Meet one family who has turned their laid-back lifestyle into a successful business―creating washable slipcovers.

By Jennifer Chappell
September 10, 2002
Shelley Metcalf

When Nina, Bo, and Isabella Ellis come in from the beach, theirparents don't mind if they put their feet on the white sofa. Theirmom doesn't flinch when the black Lab presses muddy paws on achair's skirt. "It's washable," Gina Ellis says, shrugging.

Gina and her husband, Bill, have built their business, QuatrineWashable Furniture, on this carefree concept. The slipcoveredfurniture they make, sell, and lounge on reflects the easygoinglifestyle they've created for their kids at the edge of a peacefulcanyon south of L.A. "We're very casual people," says Bill.

He and Gina want this bungalow in Rolling Hills, California, tobe as livable as the furniture they manufacture. "When I grew up,there were rooms in our house that were off-limits," Bill says. "Iwant my kids to be comfortable."

"The kids touch everything, and I love that," adds Gina, whokeeps stacks and stacks of art and nature books for them in theden. She scatters shells across tabletops and places a bird's nestwithin child's-eye view.

In the breakfast room, glue guns and a sewing machine mar an oldpine table, adding character. "This table is trashed--it'sperfect," Gina says. "I can throw a tablecloth over it if weentertain. We're all about covering up. "

As carefree as that concept sounds, it led to a seriousbusiness. Just over a decade ago, Gina and Bill summoned theirentrepreneurial spirit to launch a company. "We had anidea--washable furniture--and I felt strongly it was going to besuccessful," Bill says. "There are people selling the look, butwe're selling a lifestyle."

L.A. shoppers, including celebrities and Hollywood setdesigners, bought it. Quatrine pieces won starring roles on suchshows as "Mad About You" and "Melrose Place." Bill says, "We wereat the right place at the right time."

People admire not only the furniture but also the casual, airylook Gina gives store interiors. She creates the same mood at home.Shells, botanical prints, and topiaries recall the nearby woodlandsand ocean. Walls painted robin's egg blue make her furniture'scrisp white slipcovers sing.

"I love the light fabrics," Gina says. "And I don't want to havedark furniture just because of our three kids, four dogs, and sevencats."

Quatrine Washable Furniture
800/407-5120 or Quatrine offers more than 400 washable fabricsand custom details. The company has opened nine retail stores-fromCalifornia's Manhattan Beach and Corona del Mar to Chicago andHouston. Basic line: sofas, $1,100 to $2,500; sectionals, $2,000 to$8,000; and chairs, $600 to $1,300. Premium line: sofas, $1,500 to$4,400; sectionals, $3,000 to $10,600; and chairs, $950 to $2,400.Prices vary for custom designs.