" portion of design. I love your posts about the "biz" and I love that you give a warning to your readers at the beginning of those posts in case they are not interested. I just picked up a perennials sample from RH and wondered what if as well. You came to my own conclusion...slipcovers if you want to wash...love reading about your family...your business...and your realistic outlook about it all...there is a reason your blog is one of the best!!

mrsben said...

Your home is coming along beautifully. Like your sofa as well. -Brenda-
P.S: Also left you a comment on your post of January 21st titled
'Aging Brass' that you may be interest in.

mrsben said...

Oops, should have read: that you may be interestED in. ºÜº

Dianne said...

What did you do with that beautiful green sofa???????? I loved it!!!!!

Chris Taylor said...

I use this on almost everything to keep them clean and easier to cleas less often, including a white slip covered sofa. There's one for nicer fabrics, cleaner for sumbrellsafabrics, which is recommended by Sumbrella, of which Perrinials is a cousin. I use it on carpet, silk ties, and the vinyl cleaner and protectant on my Lexus leather.. And the heavy fabric protectant on auto carpe. A whole different technology than the other " GUARDS". Www.formula303products. I have email the company questions, they actually respond quickly. Anyway had to share, wish I had known about it when mine were little. Love your kids and your couch.

Ness Lockyer said...

Oh I love it Lauren, regardless. It is an amazing sofa. We bought a microsuede one last year and it is terrible. Will never recommend it...comfy but shocking to keep clean.
Ness xx

wilhitelarkin said...

Hi Lauren,
I'm planning to get an English arm sofa in velvet, but my husband thinks it's a bad idea (we have a two-year-old boy). What was your experience with the gorgeous green sofa? Do you still use it, or did it get destroyed? Hoping it's hanging in there!
-Rachel

Koplax said...

Excellent information and facts. Only real difficulty I was basically receiving was viewing the pics. No idea exactly why.

1. Interior Design Seattle

Holly said...

This is really helpful since I've been trying to convince my hubby to get on board with a white sofa for a while when we are ready to purchase a new sofa. Thanks for the feedback.

Lauren said...

Rachel & Dianne- I still looove my green sofa!! It's in my office now where I get to use it almost every day ;) ;) Working is waaay more fun on a couch!

The green velvet has done really well EXCEPT where my second baby spit-up on it. It was a case of us cleaning it but the lactic acid stayed in the fabric somehow and over the years those places were bleached by the sun :( Really only 1 spot so I have a crefully placed throw blanket there
xoxo,
lauren

Kristen said...

Nice choice! we have that exact same sofa from RH but ours is in the vintage velvet (charcoal) fabric and we love it just as much one year later. it's holding up well to a family of 5. We make sure to flip the seat cushion every once in a while...my children like to dive onto the couch for whatever reason. : )

Loretta Fontaine (APPLESandRUBIES) said...

Lauren- The sofa is lovely, but I could never go over to the white side.

Loretta

Cote de Texas said...

lauren - i'm really not understanding why you didn't just go with a white washable linen? you can NEVER EVER NEVER keep a white sofa clean w/o washing it because people's clothes are dirty. where ben sits - it gets dirty from his pants after a while. and the dog = walking by the sofa leaves a residue. this is why i will only ever have slipcovers because i see how dirty a white sofa is that means all sofas get that dirty but you can't see it as easily and can never clean it either. ughh.
white sofas mean cotton or linen washable slip covers ONLY btw, i love your sofa - it's so gorgeous. i want one!!!

Carmella said...

Great post, Lauren! I have to join in with the yays! for light/white slipcovered sofas! I have a sofa that I thrifted - a high end custom scored for $50. Inspired by RH's slipped sofas, I made my own from painters drop cloths, so they are light off white, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE this sofa! We have three boys too (13, 11, 9), and people ask how this is possible! Truly, I just toss the slipcovers in the washer, gentle cycle, and dry to damp, then put them on. Every two - three months. I may have a hard time ever going with a darker colored sofa now, unless maybe it was velvet...

Pam said...

I'd love to have a white sofa and was waiting to hear how it was working out. I think I'm back to the RH Maxwell leather sofa. I looked at the Rhys (?) Anthro sofa but I was afraid of long time wear and I could just see it sagging but I think it is absolutely beautiful. I hope it has been good for you. Thanks for the helpful info!

Flournoyfrance said...

Appreciate your honest opinion...You put into words my thoughts...I have a similar fabric on my "new"* sofa and I am totally disappointed with it...I thought about washing the cushions to get rid of the ugly Off White Grimy look but have not mustered up the courage...But after reading your blog...I WILL & eventually get slipcovers...Thank you, Patricia Flournoy
*never looked NEW...

Marianne said...

Good to know, Lauren. I was just talking to a client the other day about white slipcovered dining chairs.

Louisa Bird said...

Beautiful sofa, but I feel your pain. I have a dark cream sofa that just looks constantly dingy on the arms and base. They're non-removable so there's not much I can do but wipe them down occasionally (read: every other day). I'm considering hiring a steam cleaner and seeing if that will freshen it up better.

Alternatively, since it's second-hand but amazing condition/quality, I might shell out to have it reupholstered in some funky print.

Lori said...

Perennials is solution dyed acrylic fabric, like Sunbrella and it absolutely can be washed just as you did, cold water and air or line dry (heat is acrylic's enemy). As someone else mentioned, a sweater shaver is great for the pilling and after some time that will stop. It's kind of like a wool rug shedding.

I love that frame too and you are lucky to have a room big enough for it!

lisaroyhandbags said...

I've had white slipcovered sofas and chairs for 13 years and I've never had a problem, even with a muddy dog. Pizza, spaghetti sauce, sweet&sour chinese sauce (yes, we eat on our sofa) have never been a problem. The trick is thick white cotton twill or the white IKEA ektorp covers - they wash up great and have never left a stain. Ever.

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

I think the white sofa looks fabulous! I also love your honesty!!! Always a great thing from a designer, a blogger and a mom.

Enjoy your weekend, hopefully you are not in the path of the bad weather.

Elizabeth

Windlost said...

Wonderful essay on the White Sofa!

I liked this sofa a lot but I find the low back to be incredibly annoying. I can only see that the baby at least looks comfortable. Anyone older than 5 will probably fall over backwards, no? Or maybe we are all meant not to actually sit on sofas any more, just perch, slouch, sideways, etc.

As always you are awesome, so I know I could say this sofa criticism and you would not mind.

hehe. :D
Hugs, Terri

Carla Aston said...

What a handsome lil man! Thank you for the tips...I often recommend slipcovered sofas to clients and it's good to know about the Perennial fabric having pilling qualities. I personally love all of the Restoration Hardware sofas, and I think you made a great choice!

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Michelle said...

so true...I have white slipcovers, and if I am watching a movie, or we are eating something near it, I cover it, but new blue jeans are my fear...it really comes off!

I have the track arm DR chairs, but got them in sand...doesn't show much dirt, but they do mark my soft hardwood...we had to cover the casters with teflon pads. I went with them, even know people thought they would mark the floor. I should have listened...

Your sofa is nice and deep...essential for a family sofa :)

Allan Murray said...

Amazing, such sofa almost resembles as a bed.

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Lumen Drops said...

I have white Sunbrella fabric on a seating and it dos not pill; it is possible the RH acrylic fabric is not the same quality as Sunbrella? Although I no longer have children at home, however, I do have a dog. Nonetheless, the look of your sofa is perfect for your space, Lauren. Personally, I've tired of the slipcover look and just want an upholstered look for a change. Thus, the Sunbrella, which is holding up very well.

James Curtis said...

I'm sure its so comfy to sleep there in that sofa. Children can slouch and jump there while us adults can sit for longer time reading and watching television. Interior Glass Doors

Paula said...

What an interesting post! I do have another angle on this whole white sofa issue because I went down that road some years ago.

I found that guests did not want to sit on my white couch despite my encouragement. They were afraid they would mess it up and if they had kids, it was much worse. Since I want a house that people can feel comfortable in using, I finally gave it up. Instantly, my guests seemed more relaxed and quite willing to sit on my colored couch.

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Yi said...

Love your sofa. My husband and I also fell in love with a Restoration Hardware sofa for both the look and comfort. It is not slipcovered (Kensington line with tufted back). We also have young kids. Wondering if you have any experience or recommendation between their standard Belgian Linen and the perenial linen fabric. The store salesman assured us that the individual strand of the standard linen fabric is stain treated before it is weaved as a fabric. However it just doesn't sound as stain resistant as the Perenial fabric. We are planning on getting it in "sand" color which should help made the dirt less visible. Thanks!

asha said...

Hi Lauren,
Love your Blog,!!! Admire your work . Been following your blog for long time but first time for comment.
I am also looking for RH down filled sofa( i do not know which cushion you have).Can't decide which style. I have two fold question.
Is cushion is holding up after use ?
Why did you choose this style?( I am leaning to shelter arm, what is your thoughts about this style).
Thanks
My email is GAPD@AOL.COM

Thanks.
Asha

Christina said...

Thanks for your post! I have the Belgian Roll in sand for less than a year and I am already regretting my purchase! Never thought to just wash the bottom cushion! The daily grime is how I would explain it too! You rock, thanks!