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How To Be A Decorator:
Principles Of Decoration
Colonial Living Rooms
The English Room
Spanish-Italian Living Rooms
The Living Room Without A Mantel
Living Room Points
Dining Rooms Points
Combination Living Room - Dining Room
Living Room - Dining Room Points
Halls, Sun Rooms And Porches
Points For Halls, Sun Rooms And Porches
Colonial And Modern Bedrooms
Colorful, Comfortable Nurseries
New Fashions In Draperies
How To Make Curtains And Draperies
Slip Cover Points
How To Make Slip Covers
How To Paint Furniture
Finishes For Natural Wood Furniture
( Originally Published 1930's )
Choosing Fabrics and Trimmings
The vogue for slip covers has increased tremendously in the past few years as women have begun to realize the possibilities of these covers, not only from a practical, but also from a decorative viewpoint. The utilitarian value of slip covers is not to be discredited, but their decorative quality is of great importance as well. They are no longer just a means of protecting upholstered furniture from the dust of summer months. They have become a definite part of the furnishing of certain rooms for all-year-round use.
Instead of upholstering a sofa, chaise longue, or chair in light chintz or taffeta to match the window curtains, a slip cover is made, for it can be taken off, cleaned, and replaced more easily than regular upholstery can be cleaned. For this same reason many people prefer to have all their upholstered pieces slip covered, even though with upholstery materials. Slip covers used in this way have their definite place in the decorative scheme of the room, and are not merely an accessory for summer months. There is, however, a definite need for these summer slip covers, and many dull and dignified rooms in their summer garb assume a cheerful tone that would otherwise be impossible. They may replace winter slip covers of darker materials, or they may be just additions that offer a pleasant coolness and crispness that is welcome during hot days. Then, too, they do protect the furniture, and when summer is gone, they may be removed and replaced, giving the effect of almost a new room.
Another use for these slip covers that are in place the year round is the one of concealment-either of badly worn fabrics or ugly lines. Many an ugly chair or sofa, overloaded with gingerbread ornaments and machine carving, has been made into a distinct asset, rather than a blot on the decorative escutcheon, by the simple device of hiding its defects under a well-fitted slip cover of a material carefully chosen to harmonize with the furnishings of the room. The same expedient can also be adopted far the concealment of the worn fabric on an expensively upholstered piece of furniture that has seen long service, thus saving the cost of reupholstering.
Tables Wear Slip Covers
Not only may chairs and sofas be given the protection of slip covers in summer, but even the tables, and sometimes the walls may be similarly treated. The covers for the tables need not go to the floor, sometimes only a deep band of eight or ten inches being sufficient skirt, or sometimes, if there are shelves, it may be yet shorter. With beds of heavy dark woods, often both head and foot boards have slip covers matching the light material used for the spread. Walls that seem too heavy and dull for summer may be hidden behind cool looking covers of cotton damask in neutral tones, loosely suspended from the picture molding. This metamorphoses a room so completely that you feel as though you had surely moved into your summer home.
Slip Covers for Every Room
There is not a room in the house that may not be put into summer garb with charmingly decorative results. Even the dining chairs forget their dignity and assume a frivolous and sprightly air when dressed in a gay flowered chintz or French ticking. In equally simple fashion the sombreness of a stately walnut bedroom may be magically transformed into a sunshiny bower overflowing with bright flowers and gaily plumaged birds. When one lives in the same house or apartment the year round, there is nothing that adds quite so much to the enjoyment of each room, as to have it suddenly appear to be quite different, just as the pictures outside the window have suddenly become quite different with each change of season.
Occasionally it is desirable to put slip covers on heavy window and door hangings instead of taking them down, because of having no place to store them.It is surprising how well they may be made to look by fashioning baglike slips which may be drawn up over the curtains and fastened at the under side of the top. The curtains should be left drawn back and hanging in their natural folds, after they have been thoroughly cleaned and dusted. The slip covers are then made only the width of the curtain as it is pulled back. The valance, too, may have a slip cover adjusted to hide it and keep it free from the dust. It is probably better whenever possible to take down heavy draperies of this sort and replace them with lighter and gayer fabrics, but the slip covers offer an excellent substitute.
The Decorative Use of Slip Covers
The decorative potentialities of slip covers, so long unrecognized, are nowadays given full expression. In place of the characterless white linen or cotton damask of chilly memory, the gaiest colors and patterns are preferred. In rooms where figured walls and patterned rugs forbid even the most conventional design on the slip covers, an ingenious and effective use may be made of contrasting plain colors. At first glance, the sad colored linen crash or unbleached muslin, formerly so much in use, appears decidedly unpromising from the decorator's standpoint, but combined with bright colored piping, it develops a surprising life and vigor. Another idea is to make the piping or welting of a vivid, small-figured chintz, and, if you wish, on the bottom of the flounce may be added a twoinch band of the same. By the use of interesting color combinations which repeat the colors appearing elsewhere in the room, the covers may be made to appear an integral and important feature of the decorative scheme.
Flounces and Ruffles
If a quaint old-fashioned effect is desired the flounce becomes a feature. This may be made of the same material as the rest of the slip cover or of a contrasting color which emphasizes the color scheme of the room. The flounce may be gathered, sideplaited or box-plaited, but the smartest effects are procured with the wide, flat box-plaits. On some small chairs a short ruffle may be used, which is bath quaint and smart. These short ruffles are used only when the main body of the slip cover stops just below the seat of the chair, probably on a line with the upholstery or seat frame. This type is particularly adaptable to the French chairs with beautifully designed cabriole legs which are so decorative in themselves that they do not need to be concealed. These flounces and ruffles may be trimmed at the lower edge with bands of contrasting material or with a welt edge of the same fabric.
For the sake of unity the furniture covers are often made of the same material as the summer hangings, and when these are edged with shallow scallops or with narrow cotton fringe, the slip covers may be finished to match. This involves additional labor and expense, however, and the plain edges with narrow hems or bindings are by no means unattractive.
Select the Fabric Carefully
Of materials suitable for slip covers there is a bewildering variety, but in making a choice the paramount purpose must be kept in mind. If it is part of the decorative scheme of the room, then your choice is limited only by the other fabrics being used in the room. If its mission is merely that of hiding ugliness or shabbiness, the range of textiles may include crash, poplin, mohair, the firmer weaves of sunfast. But where delicate upholstery fabrics require protection, especially in regions where dust abounds, it is very important that the material selected for slip covers shall be one of close weave, which will not permit particles of dust to sift through its meshes.
In this class belong the flowered French tickings and cotton damasks, and the heavy dimities made primarily for hangings and bed covers. The latter have an advantage over the damasks in that they are made in definite colors as well as all neutral tones. A soft but cheerful yellow, for example, would make delightfully sunny draperies and slip covers in a graywalled living-room or bedroom.
Glazed chintzes give slightly better service in keeping out the dust than do the unglazed chintzes and cretonnes, and soil less easily. There is a water-proof sunfast glazed chintz, also a French percale, on the market now which is excellent for slip covers, as it can be wiped off with a damp cloth and not lose the glaze which is part of its charm. These fabrics may be procured in many plain colors, a few stripes, and some delightful flowered patterns. Plain chintz is particularly useful in rooms with patterned walls and rugs, and cuts to better advantage than do most figured fabrics. Next in point of economy are the all-over patterns, particularly those which have no up and down. The most expensive and by far the most effective materials for slip covers are the chintzes and cretonnes with bold detached patterns of birds, baskets of gay flowers, or medallions of contrasting color. Though the initial outlay may be a little more, it is advisable to buy both plain and fig ured chintzes which are sunfast and tubfast. Each year there appear on the market more and more of these fast color materials and strangely enough they are most of them of medium price, within the reach of nearly everyone.
Inexpensive and Charming Materials
The variety of slip cover materials is by no means limited to the aristocrats of the cotton family, however. A good quality of unbleached muslin -is astonishingly effective when piped with a bright color or dyed a soft blue, green, tan, or rose.
The humble gingham and percale are also firmly established in popular favor. Simple checks and plaids make delightful curtains and furniture coverings for the summer bedroom. Stripes ranging from the so-called hair-line up to two or three inches wide are obtainable in these inexpensive fabrics and lend a sprightly touch to the sombreness of library, living-room, or porch. They have the added merit of being especially easy to launder.
There is sometimes an advantage in using percale instead of gingham, because it comes in thirty-six inch width whereas the ordinary gingham is only twenty-seven inches. These few extra inches may save piecing the cover for seat or back of an upholstered chair or sofa, and are therefore worth consideration. Sunfast fabrics in artificial silk or cotton have certain advantages over other colored materials when made up for window curtains and slip covers, for their use permits the flooding of the house with sunshine, giving never a qualm of anxiety to their owners as to faded colors. Nevertheless, whatever the season of the year, the cheery brightness, the lovely colors, and the strong decorative character of flowered and figured chintzes and cretonnes endow them with a special and unrivaled charm, which makes them always the first choice. Another group of fabrics in the class with chintzes are those delightful toiles, which, though made in America, are called toiles de Jouy because they are patterned after the lovely cotton fabrics made in the quaint old French town of Jouy. Generally they are of only one color-rose, blue, green, lavender, or yellow, printed on a cream ground. The patterns are essentially quaint, for they include figures and scenes from French fables or history.
A few are of classic derivation, and some of the newest are purely American in design. These materials are unusually lovely for bedrooms and sitting-room, or for other rooms not too large in scale, nor too definite in period.
Awning stripes make gay and durable covers for use in seaside cottages, their heavy, firm texture making them impervious to moisture. The water-proof chintzes and the plain shiny oilcloths in brilliant colors, or black, are also excellent for such localities.
Making the Fabric Fit into the Room
Many people do not understand the use of chintzes and cretonnes, other than in bedrooms and summer cottages. The many well drawn designs on the market now are so delightful, and the colors so beautiful that they can be lived with the year round, adding color and great decorative value to any room.
The first thing to consider is the appropriateness of the pattern to the room in which it is to be used. The patterns with naturalistic or conventionalized flowers in strong colors are best adapted to living-rooms, the lighter smaller patterns to bedrooms, and stripes and highly conventionalized designs to dining-rooms and sun-porches. With a chintz of definite pattern for window draperies, the same may be used for slip covers on one or two pieces. This idea is charmingly worked out in the living-room, a corner of which is shown at the opening of Chapter II. Another possibility with the gay flowered slip covers is plain curtains and valances of one of the more interesting colors found in the chintz. This same color can be repeated in the piping or welting of the seams of the slip covers. A cretonne or linen with bold design is best adapted for use in a large room where the furniture is also large in scale, but it should be beautiful enough in design and texture to be harmonious with rugs, walls, and the room itself. This is especially applicable to the room with the permanent slip covers, but it is a point to be considered, even when the covers are only temporary. Suit your fabric to your room and to the uses of that room, just as you select your furniture and rugs.
Well-Fitted Slip Covers
Unless slip covers fit as smoothly and trimly as a perfectly tailored suit, the smart effect is completely lost. Wrinkled seats and sagging backs produce a dowdy slipshod appearance that gives an impression of untidiness in even the most orderly room. Indeed, many women have developed a prejudice against the use of slip covers solely as a result of unfortunate experiences with covers that were ill-fitting and poorly made.
These difficulties may easily be overcome, however; first by accurate measurements, and carefully following the lines of the chair when cutting out; and second by allowing several inches of material for tucking in at the back and under the arms. This holds the cover firmly in place, thus preserving its trim appearance. One famous London upholsterer even puts a strip of wood across the back of the seat before tucking the material in, to give added firmness.
Finish and Fastenings
In finishing, a French seam may be made on either the right or the wrong side. The seam may be bound with braid or tape, or a piping or welting of contrasting color may be used. Besides being decorative, the last named finish gives a firm edge that is particularly useful on slip covers for overstuffed pieces of the luxurious down-cushioned variety. If no trimming is used, the bottoms should be finished with plain hems about an inch wide, or with a picot edge.
For fastening the covers in place snaps are preferable to hooks and eyes, which are not so flat, and are more liable to rust and stain the fabric in laundering. Tapes are sometimes used, but besides detracting from the smart tailored effect, they frequently come untied, thus permitting the slip cover to become wrinkled.