A sofa cover is like a second skin for your couch. They say beauty is only skin deep; we say, it’s kinda nice if that skin’s a looker, no? Slipcovers have a reputation for awkward fits and outdated styles, but things change and new and fresh offerings pop up on the market.
There are a lot of cover types out there, and it can be daunting to sift through all of them to figure out where to start, and how to find a product that matches you and your tastes. Slipcovers can be DIY, ready-made, or custom-made, and within each of these categories you will find varying ranges of options for color, fabrics, and other customizations. So how do you choose and buy a slipcover that suits your taste, lifestyle, budget and time frame?
First, understand your wishes and budget.
Second, use these as quick solutions:
- Looks and aesthetics. For something better go with advanced ready-made or custom slipcovers
- Every couch cover offers that. Cheaper covers have cheaper materials, but even those can last a year or two.
- A higher budget means access to better materials and looks. But it doesn’t solve the problem of cover versatility and urgency.
- One slipcover for many sofas? Go with ready-made
- Urgency. Need the cover within a week? Go with ready-made
- Ready-made: online and offline stores and marketplaces
- Custom for popular models: online
- Custom slipcover from scratch: local upholstery workshops
You can consider it for: a lifestyle change, active pets, active kids, meal-friendly couches, tired couches, moving from place to place, precious couches, etc.
But let us walk you through the process to give you the full picture. In general, consider your priorities and wishes surrounding décor, protection, budget, versatility, and urgency:
1. Décor and aesthetic appeal
- Fit and look. In other words, how nice do you want your sofa to look? A custom sofa cover—made to the exact measurements of your sofa—will offer the best fit and look. A close second? Tailored stretch covers that are made to the specific measurements of your furniture piece, yet remain versatile thanks to the stretch in the fabric. If you care even a little bit about interior design or getting a streamlined fit on your couch, we suggest staying away from ready-made options (of the sort found on major online marketplaces), as it's essentially a gamble with the fit.
- Color options. With conventional ready-made slipcovers, the color options are often limited to basic options. For the widest range of choices in color, choose custom-made covers, which will allow you to select from a nearly endless number of fabrics, or consider reupholstery.
Consider whether your couch or room might benefit from special slipcover features. Sometimes you can customize the look by choosing different colors for your base cover and cushion covers. With custom covers, you can add slots for USB chargers or, really, just anything else you can think of.
Is your sofa mostly a display piece that you will gingerly sit upon a few times a week? Or will it need to endure the trials and tribulations of two small children that like to tussle with the family dog (right on top of the couch while drinking juice)? If you’re more on the heavy use end of the spectrum, select upholstery-grade fabrics for more durability. A general rule of thumb for slipcovers under $400 is that the cheaper it is, the less durable. Above that price point, you can typically find couch covers that really last.
How soft or pleasant would you like your slipcover material to feel?
Custom slipcovers run the gamut in fabric options, from linen to twill to velvet.
Ready-made sofa covers are often made in stretch fabrics to allow for better fit; within these fabrics, we highly recommend velvet or chenille-type materials.
In our opinion, too many ready-made slipcovers scream polyester or simply look like they’re made from thin, synthetic fabrics. But going with velvet/chenille-type fabrics makes it totally possible to achieve a high-end feel with a synthetic or stretch fabric and gain added benefits such as durability and stain resistance.
If you’re simply looking for extra protection for your couch, you might also consider a couch protector or simply a blanket draped over your couch.
As with most things in life, the higher your budget, the more options you will have. Ready-made couch covers can be purchased for less than $200, though quality and fit will vary. If you’re willing to spend more than $400 or $500 on a slipcover, then custom covers may be in your range as well. For a detailed discussion of cost, check out our other post
(Yep, that's the same sofa base cover used in both pictures)
Would you prefer a slipcover that can be used on more than one sofa model? Consider ready-made ones, which can often accommodate couches of varying shapes and sizes.
If you need a cover for your sofa within three weeks, usually stretch covers tend to be your best bet.
This should give you a good framework to make a choice among all slipcover categories.
Slipcover Categories: A Quick Overview
Briefly, here are the different categories of slipcovers to choose from. To explore these categories in more detail, check out our overview.
DIY sofa covers are slipcovers created on your own by using patterns, fabrics you choose from a store, and your (hopefully existing) sewing skills.
Here, we’re referring to the type of cheap, ready-made slipcovers sold on major marketplaces, made of stretch fabric and comprising only one or two pieces.
These are ready-made slipcovers from older, established brands, with the same quality as above but offering a wider range of options. They are typically made of stretch fabric and comprise one to four pieces.
Custom Slipcovers for Popular Couch Models
These are custom slipcovers made out of upholstery fabric for popular furniture models.
Fully Custom Slipcovers
These are completely custom slipcovers for any couch, made to your exact specifications. They require very precise measurements for best fit.
While this is not technically a slipcover category, it’s an alternative to couch covers that you might want to consider. It involves stripping your couch down to its frame, replacing springs and stuffing where required, and re-covering it in fabrics of your choosing.
Where to Buy Different Categories of Slipcovers
Now that you’ve considered your needs and desires and learned a bit about the different types of slipcovers on the market, you may be wondering where to browse the products. Here’s a handy guide to retailers:
- Conventional cheap/branded ready-made slipcovers: major online marketplaces or retailers
- Tailored stretch or semi-custom: Homeleon
- Custom slipcovers for popular couch models: specialized online brands
- Conventional cheap/branded, ready-made slipcovers: major retail stores.
- Fully custom sofa covers: While it’s possible to buy a fully custom cover online (provided you take very precise measurements for your couch along many different dimensions), most custom slipcovers are still made by local shops, which will require a bit of research on your part.
- Reupholstery: due to the need to work on your physical couch, reupholstery also requires looking for a local upholstery or furniture restoration shop.
Real-Life Case Studies
And if all of this has your head spinning, here are some practical examples of what types of slipcovers suit different lifestyles:
- For a style change. If you just want to change up your room—maybe you’re craving a new look this season or are renovating a room so that your couch no longer quite matches—the slipcover that will work best for you will depend on your budget. Custom slipcovers and advanced ready-made slipcovers will offer the best aesthetics. We probably wouldn’t choose an older-style ready-made or a cheap ready-made sofa cover because they would be more likely to spoil a fresh, new interior look in your room.
- For active pets. Pets ruling your roost? A sturdier ready-made slipcover would work best. Custom covers tend to be rather expensive for a situation where your pets like to chew, claw at, and jump around on your couch.
- For active and creative kids. Does your couch resemble a drawing canvas to your talented children? Or perhaps they view it as a big playground? A sturdier ready-made slipcover would work best as well.
- For meal-friendly couches. If you love eating on couches, consider a ready-made cover, which is typically easier to remove and clean, and a little less painful if you get something on it.
- For a crappy couch. Maybe you got it from a landlord or your grandma, and you’re just kind of stuck with an eyesore. You probably didn’t pay much for it, so springing $500+ on a custom cover isn’t really logical. Again, consider a ready-made slipcover, and for a big upgrade in looks, try the new generation of advanced ready-made covers.
- For the itinerant. If you move a lot and like to bring your style with you, consider the new generation of advanced ready-made slipcovers, which can accommodate many different couch models while offering fresh styles.
- For a high-quality couch. If you really love your couch and want something special for it, go with a custom cover.
- For tight budgets. Ready-made covers are the most wallet-friendly, and if you’re on an extremely tight budget, you can find cheap covers on major marketplaces and online retailers that start at $20-50, though of course you will likely compromise on fit and look.
- For a truly long-lasting cover. If your greatest priority is a cover that will last a very long time, then go with a custom cover.
- For a specific fabric or print. If you can’t get a certain print fabric out of your mind, then pick a custom slipcover—or if you’re crafty, consider DIY.
- For oddly shaped, unique sofas. Your options are probably limited to a custom slipcover.
- For heirlooms. If you have a sofa that was passed down for four generations, or a couch that is special to your family for sentimental reasons, consider restoring the furniture to its full glory by getting it reupholstered.
- For a crafty project. Excited by home projects? Got the sewing chops? If you take pride in your creations and enjoy the process, then a DIY sofa cover is the right one for you.