Outdoor Furniture, Dressed in Vinyl

Diamonds might be forever, but sheesh, outdoor fabric isn’t — not even the high-end kind, like you get with gorgeous Janus et Cie furnishings. Debbie Singleton , who with husband Skip is behind the fabulously successful DC Living Real Estate (not to mention the force behind the DC Design House), learned this lesson the hard way.

Here’s what the Singletons’ Amalfi dining chair looks like in the catalogue:


Beautiful, right? Well, after four years, that white linen wasn’t white anymore. “I just couldn’t clean it anymore,” Debbie says. Of course, gray is terribly au courant these days, but not when it’s the result of too many dirty butts, the annual onslaught of pollen, bird poop—you name it. “Frankly, I was a little burned” with all the constant upkeep that white demands, she says.

Now, here’s the reason Debbie’s so smart. She didn’t decide to recover her cushions in a more forgiving color—white is too fabulous against the deep, dark shiny brown ipe-wood deck and the perfectly manicured kelly-green lawn behind their house in the Palisades.

She thought, who does outdoor white without flight? Boats! That’s who. A few phone calls later, and she had ordered 105 yards of marine-grade vinyl for the 48 cushions that needed to be covered.

Debbie, a happy customer in her stunning back yard, the white vinyl cushions gleaming on her deck behind her.

Debbie, a happy customer in her stunning back yard, the white vinyl cushions gleaming on her deck behind her.

Even better: The Promo Marine White Vinyl in Chalk White by onlinefabricstore.net cost her $7.25 per yard, compared to a $41 per yard that Janus would have charged to replace the original fabric. Whoa. That makes me want to sit down… on these!


Here’s a closeup of the vinyl, expertly upholstered by Tim Meadows of Barry Decorating and Upholstery in Hyattsville (301.277.5151, because they don’t live online):

I love how the seat-back is skinny and tapered against the substantial seat cushion.

I love how the seat-back is skinny and tapered against the substantial seat cushion.

On the day I visited last week, we had just had another rain, but with this vinyl? Totally no problem.


Debbie tells me that it’s such a relief not to have to scrub the cushions anymore. Here, the rain washes right off, and if you get, say, ketchup or suntan lotion or anything else on it? Spray it down, and it’s instantly gone.

Also, because the water doesn’t penetrate it, you can sit right down without any worry, as we did here around this dramatic Janus coffee table:


And, ever the design aficionados, the Singletons love how the cushions outside seem to pick right up where their vintage Knoll seats leave off in the kitchen.


Skip and Debbie’s house is going to be on a Palisades home tour this fall, and they’ve already promised me that I can take pictures of more of their interiors ahead of the tour, so stay tuned! In the meantime, they’ve provided me with great inspiration that the best of summer is that which is (nearly) maintenance free. Cheers!




  1. Great article and wonderful example of how thinking outside the box (material wise) can size a lot of time and hassle. We get customers all the time using marine vinyl for all sorts of things, from car interiors to bicycle seats, and patio furniture, too!

    Maybe they’ll make a stain-proof white one day, but until then, I’ll keep recommending this instead.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for your great comments. The bright new white really does show off the beautiful construction of the Janus furniture. Debbie tells me, also, that it’s not even sticky when you sit on it with a swimsuit. Maybe she’ll invite me to a pool party to see for myself 🙂

  3. What a great post, Jen! Thanks for highlighting the practical and stylish benefits of vinyl, which often gets an undeserved bad rap. It’s smart design — a practical and sustainable material for outdoor and even indoor home decorating because it is so durable. It also happens to be a by-product of salt and depending on where you live, it can often be recycled.

  4. I love that idea and I am kicking myself for not thinking of it. I have 12 dining chairs, a settee and 4 chairs (not dining). It costs a fortune to buy new cushions every 2 or 3 years. This is definitely something I plan to do.

  5. Absolutely brilliant solution to the outdoor furniture dilemma. I love the look of the Janus furniture, but didn’t want to deal with the upkeep, and was thinking about buying a line with sling material. I might give Janus a second look using the marine vinyl solution!