How to mix a Colorful Sofa into a Neutral Room

We had a pretty successful initial design presentation yesterday with our new Chestnut Hill clients and they surprised me by being pretty open to velvet teal sofa.  This space is going to be soft, pretty and fresh with a blend of traditional and modern pieces.  I envisioned using various pastel tones of grays, blue-greens and lavenders in a mix that felt mostly neutral  One might think that throwing something bold like a colorful sofa into the mix would automatically make the space overwhelmingly colorful.  On the contrary, I picture one stunning, grounding colorful moment with a pretty muted palette mixed around it.  Forget the pop of color on the pillow, this is a more elegant grown up version.

So how do you successfully mix a colorful sofa into a more neutral room?

1.  Limit your use of accent Pillows

how to use colorful sofa in neutral room- teal sofa no pillows

image source

I know, I know, pillows are super fun, but I noticed a common themr amongst stunning rooms with colorful sofas- Very Few Pillows.  It makes sense really, if you are going bold on the sofa, shouldn’t the focus be on the sofa instead of the pillows?  I’m not saying no pillows, but don’t use pillows for big personality, maybe just soft colors, quiet patterns, etc.

2.  Keep the rug Neutral!

how to use colorful sofa in neutral room- neutral rug

Studio MRS

With a bold sofa, it is really essential to keep the other big pieces simple.  Nothing takes up more space in the room (visually and physically) than the rug.  To maintain a neutral feel, stick with a sisal, creamy Moroccan, of a softly colored patterned rug.  We aren’t doing white in our space (hello it’s a family room with little kids!) but it will have a quiet, yet interesting feel to it.

3.  Place the Sofa in front of a window

how to use a colorful sofa in neutral room- in front of window

Ashe and Leandro

Instead of making a statement with a piece of art over the sofa, it can feel very serene to have the sofa in front of a large in window.  Obviously it doesn’t work in every scenario, but it will work in our layout and I think it will help the room feel more neutral.

4.  Limit your color pallet to two colors

how to use colorful sofa in neutral room- similar tones

The sofa doesn’t need to be the only color in the room!  Go up a few tones on your color wheel to find softer tones that coordinate well without feeling too busy.  Choose a completely different color that works well as your second color.  I love the use of lavender in the room above.  By limiting the pallet to two colors the room will feel softer and more cohesive- thus more neutral.  Note that I don’t consider white or gray “colors” so feel free to mix them in with wild abandon as well.

5.  Mix More Textures, Less Colors

how to use colorful sofa in neutral room- blue tufted sofas tamra sanford

Tamra Sanford via Erika Brechtel

For a softer feel mix varying levels of the same tone in different textures (velvet, shimmery, furry, matte.)

6.  Resist the urge to repeat your sofa color 

how to use colorful sofa in neutral room- mix neutral chairs

It can be tempting to do an accent chair in a coordinating pattern that ties into your sofa color.  That’s fine and good, but it will take you away from a soft, neutral feel real qick!  A little color goes a long way, so keep the accent chairs white, cream, gray or a coordinating softer color.  Keep the other Upholstery Neutral instead of Matchy.

7.  It’s OK to Match a Little.  Pick one Tie-in Piece.

how to use a colorful sofa in neutral room- tie in with art

Leverone Design

Wait did I just totally contradict myself?  Whatevs.  I think you can repeat your color ONE Time.  I love how the art ties into the colorful upholstery the room above.   This was one of my main inspiration for our design.

We still have a lot to finalize with our Chestnut Hill project and our client has not committed yet to the teal, but I’m starting to get pretty excited!  What do you think… Is the concept of a colorful sofa in a neutral room make sense to you?  Or do you think of “neutral” in a more strict non-color terms?

Green Velvet Sofas

So you all know I adore blue, but lately I have been having a love affair with green.  Weirdly, its a color I actually avoided in the past, but now I find it popping up in the interiors we design.  It started with grassy green lounge chairs in a family room, then a limey curved headboard in a bedroom, and now we are doing an olive velvet sofa in a formal living room.  This green velvet sofa is going into a room that has very little color- mostly blacks, whites, grays and camel- so it will really be a special piece.  I love the idea of anchoring a room in one colorful piece and letting textures, shapes, layers and a few great pieces of art create the rest of the intrigue.  Trust me, this room will be anything but bland and I can’t wait to share it with you guys.  In the meanwhile, here is the some of the inspiration we used during the design…

green velvet sofa lauren liess

It started with Lauren Liess’ green velvet sofa.  No one works green better than Lauren.  I never considered it as a neutral before seeing it in her home.

padma lakshmi green velvet sofa architectural digest

The sofa we are using will be closer to this color.  The room has a lot of dark woodwork, so we didn’t want the green to be too dark.

green velvet sofa with beni ourain and brass coffee table

I love how this room pairs green velvet with a modern brass coffee table.

We will be doing this, but the base will be more antiqued and we designed it custom(!)

green velvet sofa with asian ming chairs

I love how green velvet pairs with these ebonized ming chairs.

I couldn’t talk my client into this seating, but I did  convince her that the room needed something Asian.

We will be doing black lacquered Chinoiserie chests instead.  Yummy!

green velvet sofa in front of  the window

The sofa will be in front of a big bay window, just like this one.

green velvet sofa with black modern chairs nicole cohen

We were inspired by the modern mix in this room by Nicole Cohen.

Out space will be more traditional, but will have some key modern pieces mixed in.

* * * *

So that’s just a taste of our inspiration and a few ways you can work a green velvet sofa.

As for our project, we will be re-tiling the fireplace next week, then painting, then grasscloth, then the first round of furniture!

I’ll probably share a few peeks on instagram.  Just need to pick the perfect hashtag for the project 😉

Tiered Dresses and Sofas

I think I have a thing for the modern tiered ruffle.  Last week while reading my House Beautiful I spied this gorgeous skirted sofa with a waterfall pleat detailing.  It adds the perfect feminine touch to a modern sofa.  Then when I saw Blair wearing a dress in a similar style, I knew I had to do a post.  Just loving the depth and layers to her frock. Inspired by her accessories, I’ve made a little outfit for the sofa as well.

Here is the outfit version, styled by Atlantic-Pacific

And here is Verellen’s Jasmine sofa, virtually-styled by me…
I’ll take all of the above please.  Do you dress like your sofa?  Maybe you should.

my tips for a successful slipcover

Thank so much to everyone who checked out my guest post last week over on Amber Interiors.  In case you missed it, I revealed a new slipcover for my modern sofa.  I was able to completely change the look of my sofa by recovering it in a linen fabric and adding a skirt.  Since it’s a slipcover, I can take it off and on to change up the look or to get it cleaned.

A few years ago, I never would have thought I’d have a slipcover.  I perceived them to be frumpy, beachy and granny.  Only for really ugly sofas or people with kids.  But I’ve learned they can be tailored and chic and provide you with great flexibility.  I thought I’d share a few tips for those considering a slipcover.

First, let’s look at my sofa again.  (If you want to see Martin in his original form, please click here.)

Tip #1 Get a custom slipcover

Custom slipcovers may cost a little more, but will fit your sofa like perfection and the quality will show through.  They come in pieces: a fitted section that covers the body and arms, and then separate covers with zippers for each loose seat or back cushion.  A better fit means less shifting with daily use.  I’ve never had to re-adjust or tuck mine.

Tip #2 A single skirt adds casual elegance

This is purely my opinion, but I love the look of a straight skirt across a sofa.  I didn’t want any added seam definitions.  Sometimes I’ll run a seam along the base of the sofa (where the feet begin) to help hold it in place, but for my own sofa, I wanted more of a flowing feel.  I also did NOT want any pleats.  Many slipcovers have a pleat at each cushion, or one in the middle, but I wanted a single piece of fabric across my base.  I thought it looked cleaner, and thus kept the sofa more modern.

Tip #3 To welt or not to welt

Adding welt (cording) to the cushions, arms and back can help add definition and be a nice tailored look.  I decided that since my sofa frame was so modern, I wanted to soften it up a bit, so I opted for no welt.  If you take note, Old Martin, has welt, and it makes him seem a lot boxier.  

Also, some might say welt cording helps keep the cover in place, but you also notice when the cording is “off track” on the arm or sofa.  My edges are less defined, and for me that’s convenient and beautiful.

Tip #4 Don’t ignore the back

If you don’t specify, your slipcover fabricator may put the zipper right down the middle of the sofa back.  The horror!  My sofa floats in my room, so that would certainly not be OK.  I have my workroom put the zipper in the back corner every time.  It’s a nice clean look and it gives you flexibility.  Your sofa may be against a wall now, but it doesn’t mean it always will be.

Note the single seam across the back of my sofa.  The zipper is tucked into the left side pleat.

Tip #5 Choose the right fabric

Cotton and linen are the most common slipcover materials.  Cotton can be thrown in the washing machine.  White cotton can be bleached.  It’s hard to beat that in terms of practicality.  For families with young kids, I like to have two made.  This lessens the wear and tear on the slipcovers and allows one to be on while another is being washed.  For my own sofa, I was less concerned with practicality and more concerned with look and feel.  Fact of the matter is that linen just has a classier look and feel than cotton.  I spot treat any stains and find that it’s held up great so far.

These tips are just my opinion.  I’ve done slipcovers several ways.  For my own sofa, I felt a tight fit, seamless, skirted slipcover was a modern bohemian interpretation.  If you are a regular reader to this blog you probably recognize this fits me to a T.  Thanks for reading and a big hug to those of you who sent me kind words and compliments!

Happy Monday.  Any one else secretly excited for Bachelor Pad to begin tonight?  Tehe.

my own personal battle of traditional vs modern

I’m feeling a little bit bothered about the lack of traditional furniture in my home.  I’m craving softness, curves, tailored perfection and a bit of flash.  What I really want is a carved french sofa.

French sofas.  Sigh.  Just thinking about them makes me feel happy and romantic.  Refined and delightful even.

via nuevo estilo

They are traditional, but not fussy. I love that they are classic, with just the right amount of ornate detailing.  Yet they still come across as clean and simple.
suzanne kasler’s showroom for Hickory chair

And despite their differences, they are the perfect compliment to modern furniture (and art.)
I’ve always been inspired Rashida Jones’ apartment.  She mixed a french sofa with black panton chairs (similar to my tulip chairs) and gorgeous, colorful rug
  via Domino
I’ve often wondered if I could incorporate a french sofa into my mix.  Much to my dismay, my place had been overtaken by midcentury furniture.  I’m hoping to regain balance somehow.

Lets review my current furniture situation….

Eames-Syle lounge chair and ottoman, from the side of the road
2 BRNO chairs in this lovely blue upholstery, Ebay
4 knoll saarinen tulip chairs, sans cushions for now, Craigslist

Framed, 60’s era silk scarf by Victor Vasarely, from Nana
for more info on my scarf art, check out this post 

arc lamp, from Structube in Montreal
… first of all… ACK!  how did this happen?  I used to have traditional taste!  I liked ornate and curvy and carved and substantial!  How did my house get so modern?  
How can I tone down the mod and add a few pretty curves?
Can I introduce this gal…
natural linen settee, wistera
Or does it just not make sense any more?
I think the solution is to pare down and separate.

1-I think we are going to sell the arc lamp.  It just doesn’t work in our space.  

2-And perhaps separate the Eames(ish) lounge chair from the BRNO’s??
What I’d really like to do is sell my stupid not-so-comfortable-sofa and get myself this little lady.
Shelter Arm Slipcovered sofa, Restoration Hardware

It’s a cozy dream, I love the skirted base and finally the dogs could be allowed back on the sofa. (thank you slipcovers!)

Could Shelter Arm and Linen settee work together?
And what if I mixed in the BRNO’s covered in worn brown leather like this.
Let’s ignore the fact that what I have proposed would set me back thousands of dollars and involve discarding a perfectly good 6 month old sofa.  What do we think?  Is it a good marriage of modern and traditional?
Or should I just be content with what I’ve got?

of course I treated myself to a few extra goodies… this is my day dream after all…

sorry for the long post!  I’m just feeling stuck in my current furnishings situation.