It’s been a long time since I have picked out a new sofa. I bought my first one when I was 21 and it was black with white stripes.
When I got married at 27 my husband and I bought a sofa and love seat in forest green leather, back when we all thought this colour would be timeless. Two years later when I got divorced I left the forest green sofa behind — so much for timeless!
Then I bought a beige-on-beige patterned sofa in a tuxedo style. I rag-rolled my walls to match the sofa, because that was what we were doing then. The beige tones on the walls were different from the sofa (so they didn’t actually match) and it always annoyed me. Now I know that the undertone of the beige paint I chose was pink (common mistake) and the leaves in my sofa were a yellow-beige.
Before you end up with a room that's all white because you're afraid of colour, let's go through the colour options you could consider for your sofa.
Let's start off with the neutrals:
Right now everyone seems to be coveting either a white or gray sofa like the ones above. The reason? Colour is moving to fresh and happy! And all those colours look good with the Belgian inspired warm gray tones and whites. White is crisp, so it looks good with fresh colours.
Yellow-beige or sand (above) is also a good neutral sofa to choose. Yellow-beige looks good with blues, purples, yellows, garden fresh greens, black, brown, as well as cream or white (think English Patient). You can't go too bright with these coordinating colours though. Lemon yellow, for instance, will look too bright and can cause the sofa to start to look dirty.
If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that pink-beige/coffee or mocha are like dirty words for me. That's partly because I have seen too much pinky-beige broadloom (from the 80s) in my time. More than that, pink-beige is a dirty word for me because it's such a bossy colour.
The problem with a pink-beige/mocha-coloured sofa is that the only colours that work with it are greeny-grays or taupe shades. Unless you want more pink-beige on the walls. Blue and purple can also work with pink-beige, but I don't consider either of them a neutral option for wall colours.
In the photo above you can see the arm of a chair upholstered in a clean yellow and white pattern. This doesn't work well because a clean colour like any fresh or yellow greens makes the sofa look dirty. So your decorating options with a pink-beige sofa are very limited indeed. I would run far away from this colour!
A greeny-beige or mushroom coloured sofa (above) was a big look right before the brown trend came on so strong in 2002. While green-beige looks dirty with most fresh and clean colours, it can look good with green, like in this photo. Ideally it should also be repeated to really pull it off.
If you like rusty oranges, golds and muted reds, green-beige can be a wonderful color option. I simply adore gray-greens with purples! By the way, this is the style I'm getting for my next sofa — two cushions and a tight back.
Many of you probably have a brown sofa since this has been the hot trend for the past eight years. It's not that I don't like brown; my issues are that we went too far with it. I have been in too many homes where all the cabinetry, including the granite and backsplash are BROWN! It’s too much. A brown sofa alone is fine, but I would still paint your brown cabinets white (or whichever colour is appropriate) even if you’ve just moved in.
If you have kids brown is a good colour because it disguises a lot of dirt. And, if you loved brown before it ever became hot — you should buy one.
But if you are loving it now because it’s trendy, you might love gray more when it really becomes mainstream and then you’ll be cranky with the brown one you selected. Basically, like I said in this post about kitchen cabinetry — brown looks best with creams and beiges while black looks good with white
That’s why black (below) is also hot right now (but NOT as a sofa colour — that was the 80s) because it looks so crisp and graphic with white and raspberry, turquoise, etc.
A gold-beige sofa (below) looks good with richer tomato reds, burgundy, navy, blues, rust, gray-greens, etc. I would definitely stay away from pairing turquoise, raspberrys, lemon yellows, fresh greens and any of the brighter, cleaner colours with gold-beige. Gold-beige is usually serious and works well for a more traditional look.
English arm sofa (above) from Williams Sonoma Home
There's one more basic neutral to discuss — charcoal (below). I would say the overall feel of a charcoal sofa is more masculine but it's certainly a good colour if you have kids. Stick to brighter colours for accents though, reds, mandarin orange, yellow greens, and even lighter purples would look good here.
Now for the colour options! A lot of my design consulting has to do with clients asking me which colour sofa to buy, because there is too much choice. My clients love the idea of incorporating more colour into their decorating but they are worried about pulling it off so it looks good.
Here’s where my online consulting help you (or if you live in Vancouver I can see you in person). Click here to email me for my rates and what the process looks like to work with me. You then you won’t have to stare at your empty living room any longer!
Let's go around the colour wheel, starting with red. Red, of course, looks good with gray-greens (but not Christmas green — unless it actually is Christmas) golds, gold-beige, yellow-beige (as above), purples and blues.
Be careful using too much black with an orange sofa (or it’ll remind you of Halloween). Blues, purples, greens, browns and creams all look great with orange, as does yellow.
I love this Mandarin orange sofa with the purple armchair! Isn’t it fabulous?! This room reminds of a post I wrote the other day on stone fireplaces and how they should relate to something in the room. Notice how the designer above matched the drapes to the stone, but they don’t appear to go with anything else?
Next is a yellow sofa. This is the colour of my new sofa (I know you’re not surprised). I can’t wait until it’s ready! I just don’t think you get tired of a favourite colour as fast as others which is why I think instead of opting for a "safe" neutral, you should go for a colour. All the fresh and happy colours look good with ‘colour’ (not just yellow).
Right now I’m thinking of accenting with raspberry, (I’m just loving pink and yellow together these days), I haven’t decided quite yet. But really, unless I wanted to start incorporating earth tones into this palette (which I won’t) all the fun and happy colours will work. And I love the drama of this colour, it’s what you would expect to see in a colourist's house!
I love green, it would be my second choice for a sofa colour, just like in this loft I decorated for one of my clients. It's also a great colour paired with browns, reds, orange, purple, pink, yellow and blues. So versatile yet calm and serene.
I think blue is a totally timeless colour for a sofa. It is a majority favourite colour after all! A great choice if this is your favourite colour. It also goes with every colour, just like green!
If you love reds, fuscia, golds and Kelly greens, these are great jewel-tone colours to get. Purple is tricky though because it goes red or blue really fast. Make sure you carry around your purple fabric swatch with you when you’re shopping so you can be confident you're buying the right accessories.
See in the above photo how the shag is more red? Unless you are going for that look, shop with your sofa colour swatch! Greeny-yellow walls would look so great with this colour scheme. Neutral colours die with a purple sofa so you need green-yellow to keep it sophisticated and happy!
Notice that I haven’t talked about a sofa with pattern (below)? That's because unless you can afford to replace your sofa every five years (which is usually when we get tired of any look) I would stick with a solid colour.
I hope I have inspired you to consider choosing a colour for your next sofa! What colour is your sofa right now?
If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact us! We would love to help you choose colours, select the right combination of hard finishes or create a plan to pull your room together. You can find our fabulous e-design consultation packages here.
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