how to decorate a white couch

Don’t think of your white couch as a pristine object you can’t be comfortable on. Think of it instead as a blank canvas.

We’ve had a white couch for a few years and in fact recently procured a new one. (Thank you Ikea.) To those of you in our lives who have expressed concern about this decision or silently said to yourself, “they are going to regret that,” I want to let you know that we couldn’t be happier with our plush seating. To those of you who are courageous enough to have also purchased a white couch (or are considering doing so), I offer the following decorative suggestions:

  • Salsa: This plops very easily from the corner of a tortilla chip and smears beautifully with a paper towel.
  • Red Wine: The way this sloshes over the lip of a wine glass is truly exquisite, especially if you watch the whole event as if it is happening in suspenseful slow motion. A dishtowel and a bit of water will transform this to a lovely mauve shade.
  • Chicken Tikka Masala: Order this from your local Indian restaurant, bring it home then fill your favorite bowl with its fragrant goodness. Then allow a piece of delectable chicken to somehow explode almost geyser-style from your fork in a way that defies gravity and could never ever be repeated. The combination of yellow, orange and red exotic spices is indelible and becomes even more vibrant with the application of stain remover.
  • Young Children: Invite several over to your house then provide them with lots of paint, crayons and magic markers. Laugh naively when their parents offer to write you a blank check for impending damages.
  • Chocolate Chips: This one is a bit more complicated. Gobble chocolate chip cookies with a wild enthusiasm you learned from the Cookie Monster. This should result in several chocolate chips falling onto your lap. Get up, sit back down on top of them, and allow your body heat to melt them into the fibers of the couch for a rich, abstract mocha design.
  • Moth: If it ever stops flitting around, press it into the cushion with the back of your hand in order to achieve an interesting charcoal-colored smudge. (Of course this is cruel, but wasn’t it also cruel when he snacked his way through four of your favorite sweaters?)
  • New Blue Jeans: Buy the darkest kind, the ones that leave dye on your fingers the first few times you wear them. Sit down and shift around a little bit. The result will be a gorgeous sky-blue splotch in the shape of your rear end.
  • Extra Slip Covers: This one is key. Decide against purchasing these when you get the couch and only decide to buy them after both the couch and the slipcovers have both been discontinued.*

*note: We did actually purchase extra slipcovers. In fact, we purchased so many extra ones in a paranoid flurry that they ended up costing more than the couch itself. The thing is that they are challenging to put on and involve taking a big portion of the couch apart. Good luck!

108 replies

  1. I don’t have a white couch but I have found that ketchup and spaghetti sauce make nice designs.

  2. OMG Jocelyn funny stuff. I AM an interior designer and I guess I should either A: toss all my special spill-proof fabric samples or B: give a copy of this blog to any of my clients with 5 kids and 7 dogs who won’t listen to reason!

  3. ha ha! This is an argument for a leather couch, or a plastic one. Or a leather couch covered in plastic. At my mother’s house we put a big towel down before we eat on the couch.

  4. Too funny! I went in the opposite direction when I had two toddlers and bought a dark brown couch. And yes, entire cups of coffee have been spilled on it without notice 😉 It’s ten years later, and I still don’t feel safe buying one, but look forward to having a light colored couch again some day.

    • We don’t have a cat but I can imagine that would leave a nice textural component.

      • Our long-haired white kitty leaves his imprint on not only furniture, but carpeting, tile, and hardwood floors. I love him more than a perfect house, but someday that fur-less house will be empty of his meow.

    • Love having kids over and love their art projects, love that tiny green hand print that was left on the back,,,,thanks for reading 🙂

  5. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been bottom-up in the bins in the As Is room, legs flailing in the air as I try to snag a lone cushion cover for a discontinued chair. I add my thanks to IKEA.

    • I too have spent some time in that room: kind of a fourth dimension,,,,thanks for reading 🙂

  6. In which lies the lasting value of a patterned fabric!

    Don’t forget, cushions always have two sides…

    Congrats on being FPed from a neighbor in Tarrytown.

    • The beauty is that we are well on our way to patterned fabric 🙂 Thanks so much for reading!

  7. BUT……what everyone is forgetting is that you can BLEACH a white couch. My daughter has had one for years with 2 messy kids, well o.k. she does go thru a lot of bleach lol.

    • They should give you a bottle of bleach when you buy those slipcovers 🙂 Thanks for reading 🙂

  8. Love the ideas… I just bought a white slip cover for my hand me down couch… my mom is convinced that I am crazy, I have a mainly black and brown cat. My response was… it is washable. Also, unless I have company, it has a sheet on it for the cat. 🙂

  9. I love the blue jeans one. My friend has a white couch and I’m always terrified of sitting down on it for fear that I may have leave some dye behind when I stand up.

    I usually get a nice corner stool.

    • ha! I know, I would feel so bad – i guess if I was feeling skinny that day and the dye splotch I left “behind” (hee hee) was rather narrow, I’d feel less so,,,:)

    • why go sky diving when you can just eat dinner on a white couch? gotta live on the edge 🙂

    • growing up, my dad had a white caddy with white leather seats – yes, that did clean off well (my brother is mast of car sickness)

  10. If you’re really brilliant like myself, you should also get a labrador puppy two weeks after you buy said white couch. Then, take care of your friend’s pug who has not been spayed! Nice post!

  11. LOL Great post! I also have a white couch from Ikea. And I have two children. I am always finding mystery spots and I have become somewhat of a Nazi when my kids go near the couch in bare feet, after having worn flip-flops outside all day. My solution: cover it in blankets and throw pillows. It undoes the “whiteness” of it, but it has made me a little more tolerable to live with.

  12. Haha – Love this! We’ve had the Ikea couch with dark brown and dark blue slipcovers, thinking that the dark colors would help hide stains. Well…my toddler taught me that milk, bananas, and cheeses stain very nicely too! Dark couches, light stains…ya can’t win.

  13. Wow! I love this. I love love love love this. If I could afford to I would do something very similar. The white couch with the one throw pillow in the middle… I have a three year old black leather couch, no throw pillows and an old heirloom (hand me down) chair that needs a slip cover.

  14. Don’t forget the carpet-like nubbly couch fabric that feels so nice and so cushy to sit on … and that practically causes your cat to witness the face of God when you get it home because she thinks you just bought her the world’s biggest scratching post.

    I have a gorgeous eggplant-purple couch that matches the above description, and I haven’t seen the surface of it in years. Despite this, my roommate’s old tomcat STILL used to scratch at the base, under the cover. I almost had a nice pair of orange-cat colored earmuffs a few times. Little bastard.

  15. Why not have it cleaned instead ? It will cost you less than the slip covers with no hassle what so ever if done by the right company in a timely manner.

    • true- this option is one of the reasons we can eat dinner on it every night without having anxiety attacks 🙂

  16. I have a two-year-old, and although I love white couches, if I had one it would be decorated with dirty finger prints, pudding, and milk. Maybe in 16 years.

  17. Wonderful! And to think I thought this was going to be some boring, pie in the sky decorating tips from a decorator type who does not live in the real world and thinks real people buy white couches. I won’t even buy white pants! Congrats on being FP’d!

  18. Cute post, I smiled 🙂 Have any of these happened to you? Hmm I guess not since you got the slipovers. 😛
    Ah, IKEA….
    Congrats on getting Daily Post too! 🙂

  19. Quite hilarious! lol

    You already got me until I saw the third suggestion was still a sort of irony. Love your sense of humour. I doubt if I’d be comfortable procuring white furniture pieces like this. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂

  20. Hahaha hilarious article is killing me! White couches are only lovely to look at. Anything more than that and you’ve got a full time job on your hands.

  21. Congratulations on being freshly pressed.

    But above all, thank you for this post. Thank you, because you have just validated that a grey carpet in a business office is simply too plain and boring, and that it looks much, much better after a ketchup explosion which does not defy gravity. And indeed, what was up, came down. And not only did it come down, it spread out in a unique fan-like formation. And for many years there was a noticeable visual reminder, near the exit to the lobby, that something as humble as the lowly ketchup can make its mark.

    And then a few years ago, the carpet was replaced with some wild and wacky colours. I will not take credit for being responsible that the entire 21-storey building was recarpeted, but after reading this post, I have to wonder…..

    Enjoy your new white couch!

    • Thanks for reading – yes, squirting some ketchup on my fries right now – hopefully some will also land on the carpet….

  22. I loved this! We have a black lounge and a dark blue one and 4 kids. And they are horrible! I guess if I wanted I could say that we had a glamorous white lounge to begin with :P….

  23. We’ve had ‘white’couches for a rental unit for over a decade and they are the bomb. We bought natural canvas, and then somebody ‘boiled’ them and made extra slipcovers. They are tougher than I ever dreamed.
    Congrats on FP!

  24. This is hilarious. I especially enjoyed (and can relate to) the chocolate chips fusing into the fibres from body heat. It’s the worst, especially if you’re not sure how the (brown) stain got there!

  25. Haha! I love this because I have a white Ikea couch. I got the white slipcover because it was the most affordable cover I could buy at the time. I’m dying to buy the gray one but it’s more than the couch was itself!
    You forgot dogs/pets and messy husbands! I have two dogs and an athlete for a husband who loves to come home after sports and plop on the couch. I am constantly washing the dang cover and they are not fun to get on/off!!!! I’m starting to think it’s best to just leave the stains. It builds character 🙂

  26. I have the secret to owning any fabric in any color whether lining the floor or a couch: It’s called: SPOT OFF (by D.A. Burns..$2.95 for 8oz bottle)…
    It took red nail polish off my mothers white carpet….

  27. ha ha! I am a fellow white couch lover and our couch has endured all forms of art you mentioned 🙂 Congrats for being freshly pressed.

  28. Thanks a lot. My 4 doggies just read your blog and posted it on my desk with the note…..”Mommie, think of what we did on your new couch as decorations, woof woof, we love you!”
    Congrats on being Freshly Stained, oops I mean Freshly Pressed.



  29. lol. I got the same couch from Ikea back in 2006 whilst living in South East London. I never got round to buying the extra slip covers (but after 2 weeks I wished I did). By the time I moved out the couch was grey…with multicolored ‘poker dots’

  30. Congratulations on making it to Freshly Pressed! Good post – like the vibe.

    Don’t forget the joy of a good old beetroot stain – what a glorious addition to the not-quite-so-white sofa. Personally I will be sticking to a light-coloured leather sofa instead.

  31. Love the white sofa against the white walls– it feels spacious! Personally I’ve tired of the Tuscany dark walls. Your room is uplifting, but watch out for red wine spills!

  32. 2 year old should come over and drink her chocolate milk from her sippy cup on your white couch. The sippy cups tend to drip and they could create a lovely brown polka dot pattern.
    This post reminded me of my old neighbors growing up..They had lovely white furniture all covered in plastic!Does anyone do that anymore??

  33. I laughed at the chicken tikki masala reference. I once spilled some Indian food on the carpet and it left the strangest fluorescent stain! Happily, and surprisingly, after a year or so, the stain vanished on its own! Maybe the spices’ powers are time contingent.

  34. When I was in college I had this nice apartment right acrossed the street from school. My cleaning product of choice was a spray that had bleach in it. It was a carpet muncher. I poured some on the carpet after spilling some butter on the carpet and it ate a lemon sized hole right through the carpet. My landlord did not charge me for it. They said that I was just trying to clean up and mistakes happen.

  35. Hilarious!!!!
    For that human body touch. Lie down on white couch after applying spray on tan and while waiting for hair dye to set. Lose track of time, read trashy magazine, fall asleep and drool.
    There top that one!

  36. Thanks to you i’m rethinking buying that white linen Restoration Hardware sofa that I’ve been eyeing for the past year.

  37. Bahahaha! I love this! I have been wringing my hands over the decision to get a brown sofa instead of the white one I really wanted. As much as I ADORE white sofas, I have two large dogs, a 10 year old boy, and a Marine living here……I’d go nuts. Although the brown doesn’t quite fit my vision, the idea of having a stain free (or at least no visible stains, hehe) sofa makes me smile. I’m sharing this on my blog if you don’t mind!

    • Ha! Yup, I’m sitting here around a sea of stains right now! You really have to try to ignore them…(and change the slip covers when guests come over.) Thanks for reading and for sharing it!

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