If you missed the last post, I began to answer a letter by a Dusty Miller who desperately wants to decorate with white, but is fearful that she’s going to become the type of wife and mother who drives everyone, including herself, nuts.
In all of my years of having my own business and decorating 100s of rooms, I can probably count on two hands the number of times, a client said, “sure, I’d love a couple of white sofas.” There are a few examples on my portfolio.
I’m not always so great about going back and taking photos or I could show you more. But it isn’t a lot more. I find that there’s a threshold of tolerance. Most people will be fine with a natural linen color, beige, pale blue or yellow. I’ve had a few cream people too. But once it goes beyond their comfort level— that’s it.
“It’ll show the dirt, Laurel.”
“You don’t understand, LAU REL. I NEEEEEED it to be PRAC TI CAL-— I have CHIL DREN.”
They look at me as if I have no idea what a child is.
I realize that my children are no longer hanging onto me like a drowning victim coming up for the third time. But I can assure you that I am indeed the mother of two amazing now young-adult sons.
Here ya go.
That’s my son, Cale and his gorgeous viola-playing girlfriend, Maureen. They met while they were both studying at New England Conservatory in Boston.
Cale, eight years before New England Conservatory.
[hope that kid’s had his shots! haha!]
I love you sweetie!
Believe me when I tell you that when Cale puts his lips to that rusty ol’ thing and blows, the Angels weep and the Heavens open up. He’s now, 24 and a professional musician with about 5+ part-time jobs. One is teaching kindergarteners music.
My Aaron with the ferocious Peaches in 2001
This is Aaron now 19, last spring. Aaron is still finding himself. He loves to travel and is quite intrepid. Here he is in Miami, [and yes, he is very fair like his mama and that is a bad sunburn] just hangin’ for a few after a gig he lined up for himself. He’s an awesome guitarist.
There’s the proof. The two lebediks— all grown up and now I’m FREEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! Which is why I have so much time… to ramble on here. If you’re a young Mom or Dad, please enjoy every precious moment– even the ones where you find yourself in the principal’s office. haha! And try not to fret too much about school and college and all of that crapola. I know that you won’t believe me. However, it all works itself out, in the end. I promise you. It really does.
Alright, back to our regularly scheduled program.
Decorating with white furniture.
If you recall, I had a white living room and I created it when the boys were six and one. How did I do it? Did I scream at them?
Yes, of course I did. :]
But not about the furniture.
Why not? Well, for one thing, I had far larger issues to deal with, but here is how the furniture [cat clawing aside] was maintained. And BTW, when this photo was taken the chair and the lumpy sofa— lol. [sofas for clients are not lumpy! This was part of an old sectional] were already seven years old!
The Laurel Home Primer on Decorating with White Furniture
First on the list is prevention. Of course, you can’t prevent everything. But here is my advice. Of course, you don’t have to do it. You can resort to screaming or living in a beige world. But this is what we did and it worked pretty durn well.
- We didn’t wear shoes in the house. Yes, on the rare occasions that someone decided to take their life into their hands and visited us, we let them wear their shoes.
- There was absolutely NO EATING ANYWHERE BUT IN THE KITCHEN.
You can definitely get away with this one until your children are about ten. They know that by then, they are going to be too big for you to be able to pick them up and lock them in the closet if they don’t follow the rules. But… you should have about 10 good years.
- The children MUST wash their hands AFTER they eat. Really, if you get in there when they are say, 2 or 3 days old, you can train them to do this.
- If you keep any kind of indelible ink or sharpees in the home, except maybe locked up in a safe along with the guns, you get what you deserve; your kids playing tic tac toe on the white sofa.
What are the best fabrics to use if you want white or very light furniture?
Well, they all have pros and cons. There are polyester fabrics that really do mimic cotton, however, stuff sticks to them. Indoor/outdoor fabric is a great choice. Either poly or indoor/outdoor which is polypropylene and solution dyed can be thrown in the washing machine. Well, anything that unzips, that is.
- Cotton is like a sponge, but it’s less expensive and easily cleanable.
- Linen is a great fabric because it’s really tough and has a texture. [be sure to have it knit-backed however!]
- A good idea is to purchase at least a couple extra emergency yards of fabric. If you do, you’ll never need it and if you don’t, you’ll regret that you didn’t.
- Stain protection.
Do they work?
Well… to be quite honest, I’m not sure. And I have heard some experts say that they actually make things worse. And, they do wear off over time. I do still do it sometimes for clients and no one has ever complained.
How to Maintain Your Furniture When Decorating With White?
Alright. If you already realize this, then please move on. But, I have seen some situations where people do not realize that their upholstery needs dusting and vacuuming, just like the floor. I usually, use a very lightly clean damp cloth, with a drop of my favorite nice smelling cleaner in the water. The velvets get vacuumed as well.
If you don’t do this regularly, like at least every couple of weeks, your furniture will begin to get grungy. You can also take care of little things you didn’t notice.
What do you do if disaster strikes?
Accidents WILL happen. And the thing is… you don’t need to panic, but you do need to get on it, before it dries. Once something has dried, it is much more difficult to get out. If you have cotton or linen, it must be professionally dry-cleaned.
In the meantime, I have found for you a comprehensive guide for dozens and dozens of stains and how to remove them. I found it on the wonderful blog Things That Inspire and the guide itself is courtesy of the University of Illionois Extension. [you can find the entire guide on the link]
Another option if you want crisp white upholstery is to have your furniture slip-covered. The best fabrics for that are cotton and linen. At least you can take it off and have the entire cover cleaned.
I mean, if they can have white slip covered furniture in a hotel, why can’t we do it too?
Tomorrow, I am winging it down to Florida for a blogging conference. And then, up to Wisconsin, to see my Mom who’s turning 92 [!] and my sis. However, I will stay in touch while I’m gone.
Oh there is hope after all! I keep “pinning” white decor for my new house inspo, then I think “seriously, you have a child, a BOY, who is grubby and can’t even keep himself clean”. He is only 1, so maybe there is room for improvement…but now I feel like I CAN have white! Well….maybe.
Thanks for sharing, if anything I now have some more awesome parenting tips!
Hi Krissy, I could definitely write a book about parenting because God gave me two verrrry interesting children! I can’t believe my “boys” are 24 and 19! And we’re all still here! I loved my white furniture, but of course, where they sat and watched TV was not white. Thanks for the lovely comment! xo, Laurel
Hi Loi, I’m up in the air on my way from a fabulous blogging conference with Jon Morrow. Yesterday we had an exercise where we needed to channel a blogger we admired and to write as if we were writing to them. Minutes later I read your comment. hahaha too funny. But then again, we were separated at birth so it makes complete sense. ❤️
PS – And your boys, awesome! So artistic and talented!!
This post was for me, right? 🙂 I have plenty of whites at home. And two dogs! We also don’t wear shoes inside….but guests can and do. Also, we have lots of slipcovers and indoor/outdoor fabrics. Have a great time with your family.
congratulations on having such nice and accomplished boys, I’ve got two the same age and I owe every gray hair on my head(underneath my dye) to my beloved sons. 🙂 You know what I mean. I enjoyed this post, I love white slipcovers only mine have had a lot of shrinkage (white denim) over the years and I don’t know if I want to do it again. Happy Bday to your mom!