Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The realilty of living with white

On this blog, through emails, and most often in real life I am constantly told "Wow! You are brave! I could never keep it all clean" in reference to our white house. I have to agree that to someone who does not live in a white house it must look like a daunting amount of cleaning, scrubbing and perhaps even a waste of money since it will inevitably all be ruined within a week, right?

Below are images of things from around our house and yard I have collected over the last couple days as I thought about addressing this issue, all of them white or variations on white. Out of all these images, only 1 is of a piece of upholstered furniture. It illustrates how so little of our actual "whiteness" is of chairs, couches, etc. and these seem to be the things people think are not practical.

White is obviously not for everybody, and while I am attempting to illustrate that it is probably the easiest color to live with these images show that you can easily incorporate it into your home if you really want to in ways that will match your comfort level.

My first thoughts on the subject start with one simple fact that we are well aware of: Life is short! Why not enjoy it to it's fullest? If that means you want to paint your entire house neon green from floor to ceiling go for it! Or at least try one room and see if it makes you happy. Our home is somewhere we spend most of our waking moments and where the majority of our best memories happen so shouldn't it be a place that you love? Personally, white seemed a little scary at first but after a small taste I wanted more!

As far as the furniture goes I would be lying if I didn't say that sometimes it gets dirty. In fact, sometimes it looks down right scary. But what I actually find even scarier is that many people have dark furniture that they cannot see these dusty paw marks or raspberry jam spots on. I am a firm believer that once you go to slipcovers (good, tailored, proper fitting slipcovers) you will never go back. Do you sleep directly on your mattress or pillows? No, you have sheets and pillow cases that you can wash when you need to. In a busy family room or living room a couch is definitely a well-used item and particularly if you have pets that are allowed to hang out on the couch with you. I like seeing that it is getting a few little marks and that it is time to go into the wash vs. not knowing when it is getting dirty with dark slipcovers, or even worse no slipcovers...

Which brings me to stating the obvious. Can you bleach any color but white??? NOPE! I have not spent 5 minutes out of my life worrying about eating spaghetti or chocolate on the couch (which I do daily), or babies spitting up on our furniture. I think that the first instinct people have about owners of white furniture is this: they must only serve light colored food, keep all guests and children off the furniture, and guard it from the pets with their life. That could not be farther from the truth. In our house, and most others I have seen with white furniture, the kids are encouraged to jump on couches, pets are welcomed to cuddle with you while you enjoy a movie, and guests are encouraged to put their feet up.

The point of this rambling is this: if you LOVE white furniture or the feel of a white room don't let "life" stop you from enjoying life. There will always be spills, splashs and spit-up. It doesn't matter what color your furniture is. I personally find it easier to wash a slipcover with some bleach once in a while instead of calling a steam cleaner in to do the job, but at the end of the day it has to work for you and your family.

Now down to the actual numbers, because I know that is what most people are interested in!

How often do I wash the slipcovers? On our most heavily used couch the slipcover is washed once every other week, which I will admit is twice as often as I washed it before Wren came along LOL. The dining room chairs: once every month or two. Various living room chairs: once every 3 or 4 months.

I hope that was informative in some way or another, but if I missed anything please give me a shout in the comments and I would love to expand on anything or touch on anything I missed.

Most of all, I hope that it inspires somebody who has been hesitant to do something they've wanted to do to go ahead and make it happen and stop letting life get in the way.


e dot said...

i washed a slip clover once and it never looked quite the same (wrinkles, etc) How do you do yours? Where did you get them?

Marie said...

Oh my - Holly I am thankful for this inspiration! I am slowly transforming my home into lighter shades and would love to have white slipcovers for our couches but was a little nervous. Thank you for nudging me to do what I've had a desire to do. We are a family of 6 in a tiny house with 2 dogs and a cat. I will stop using that as an excuse!


Melanie said...

I once read exactly what you said about how EASY it is to clean a white slipcover. I was sold. I now find it a little disturbing how dirty un-slipcovered, upholstered furniture can be. Not everything comes out (gel pen courtesy of a little one for example) but when I wash mine, it is so bright and clean!

Anyway, I love white!

Kim said...

Awesome post. I don't think white is my color of choice for my living room because of our decor, but I was thinking about going with a lighter cream or tan. While I won't be able to bleach it, I think I can still heed your advice - Life is too short to worry about dirtying a slipcover.

PS - Where is your slipcover from?

Anonymous said...

Well said! I love white (I think I mentioned before :) and got over the scariness of it when I learned about bleach and the fact that it's all washable! It turns out the furniture or bed spreads I freak out about are the ones that AREN'T white! They can't be bleached and are trickier to clean. And I am one CLEAN freak :0)

I love your pictures by the way! You are a great photographer!

Emily said...

I love white too. We have two slipcovered sofas in our family room and my kids make a mess of them, but I just stick them in the wash. It's great!

Jessica - {LivingBetterTogether} said...

I'm right there with ya! I can't get enough white! I throw our white bedding & pillow covers in the wash with a little bleach all the time & never have to worry about a thing! Great post! :)

nameisgrace said...

AMEN SISTER! I am the slipcover queen! even our headboard is slipcovered so i can change it out with the seasons HAHA! All of our furniture is white and slipcovered, and I ONLY buy white sheets and towels. It's just so pure and fresh. White is BEYOND easy. Hopefully everyone gets the memo and stops questioning your wonderful taste! xo g

Dr. Drama said...

Thanks for answering my question. I think it is a scary color to get over the fear of messing up, but I am sure it gets easier the more you live with it!

Anonymous said...

I am with Grace - love white sheets and towels - they are easy to clean, always look great and you don't have to worry about matching! And Marie - we have a small house, 3 boys and a dog and white slipcovered sofas that get washed once a week. I'd never go back to non-covered sofas.

Molly said...

Holly, I hope that I did not offend you with my last post. I realize you have probably explained this a thousand times before so I apologize that my comment sparked yet another explanation. I definitely don't think you're one of those "clear drink/food" people (is this a SATC reference, lol?) Obviously, as a mom I know that's not really possible in any household. And to be honest, I've never been the cleanest or most organized person.

Before I even posted my comment last night I was already inspired by your bedroom. For Mother's Day I went out an bought myself an all-white duvet for our bedroom and a white flowy curtain. While in the store, I went back and forth. Our dog has barfed on our Pottery Barn comforter before and I thought about how upset I would be if that were to happen to my perfect white duvet cover. After spending 30 minutes in the bedding aisle at Target I finally gave in and bought the white one. It looks BEAUTIFUL! In the store, I was saying to myself, "Just buy it, Holly would give it a thumbs up!" It worked.

Now I'm rambling but my point is, I did not mean to offend you in any way. Thanks for addressing my question. I wish we had a darn Ikea so I could get a reasonably priced slip-covered sofa!

Holly and Sean said...

Oh Molly, you did not offend me in the least!!! Like I said in my post, it is mainly in real life that I get the comments, and all the ones I get on here are truely out of curiousity. Glad you caught the SATC reference ;)

I am not all that bothered by what people think about white, afterall, I can see the flipside as well. It definitely looks high maintenance. I am so glad you went with the white duvet, you won't regret it!

Elizabeth said...

i like your new header...slipcovers are a great idea. where do you recommend getting them?

Holly and Sean said...

Thanks Elizabeth! I recommend getting a surefit cover and either doing it yourself or taking it to a tailor to have it just a little more fitted in some areas so it looks custom made. Buying a pre-made cover is usually cheaper than the fabric alone and saves you a lot of work if you wanted to try and make one yourself.
I haven't done a lot of research, but I bet there are some great websites as well that really let you narrow down the style of your couch and pick one that is very close in shape.

Sugar & Spice said...

I love white! But I am one of those people who believe that white is too much of a risk color.

Half of the Style Sisters said...

Love this post! I am actually a red girl..I have an Ikea sectional with a bright red slipcover on it. I almost did the white one...but instead I went with the red. I just may go back and get the white one too...I love having options and different looks for very little money.

RLG said...

My design style seems to be a moving target lately. So instead of flipping through a zillion magazines, I bought some well-chosen books like Shannon Fricke's "Sense of Style" and have been asking myself some tough questions. Truth is: I'm sick of color! I have three kids that provide all the energy a house can handle. So at the end of the day, I want something of a retreat, calm and decompressing. It's going to take some time (and money), but at least I have a direction (for once).

Your posts and photos are awesome. Really loving it! xoxo

Allison said...

You are making me an all things white and slip cover fan! I desperately want the Ektorp loveseat from Ikea in white and I'm in the process of convincing my honey that white is okay. I <3 your blog!

Jenna said...

Thank you for this post!! I realized lately that I am IN LOVE with white couches. We hope to replace our hand-me-down couches soon, and I've been craving white. But... with two active little boys I thought it would be a no go. Now I think we'll go for it! Woo hoo!

PS- just found you a few weeks ago and love your site!

Rayia said...

I love all white houses with a few bright and delightful colors here and there!

Ani said...

Thanks for the blog on this... I have certainly thought those things... and I never would have thought I'd like so much white... but I like it!

Meredith said...

I am totally guilty of being one of those people who has said "That would NEVER work in my house, but I wish it would!" And while I totally understand that it most houses, it would be totally do-able, I'm still pretty convinced that it wouldn't work in mine--just gauging by how often I have to wash my white table cloth (which is every time J sits at the table for a meal). Or how many times I've had to steam clean our cream colored rug (a LOT).

But you know, I think that's all a part of decorating--you have to figure out what's going to work in your space, with your family, and the way you use your home!

Aliya said...

I saw this post in my Google Reader and actually bookmarked it to come back later and chime in. We have a big white slipcovered sofabed and chair-and-a-half from Crate & Barrel and I LOVE THEM. My husband and I are about to have our first child and everyone's all, "Oh, there goes your furniture" -- but I'm like you, Holly, it's all about the bleach! It's how we reach a happy medium between nice stuff and cuddling on the couch with the dog...and soon, our baby. So yes, white is totally livable and while I don't have a houseful of it, I say go for it. Slipcovers are your friend.

Anonymous said...

e dot,

I have the 3-seat Ektorp sofa from Ikea with a white slipcover as well. The care label states:
"Machine wash. No bleach. Iron. Dry Clean. No Tumble Dry."

Because of this I'm now on my third slipcover from them. Bleach shrinks and wears the fibers, and so does the heat of the dryer, which is why it states no to both.

The first two I tried to just spot clean then use just a little bleach and it shrunk so it was extremely hard to get on.

The second I skipped the bleach and tried tumble drying it on low until it was almost dry, and it still shrunk enough to be a headache to get back on.

With the current one I've followed their care label instructions exactly and have to say it's never as white and when you first purchase it and yes it wrinkles.

I called Ikea to ask why I was having such troubles and the lady explained I wasn't the only one. I'm now convinced they manufacture the covers too small. If they allowed for some give(extra room) one would be able to dry them on low and be able to get them on no problem.

Don't get me wrong I LOVE my white couch to the moon and back, but to be realistic with others it is quite a chore to keep them looking as they do in magazines.

I would suggest anyone considering purchasing one to ask around, call prospective furniture stores to get the scoop before making the commitment.

Also if anyone has any idea where to find a slipcover to fit the Ektorp sofa that has more give I'm be extremely grateful!

Natalie said...

yes! i love the all-white look and i agree, life is too short! i'm also thrilled to see how often you clean your slipcovers, it makes me feel better :) i love your blog! i just found it today and it is an instant favorite.

Meg said...

I just came a crossed your blog a few days ago and I'm glad I read your post! I've been debating getting white bedding. I really want it but I have a messy husband and toddler, but you've convinced me that it's really not so scary. Thanks! Beautiful house by the way! I love it!

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Krystal Wight Armstrong said...

I love how possible you make it, I read some of your earlier posts that mention just bleaching stuff that may get dirty, which made sense to me.
Though I do have one question about the white slipcovered your dogs have the right fur color that just doesn't show up too much? I know when dirt and spills happen you can wash and bleach, but the dog hair, I wonder if you have to clean off daily with the sticky roller stuff, or if it's just not a very visible problem.
I've always loved black labs, and my husband and I were planning to get or own when we graduate University in 3 semesters, but that would probably be less than ideal with white decor...maybe a light yellow lab?
Anyway, just curious how much of a problem, if any, the pet hair is around your house, and what you do about it?

Happy Day!
-Krystal :)

Matt & Sharon Mormance said...

Holly - love your blog! I've been wanting to get a white slip-covered couch for some time now (when we move). What suggestions do you have for keeping the slipcover from shrinking from frequent washing?

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