Living With Dogs and Slipcovers


My favorite dog book, Living With Dogs, isn't really a dog book, per se. It's about design that pertains to dogs: dogs in art, dogs at home, dogs as collectibles, and so on. Written by the husband and wife team, Larry and Carol Sheehan, it presents dog owners, dog memorabilia collectors, dog breeders, and dog enthusiasts in essays about the lives they spend with their dogs at home and work and at leisure. A must for anyone who loves dogs, I'm now on my third copy. One went to my sister in law, who, like me, owns Springers, and one cover was destroyed by my puppy. We're unashamed dog lovers in our family.

Two dogs live in our house, an English Springer Spaniel named Georgie who looks exactly like the dog on the book's cover and Sammie Jo, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Of course, being the design freak that I am, Georgie came to live with us first and when the time came for a new puppy, I wanted a lap dog. The only lap breed that matches the coloring of a Springer is a Cavalier, so, that's how we ended up with Sammie Jo - she's a miniature Georgie. They do look cute together, I have say. Before these two dogs became Webbs, we had a few beagles along the way - stupidest dogs on the planet - and a couple of cats too. I learned the hard way that the only way humans and animals can happily cohabit a home, is if you have slipcovered furniture.

Now, before you hold your nose and say "I despise Rachel Ashwell" and Shabby Chic-less, slipcovers don't have to be loose and wrinkled. You can have slipcovered furniture that is very tailored, and you certainly do not have to have white sofas with piles of rose covered pillows. Give me a minute or two and let me show you that slipcovers can be dressy or even contemporary. If you plan on having custom made slipcovers (the only ones I would recommend), you should wash your fabric before the covers are sewn. If you choose a fabric that doesn't wash well, you can just dry clean the covers once they get dirty. I would never again live with furniture that wasn't slipcovered, even if I didn't have animals. Once you have had the ability to toss your upholstery in the washing machine, it's hard to go back to having it steam cleaned by some clueless employee of Steamomatic.

Aw, isn't she cute? Sammie Jo, the always hungry, stone deaf, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Here's she licking her lips thinking the camera is a big steak.

Georgie, the shy, sensitive one - totally scared of the camera. That's Ben's big stomach in the blue shirt that Georgie is burrowing her head in trying to escape the mean camera. Georgie's too smart to fall for my tricks like Sammie Jo.

White slipcovered sofa dressed up for a living room or a family room.

Here's a khaki slipcover, again dressy enough for a living room.

Loose white linen, good for a sunroom or den, Madeline Weinrib rug.

Home of a Houston purse designer, white slipcovers contrast with dark chocolate walls.

Another Houston home, this owner is an interior designer. I love the slipcover treatment on the french bergere. The tabs allow the antique wood frame to peek through.

My breakfast room chairs, scalloped slips in two pieces, the top is tabbed, again, to let the antique, painted wood, chair frame show through.

Here is the "new" look of Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic: more modern, less cottagey.

Again, Rachel showing leaner lines in her furniture. Although the chandelier, a Ashwell trademark, is a dead giveaway that it's Shabby Chic.

Classic Shabby Chic: ruffled slipcovers, white painted furniture, silver, and lace.

Alessandra Branca from Chicago designed these slipcovers to not be obvious. These slips are purely for pet and children protection, not to have a "slipcover" look.

Windsor Smith's slipcovered sofa has a pleated detail that can go from the living room to the bedroom.

Jackie Lanham's slipcovers are made to be noticed given the large ties on the back. This is a beach house, which is a perfect place to use slipcovers.

You don't have to spend a fortune on custom slipcovers if you are budget conscious. IKEA sells this line of furniture with many different fabric options. Above, the furniture is shown in khaki and white, and then the same furniture is shown with navy and white slipcovers. This line of furniture is SO inexpensive, making it perfect for a playroom or a second home. It's actually very comfortable and a great buy.

A company that sells more expensive slipcovered furniture than IKEA is Lee Industries. This sofa above is definitely a playroom or beach house candidate.

This cream slipcovered sofa, above, is also from Lee Industries. It can go in the living room or the family room. It was designed by Robert McAlpine, noted architect and interior designer. Lee carries several of his sophisticated furniture designs.

Mitchell Gold single handedly brought furniture to the masses with his designs and helped fueled the Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel furniture revolution. Basing his furniture on classic lines that mimic George Smith designs, he kept his wholesale price points low enough so that furniture no longer had to be "paid out" on credit. This advertisement shows an arrangement which a young married couple would put in their "dressier" living room.

In Houston, no one makes better custom slipcovers than Shabby Slips. Branch stores are now located in New Orleans, Rosemary Beach, Austin and Santa Fe. This picture shows the Santa Fe showroom, with it's more western accent.

Another small furniture chain that makes slipcovered furniture is Quatrine. Above is a typical slipcovered sofa, the trim is what makes it special.

Slipcovered dining room chairs from Quatrine. Dining room chairs are another great item to use slipcovers on, whether you have animals or not. After a messy meal, toss them in the washing machine. These ruffled slips show the more feminine side of slipcovers.

Here is a Quatrine showroom, showing their more contemporary slipcovered merchandise. These slips are tight, giving no hint of their practicality.

This dog won a nationwide photo contest that Quatrine ran. No need to worry about dirty paws or dog hair on this sofa. The contest makes it obvious that they target dog owners for customers.

Above, another retail outfit, BeachDwelling, has a store in Alabama, but they also do a large internet business selling slipcovered furniture to the second home market. Here, are some of the dining room chairs, furniture, lighting and accessories that they sell.

Again, BeachDwelling, this time showing a chaise lounge. Comfy!

No country does more slipcovered furniture, I believe, than Belgium. In every castle, country home, or city townhouse, most of the "decorated" houses are loaded with slipcovered furniture. The furniture in Belgium tends to be very large, very deep, and very severe in its lines. Below, no one does it better than Axel Vervoordt. Stunningly beautiful, very dressy, and yet, he uses a white linen slipcovered sofa. This is as far from Rachel Ashwell as it gets. Gorgeous:

Grey linen is a frequently used fabric in Belgium. The typical Belgium design features oversized furniture, oversized accessories, and antiques used sparingly but effectively. Wood is oftentimes not stained, but left its natural color.

More Belgium, more Axel, more slips, above and below:

Here's a lighter, slightly more cluttered Belgian living room. Not as severe as usual, the draperies lend a feminine touch.

This slipcovered chair and ottoman is oversized, and overly comfortable looking.

Gorgeous armoire, gorgeous wood floor, practical slipcovered dining chairs and skirted dining room table.

How long do you think this sofa is? Ten or eleven feet? Unreal! Belgium again.

Only Axel would put a antique tapestry and chandelier in a orangery. Another 10 ft. long Belgian slipcovered sofa.

Contempory Axel. The painting and the tree take center stage here. Again, the light, unstained wood, large furniture, linen slipcovers, and sparse interiors, are all hallmarks of Belgian design.

This month's House Beautiful features a home done in the "Belgian" style. HB declares that Belgian is the new Swedish, is the new Tuscany" etc. If you are interested in learning about Belgium design, try Betafish for gorgeous books on the subject. Additionally, Axel Vervoordt has a highly anticipated book due to arrive in the bookstores any day now.

Jackie Blue Home

Not one to usually toot my own horn, I did want to let you know that if you were the slightest bit interested in my blog about my new family room furniture, you may want to visit the Jackie Blue Home blog. Written by published author Jackie Von Tobel, she has taken the story of my family room and critiqued it picture by picture, pillow by pillow. Oy! At least Jackie's comments are quite nice and flattering compared to the anonymous commenter who obviously wasn't so enamored with my room! Oh well, you can't please everyone, but at least I pleased Jackie!

If you aren't familiar with Jackie or her delightful blog, she lives and writes in Las Vegas and has a new book coming out any day now. Tittled "The Design Directory of Window Treatments" the book features Jackie's own wonderfully drawn illustrations of draperies and other soft goods. There is another book by Jackie that is already in publication: "From Design to Delivery" and a third book about bedding is slated to be published next year. Besides being a self described "accidental author" she is also an interior designer with her own firm: Plush Home. Her blog chronicles her experiences in getting the new book completed and lots of other design topics that interest her. She also has a web site that you might want to visit.

Jackie and I have exchanged a host of friendly e-mails and she is a sweet and genteel woman. If you don't yet have "Jackie Blue Home" on your favorite blog list, I'm sure after visiting it, you will want to add it. She's a total delight!

Thanks again, Jackie, for all your kind words! I am completely flattered.

Jackie's illustrations for her new book, above and below - a few of my favorites:

Here's a picture of one of Jackie's design through her company, Plush Home:

And lastly, the lovely Jackie before her much discussed hair cut:

Three Chairs


As you may recall, Anne Harwell, the artist on Etsy and on her blog as Annechovie - created this painting of my statue a few weeks ago. Recently, she has been doing silhouettes of chairs in gorgeous, rich colors. These are original hand cut silhouettes on paper.

When I saw these chairs tonight, it struck me that they should be purchased together, as opposed to separately, and they should be framed as one piece of art. I've created a facsimile with Mosaic Maker via Flckr Toys to show you how it might look. I love this! If you are interested in buying all three chair silhouettes, or even just one, go to Anne's web site and inquire. The price is uber reasonable.

My Design: Family Room


Well, the big day finally arrived. The sofa, pictured above, that I picked out months ago was delivered this week. It's an old cliche, but very true: A designer can decide in a nanosecond what her client needs, but when it comes to the designer's own home? Forget it! The hold up was I couldn't decide what chairs would look good with the sofa because it has dramatic lines, with a high curved back, great depth, low - almost nonexistent - arms, and gorgeous, dark wood mouton legs. The truth is, I have waited my whole life for a George Smith sofa and arm chairs and I guess I'll be waiting for another life time. It's just not going to happen this time. As hard as I tried to make a pair of Smith's club chairs work, they just didn't look good next to the French styled sofa. So, after a few months of turmoil and indecision, back and forth, I finally decided on French wing chairs with mouton legs. The lines of the chair are very similar to the sofa. Decision finally made, chairs built, voila - it's here. As big of a change that it is to me, if you walk into my family room today, you may not even notice there is any new furniture at all, unless, of course, you're a design freak. Both my old and new sofa and chairs are slipcovered in white linen. The old wicker arm chair, my former perch, is now gone, replaced by the wing chair. But still, the overall effect is the same: white slipcovers contrasted with dark wood furniture. While the new furniture is not from George Smith, it is custom made, with all down cushions and it is tres comfy. Here's what my family room looks like with the new couch and chairs:

The only decision left concerns the pillows. This is what I'm thinking about - it's new from F. Schumacher, thick linen, gray and white - birds, of course, with the Quadrille negative-color toile feel. The fabric pops on the white sofa and repeats the high contrast of the white against the dark wood. What do you think? Should I use this fabric, or perhaps zebra, or even, dare I say, kwid or lulu?

Below, is another F. Schumacher fabric that seems to coordinate with my first choice. Or would a solid in deep raspberry or dark charcoal be better? What is your opinion? Do you have another suggestion?

AND.... One last design note. On my coffee table (which I would like to replace with a zinc one!!!) is a large blue & white Oriental bowl. It's huge and it's from Tozai Home, the upper-end division of Two's Company. Inside the bowl, I keep tons of loose photographs and old Christmas cards. I suggest this to all of my clients, especially the ones with myriad tacky picture frames cluttering every table and shelf. I've discovered that loose photos placed in a bowl invites conversation. At family gatherings, inevitably, one or two people will sit by the bowl and go through the whole thing, picture by picture. When was the last time anyone really looked at all your pictures in their frames? Toss those frames, put the photos in a big bowl, and watch your friends actually look at your photos for the first time.