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09/10/2012 01:44 pm ET Updated Oct 12, 2012

Buying Guide: The Best Slipcovers To Give Your Sofa A Fresh Look For Fall (PHOTOS)

Changing out decor seasonally sounds like a daunting (and pricey) task, but there is one simple switch that is easy, affordable and makes a big impact -- covering your sofa with a new slipcover. This can instantly transform a space, update tired seating or protect furniture from pets, kids and stains. If you happen to be handy with a sewing machine, you may consider making your own, but if not, don't worry. There are many options on the market in a range of colors, fabrics and price points that will suit any design style. Read our buying guide and tips from decorating experts to help you choose the best slipcover for your furniture.

Buy the right size. Since slipcovers come in many sizes, it's important to measure your furniture before heading to the store. Margaret Nanni, SVP of Product Development at Sure Fit, suggests to take note of the longest measurement of your chair or sofa, including the arms. Sure Fit and other similar slipcovers will fit couches that are 83 to 96 inches long, a love seat cover will be for a 58 to 73 inch piece and a chair slipcover is for 32 to 43 inches. Also, measure the distance from the floor to the bottom of your sofa, as some covers have a ruffled or pleated skirt at the bottom. Bottom line: If you are hoping to get a more fitted, custom look, look for a cover made for your furniture's exact measurements. (Annie Sloan, an interior designer and author of Creating the French Look and 22 other books on interior decorating and paint usage, suggests measuring twice!) For a more laid-back feel, an approximate measurement will do. Or, consider a loose-fit slipcover. You won't need to fuss over exact measurements, yet you can still achieve that same casual affect.

Choose A Style. Slipcovers have gotten a bad wrap in the past as generally unsightly and unstylish pieces of fabric thrown over furniture. But Nanni told us that "the perception of slipcovers has changed, they are not only functional -- they are fashionable. They have come a long way from what they used to be." Lisa Jackson, interior designer and CEO of Lucca & Co., always slipcovers furniture. She told us, "I love the attitude; it's more casual and inviting. You want to put your feet up and relax." Surprisingly, there are many options available in terms of fit. Traditional covers looks the best on sofas and chairs with rounded arms and rectangular cushions, but specialty shapes are available for other types of seating, such as wingback chairs or recliners.

You can find a slipcover that works with any decor style, whether you prefer a clean modern look, traditional or shabby chic. And a slipcover can even give new meaning to a room's decor, making it unique and stylish. Jackson says, "there is no reason not to mix slipcovers with more formal furniture. It's the juxtaposition which makes the room sing." Fitted styles that hug the furniture tightly come in several pieces and have a seamless aesthetic. Also, details like contrasting welt or decorative trim can add visual interest and accent the lines of your piece. Jackson mentioned that she looks for details -- like a tailored skirt and zippers -- when choosing a cover. Other covers drape loosely and just tuck into the cushions and may tie in the back. These are often less expensive, and our friends at Sure Fit say they take only minutes to slip on, so are great for pet owners or even to spruce up a dorm room. Bottom line: While the seamless styles are clean and modern, make sure they are easy to slip on and off for cleaning and swapping.

Choose A Material. Sloan says "It’s the fabric that defines the style. An upholstery fabric needs to be tough and firm." Heavy cotton duck, canvas or a twill blend are the best bets for seats that get a lot of traffic. These fabrics often fit looser and are more inviting and comfortable to sit on. Form-fitting covers offer a more modern and tailored look and are made from stretchier fabrics like a micro-suede or a polyester and spandex blend. Wool, linen and silk may be elegant and soft to the touch, but often need to be dry-cleaned. But, if used to cover an occasional piece (like a bedroom chair), Sloane said it could be worth investing in a fine fabric. Heavy fabrics like chenille and velvet are bulky and won't conform to the shape of your piece.
Bottom Line: Cotton, canvas and denim are machine washable, come in an array of colors and patterns, and are of a medium weight so they will lay nicely. Sloan's favorite slip covers are "pure cotton ones, that can be washed easily and then while just a little damp, can be put back on the chair so the fabric dries
tight to the chair and in the right shape." Jackson suggests choosing deeper colors for the fall season. "It's all about color-swapping out your beachy whites and sand colors for deep eggplants. Think autumnal hues.

Click through the slideshow below to see some of our favorite slipcovers on the market now.

PHOTO GALLERIES

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