November 28, 1994 12:00 PM

FORGET THE SPREADSHEETS: BILL and Gina Ellis of Birmingham, Mich., just switch on the TV to gauge their fiscal health. As the owners of Quatrine Washable Furniture, the husband-and-wife duo can spot their slipcovered sofas and chairs on such shows as Melrose Place, Dave’s World and, Beverly Hills, 90210—and in the homes of design-conscious celebs. “We’ll see interviews with stars,” says Bill, 36, whose clients include John Travolta, Sean Connery, Meg Ryan and Michael Keaton, “who are sitting on one of our chairs.”

Priced from $800 to $4,500, the Ellises’ handcrafted furniture is coveted for its overstuffed cushions, kiln-dried Pacific Coast hardwood and 400 kid-friendly, machine-washable fabric options. It’s so generously proportioned (their biggest sofa is 9 feet long) that when Wesley Snipes had his down-filled, chenille sofa delivered to his Malibu home, workers had to hoist it by crane, then shimmy it through a wide window. Like the movers, the Ellises are accustomed to celebrity demands. Says Bill: “They all want their pieces within a week.”

It was the couple’s own quest for comfort that led them into the business. Newly wed in 1990, Bill, an art director for an L.A. ad agency, and Gina, 33, a buyer for the Ritz-Carlton hotels, couldn’t find suitable furniture for their Manhattan Beach, Calif., home, so they built their own oversize slipcovered sofa and chairs. Encouraged by raves from friends, they quit their jobs in 1991, took a second mortgage on their home and opened their first shop. Within a year a set designer for Macaulay Culkin’s new movie The Pagemaster rented a chair—and launched their business. “Once you’re connected in that whole environment,” says Gina, “it just trickles down.”

Now, with 2,000 orders and $1 million in sales projected for the year, the Ellises, who moved to Michigan last year, are riding high on the ’90s nesting trend. “More people are staying home and redecorating,” says Dina Santorelli, managing editor of High Points, a furniture-industry magazine. “Quatrine furniture is stylish and practical; the slipcovers can be put in the washer and dryer.”

There’s plenty of Quatrine furniture at the cozy home the Ellises share with kids Nina, 3, Bo, 1, and newborn Isabella. Last February the couple opened a second store, in Birmingham; plans are set to expand to Dallas and Chicago, where they expect no shortage of satisfied couch potatoes. “Once you have slipcovered sofas,” says Bill, “you’ll never live with anything else.”

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