Should I Buy a Black Sofa?

It’s no secret that dark colours are quickly becoming the new neutral, and this may be tempting you to buy a black sofa. But, here are a few decorating tips you should consider before you introduce the darkest colour in the largest piece of furniture in your room.

If black is the new “it” neutral, should I buy a black sofa?

Since black is the new trendy neutral that’s quickly replacing grey, I thought it was time to talk about black sofas.

During the tuscan trend, brown was the most common sofa colour.

During the grey trend, charcoal was the IT sofa.

Now, it’s back to the 80s with forest green and black sofas.

CB2

Now that Tuscan brown (including gold beige) and grey sofas are looking dated. And white sofas are not practical for many of us, even though I know some of you have considered it. So, I thought it was time for me to share my thoughts on the black sofa.

Scrolling Pinterest for images and inspiration for this post, I found some elegant looks like the channeled velvet sofa above. But overwhelmingly, most felt stark and minimal. And I really think the trends are moving towards softer, more layered looks.

So, as you know, it is my mission in life to help you live with more colour.

As I’ve said many times before:

Colour is way more timeless than the current, trendy neutral.

House Beautiful

A black sofa is a contrast problem

I think the challenge with the black sofa is that it makes it even harder to introduce softness and especially colour into your room.

Black is by definition high contrast and graphic. Black is also the absence of all colour. And sofas are LARGE – this is a very HEAVY place to introduce black. That’s why black sofas are riskier than grey or even brown ones. They are a big commitment to the heaviest colour on earth, smack dab in the center of your room.

Lots of white, including white walls, are being used to balance a black sofa in the images I’m seeing. Opposites balance and attract right?

Article

Well yes, but black and white are EXTREME opposites. And the distance between them is so vast that the look is cold and stark most of the time.

Contrast is one of the most important and challenging aspects of design, and the return of the black sofa brings the issue to a head.

What is the best colour for a sofa?

I’ve always said that buying a sofa in your favourite colour is the most timeless choice.

It’s trendy neutrals that date the fastest. Especially dark neutrals.

But buying a large item, like a sofa, is where people typically get really conservative about colour.

And that’s too bad. Because when you’re putting together a room, you only have so many places to make a well-proportioned injection of colour. The sofa, the area rug, accent chairs, the walls, and large scale art. That’s pretty much it. You’ll notice that none of these are really small and easy purchases. And that’s why so many people end up with rooms all in the “safe” trendy neutral of the moment.

Yikes! The safe-neutral-everything design rut was bad with brown, drab with grey, and it’s sure to be a disaster with black! Just like it was in the 80s.

I’m just saying that a large black sofa is an especially challenging design element to work with. I’m willing to bet you will be much happier to curl up on a sofa in your favourite coral, green or blue in the long run, rather than black.

Sophie Robinson

With your largest piece of upholstery in black, you will feel compelled to create a room that looks like a desaturated photograph.

Daily Dream Decor

A black sofa is bossy

Black enjoys its own colourless company. You’ll have to work harder to introduce colour into your palette.

There are, of course, rooms that look good with black sofas. But they are so specific and far from simple to pull off. Some of the best ones I found had dark walls that made the black sofa recede into the whole.

Manny Rodriguez Photography

Elle Decor

If you are creating a glam room, like this black, white and brass room above, this is where a black sofa in a sleek shape works best. But if you prefer a casual, cozy look for day to day living, a black sofa is going to work against you.

How to decorate with a black sofa

Help Maria, I just bought a black sofa!

So, you already have a black sofa and you want to introduce some colour? You’ll need lots of white, plus you can use warm cognac browns, deep and leafy greens, as well as gold to balance it.

Pink is a great colour for warming up a black and white palette too.

The Marble Home

With a black sofa, it’s a good idea to use a light rug. A dark rug will make the room look bottom heavy.

Hunted Interior

Leopard print is a great way to repeat black and layer in some warm gold and cognac tones.

Is the black sofa trend here to stay?

Yes. 

If you would like to indulge in the black and white trend, I recommend that you introduce black in smaller doses rather than a full sofa.

Because here’s my prediction: you are going to be just as desperate to get rid of your black sofa in ten years as you were to ditch your espresso brown one. . .not that long ago.

Over to you my lovelies! What do you think of this new black world? Black exteriors and interiors, what are you thinking of painting or buying in black next?

PS. Here are my Boston True Colour Experts from last weeks workshop! I have one more day here with my Orlando group! My Spring dates will be announced shortly!

Here were our two amazing volunteers Lucy Hird Interiors from San Francisco (left ) and Therese Landry  from Boston (right).

Related Posts

What Everyone Should Know About Black

All Grey Home in 2011 and All Black in 2019

How to Transform a Charcoal Sofa with Colour: Before & After

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  1. I would love to know your thoughts on off white/cream/ivory sofas when done with the new performance fabrics like Crypton, Sunbrella, etc.. We’ve always had blue sofas and love them, but we’re considering doing a room with dark blue walls that seem to call for a lighter sofa, and cream is an appealing compliment.

    • Yes I would go with a performance fabric for sure. Great way to get a light sofa! Or you could go with a 50 poly/50 cotton velvet like my yellow sofa, I have scrubbed it with a scrub brush and a bissell 🙂 Maria

  2. Last year, following your ongoing encouragement to buy a sofa in the color you love, I purchased a gorgeous blue velvet sofa. As much as I love it, the darker color dominates the room so I would be wary of black. On the other hand, to any of your readers who have purchased black or really want a black couch, be reassured by Maria’s other piece of wisdom – a sofa is not a fixed element so if you DON’T like it in ten years, you can change it out.

  3. In these professionally decorated rooms with black sofas, I picture them with colored sofas, looking even better. The one with the orange sofa looks more inviting and vibrant to me.

    And think of the lint, people. 😉

  4. It may sound contrary, but I’m not a bright color fanatic, yet I absolutely love and believe in Maria’s amazing advice and talent. I’m more of a neutral girl, layering texture and contrast….I would never purchase a sectional in my favorite color, yet I think they’re so pretty if that’s your thing. I would tire of it. Quickly.
    I have 2 sectionals in my home. One is greige basically and I love it. The other is a warm mocha (not dark nor light) and I love it as well. Both are timeless and classic looking. I blended warm lighter greys/grieges with wood tones and created a flow throughout our home. I add green. I add gold and/or silver metallics here and there. I like clean lines. But that’s what I like. What I prefer. Doesn’t make it wrong or right. Maria’s voice and ebooks and advice guide me along the way.
    I think the black velvet channeled sofa is beautiful—and well done but only in a photo. Never in my/a real home. Unless of course you have 10 rooms to throw sofas in lol.
    And of course whenever a color is trending, we all purchase it in one form or another for our homes. (Whether we realize it or not.) It’s out there in full force, black is. Added to the script on our coffee cups, mingled with red and white plaid decorations, or even wrapping paper, (I just bought the prettiest craft paper designs) etc. etc. So you’ll have purchased it somewhere down the line because that is what is offered to you at the time. That is what is in abundance at the stores. The on-trend color, scattered subtly everyyyy-where lol.
    I work for a company that sells gorgeous American made hand crafted furniture as well as home decor. I see first hand what New Englanders choose for their sofas. I see lots of sofas done in lots of different covers. It never ceases to amaze me what inspires each individual. I think I’ve seen it all haha.
    If I could have Maria standing guard over the vast fabric wall display, counseling and guiding — the world would be a better place
    lol.

  5. Hello Maria! While those rooms are styled beautifully, a black sofa always says “bachelor pad“ to me! Shortly after I finished your invaluable color expert’s course I redid my living room and I bought myself the loveliest pale teal sofa. I need to send you a picture of it! You can see it on my website. Don’t judge the photo quality, although it’s pretty good because you taught me how to do that too! I know the blues are going more true blue and indigo blue but I don’t care because I can put any color blue I want on that sofa and I do. I have an analogous blue living room that goes from shades of turquoise all the way to Navy. And it’s sophisticated and makes me happy! It’s so true that a sofa in your favorite color is way, way more timeless! But it’s a departure of popular thought and I’m grateful you are sharing it with us!

  6. I steady have a large black element in my living room – my Steinway grand piano. I could never introduce another large black element without it looking sooo heavy. We will replace our neutral beige tan sofa with a color (blue? Green? Still deciding) in a couple of years when the dog has crossed the rainbow bridge and we no longer have an animal laying on it all day.

  7. Another problem with a black sofa is that it only works when its lines are very elegant, in an elegant and sophisticated room, as you said. A comfy looking black sofa is hideous.

  8. SO very true!. What I would give for a glam blue sofa. I’m stuck with a black sofa for now b/c the husband won’t let it go. So I’m letting the twins destroy it (he he) and we’ll see how much longer it lasts. I took my lead from our original wood floors and went with yellow walls, yellow pillow accents and just the right shade of yellow/pale blue/white drapes. (yes, basically ignoring it) I have two gorgeous sunflower oil paintings from a Mayan shaman so I maybe I’ll trade out the red sunflower in the living room for the yellow one. That might be too much yellow. WHAT? No such thing as too much yellow! 🙂

  9. I’ve had a black sofa for about 6 years and I love it! It doesn’t show any soil and is the perfect foundation for a room with color!

  10. You forgot to mention one of my favorite reasons for avoiding a black sofa. Black shows every speck of dust. It’s just like the dark floors everyone wanted a few years ago. Once they got them, they realized how often they had to sweep them to keep them from looking dusty all the time. You’re going to have the same situation with a black sofa, vacuuming it more often to keep it from looking dusty. Which is fine if you’re someone who likes to dust and vacuum every day. But if you’re someone like me who prefers to do it less often, avoid the black sofa.

  11. I’ve had a black sofa for 15 years. Love it. It’s now in it’s third location and has worked in every room. I also have a chocolate brown mohair sofa in our living room and it’s gorgeous. I think “colored” couches can be equally as dated as any neutral color. You just have to keep refreshing so it stays current.

  12. Another great post Maria. Black is not my
    Favourite colour but I do have a dark brown leather set which I will be delighted when it’s time to go. I still prefer leather over fabric on sofas. Would you tell us about that.
    Maria please tell us about your outfit of black & white polka dot blouse, leggings with hot pink skirt. I didn’t know where my eyes should go. Dare I say in my mind it didn’t look good. As a color specialist would you tell us about this. For sure you made a point about black & white polka dots. I am not in the fashion world so maybe I am missing something

  13. Love, love that persimmon sofa! it looks amazing (and yes, timeless). We have a greige sofa that I really quite like – got it during the charcoal trend but avoided charcoal – and I do like how it’s a great background for a few colorful accessories since a room full of color is too much for me. But when we come to replace it, I am definitely simmering on the idea of a color. Or cognac leather, that would be amazing!

  14. I only wish it was easier to find a good quality sofa in a color that makes my heart sing. It seems that they offer such a limited number of colors.

  15. Kristen, Performance fabrics and Sunbrella are not the same. The showroom where you purchase (or an interior designer) can give you more complete information. Sunbrella is great for outdoor but for indoor ask for performance.

  16. Jennifer, It depends on where you purchase your sofa. The furniture stores (and interior designers) carry many furniture lines and if you find a frame style you like it can be covered in almost any upholstery weight fabric. There is sure to be something that makes your heart sing.

  17. No, you do not want a black sofa. Besides anything else, think of the lint and dog hair. Even if you don’t have a dog, it comes in with visitors.
    As part of a long trip I have been looking at a lot of airbnbs. If they have black sofas, I have found I immediately rule them out. And they all seem to have white walls. Just not a place I would want to stay, even short term.

  18. The “new black sofa trend” really does bring back memories of the ’80’s black leather, over-stuffed, pillow-back sofas. They seemed to be in everyone’s living room and were on every furniture showroom floor back then. Several friends were making payments on their investments (it was the ’80’s and we were all young and broke) until such time as they could have delivered (or, a friend with a pick-up truck would come in handy – hey, did I mention, it was the ’80’s and we were all young and broke?) When the monstrocity would be delivered, we would all vie for a prime piece of real estate seating on the big, poofy, COLD black leather sofa… ahhhhh…. bliss.

    Fast forward and the black sofa has re-visited. Well, I think it could indeed sweep the nation, yet again, but a word of caution to those people who fall in love with the “easy to clean” colour black. If it’s fabric then all white fluff shows on it. As well, like Maria, said, a sofa is a large piece. Black ABSORDS LIGHT. So, know that it will act like a dimmer switch with all objects that surround it.

    The moral of the story is… black is ideal as PUNCTUATION. A little goes a long way to ground a space. Think of a sexy, black, glossy pair of sofa table lamps with gold or brightly coloured shades. Visualize a high gloss, black framed, black and white photography series on a gallery wall over your sofa. Or, a black two to three inch banding around a gorgeous, graphic area rug. Bam! Black Beauty all the way!

    Susan Gordon
    HerStory Home

  19. Maria, really enjoyed this article. My husband bought a sleek black leather sofa with nice lines, but realized he didn’t need it for his home office. Before I make him sell it, we decided we may try it in a bistro room being remodeled off of the family room. Already own a wine red velvet tufted ottoman coffee table, where we can add color in front of it. The entire room will be done in a Swiss coffee semi gloss With nice moldings, so we’re keeping other things quite bright and neutral around it. Here is my question – When you have a black sofa, is it appropriate to have a fun black-and-white tile to complement? We will also add gold metal in areas. Going for that French bistro look, with good light -two pairs of French doors facing a pool area. On the side, it borders a family room with wide plank dark wood floors, but we don’t want a black sofa on a dark wood floor, so thinking about a fun B&W tile instead, dog friendly. Otherwise we could always layer with the lighter rug.

  20. I think a black sofa can be quite elegant and sharp with the right lines, fabric, and surrounding decor. Personally, I wouldn’t own one but that is simply my taste. I also wouldn’t invest in a coloured sofa, as it then dictates the colours used in rest of the room. A good quality sofa is not something you replace in, say ten years. A neutral sofa is timeless and let’s you change your colour scheme over time. Having said that, if a particular colour makes your heart flip flop, buy it! We only go around this way once, my dears!

  21. Nothing is new. In the 1990’s, I redecorated my townhouse away from the 1980’s Ralph Lauren/English Chintzy florals to the following:

    ie Living Room (two story cathedral ceiling)

    Benjamin Moore whites in the entire house (different undertones per room) – but I used oil.
    Pure Black berber carpet throughout
    Black heavy Italian linen plush sofa with beige piping
    Beige heavy Italian linen plush club chairs + ottomans with black piping
    Olive/apple-ish green overstuffed Schumacher silk taffeta balloon valance over a giant $800.00 Levelor shade that got destroyed by a house guest’s dog!
    Wooden accent chair with seat covered in Lee Jofa Kravet Leopard Silk Velvet Fabric – Gold Brown Ivory – repeated in 6 adjacent Dining Room chairs (with 2 armchairs in plain black velvet)- walls painted olive/apple-ish green
    Wall art /photographs in various large frames in metals – silver, gold, copper

    It looked great and I got tons of compliments. They particularly commented that the decorating didn’t compete with the art and the linen wrinkles were “cozy” LOL. I liked it so much I”m redecorating my condo in the same style now!

  22. Kay
    11/21/2019 at 6:38 am
    “Another problem with a black sofa is that it only works when its lines are very elegant, in an elegant and sophisticated room, as you said. A comfy looking black sofa is hideous.”

    As someone who lived with a VERY comfortable custom-made, plush, (and expensive) black linen Lawson sofa for a decade, I really don’t understand the claim that it was “hideous”.

  23. Black on on fixed large piece is indeed challenging. I just changed my jumbo size black granite for white marble look quartz. I am deblacking my house. My sofa is real natural color leather and it’s rusty color that looks like a terra cota pot. I seem to love this color with teals and greens. I love a black and white earthy contrast. But black small, not big.

  24. I have been looking for new family room furniture for quite a while! I would love to go with a favorite color, but am having trouble finding a “fun” color . I can’t spend the cost of buying fabric separately and doing a COM purchase. Any suggestions on where to find the bright blues or other colors? Thanks so much! Love reading your blog!

  25. A few months ago, I took your advice and got a new sofa in a color that I really like instead of a trendy neutral and I’m so glad that I did. Thank you so much for this excellent advice!!

  26. I actually have a leather black sofa. My mother in law worked at Thomasville for years and gifted my husband and I this several years back. Ours is a modern, lower back, three cushion and one cushion is a chaise. I love the sofa. I agree with this posts but have never liked the grey trend myself (bleh!), and have always used greens and blues in our home. Paired with light muted green walls, many different warm woods in the room (including light woods), lots of plants, and touches of blues and corals- I love it. It is also paired with a light colored rug as you mentioned. I didn’t realize black sofas were a new thing- just thankful for my mother in laws generosity to gift us an awesome classy sofa that will last us years and years. Great post, Maria!

  27. I tried to comment earlier but for some reason it didn’t attach. My take on black is that every room needs some but in small amounts. Black as a focal point is too heavy in most residential interiors. Black dominates the whole picture and yes you need a lot of white to offset it. It is dramatic in a very large and formal room with crystals and brass but it is too formal even with color added in my opinion!

  28. Thanks for this post. I’m crazy about the rust/deep orange sofa. That room looks incredibly inviting to me. I’ve always believed every room should have a touch of black. But a sofa is more than a touch! Though I have an entire board on Pinterest of black (exterior) houses, and I’m fascinated by dark walls can’t say as I would want a black sofa. My biggest challenge has always been how to create the dark cozy atmosphere I love during a cold winter and then flip that to bright and fresh come summer? As long as it’s not the grey everything trend of which I’m beyond tired of, dark color or light color I’ll forward to seeing it. (Perhaps I should add that many trends on the high end look good in the beginning including gray, but as they trickle down in economy they tend to get tacky. Such is the case with gray . Mixed gray floors, gray walls, gray counters etc in every flipped house on Zillow-makes me shudder!)

  29. I don’t know if Maria has any experience with them but you might look at rogerandchris.com. They have good quality chairs and sofas that are made in the USA and a great selection of fabrics and colors. They are very helpful and will send fabric samples.