The subtle art of dressing a sofa… made simple

How to dress a sofa
Jennifer Morgan,-Interiors Editor

Make the sofa the star of your living room with a few simple tricks loved by interiors experts

Looking for new ways to give your living room centrepiece a facelift? ‘Cushions provide endless possibilities for how you can put a collection together on your sofa,’ says Nicola James, Partner & Textile Designer, Home Design Studio. If you think that sounds somewhat fashion-centric, then you’re right: it’s not unusual for the catwalks to influence interiors and, just as you might update your wardrobe with the changing seasons, the concept is the same for your sofa.

‘You can be so varied,’ says stylist and founder of Inside Stylists, Emma Morton-Turner, ‘from simple Scandi to really colourful and eclectic. It’s a great way of expressing your style without giving a room a complete makeover.’

Take your cue from fashion

‘When it comes to “dressing” your sofa think of how you would put an outfit together – plain, darker colours on the bottom, more eye-catching patterns and shades on the top and do the same with your sofa,’ says Emma. ‘Bring the beautifully detailed designs to the front with the bigger, more plain and comfy ones behind.’ But don't try and disguise them: ‘They're the backbone of your design, so go for sumptuous velvets that will still look super-stylish peeping through,’ she advises.

how to style your sofa with cushions

Have some fun

Your choice of cushions can also reflect your fun side, especially in a family room, where the sofa is at the heart of day-to-day life. ‘If plain designs are not your thing, go for a playful pattern clash,’ suggests Emma. ‘The trick to getting this look right is to use similar shades, that way your sofa will look effortlessly on-trend – especially if you choose geometric styles.’ But if you really want to shake up the look, chose one or two standout cushions with a bigger design or bolder pattern. ‘This will really create instant impact,’ says Emma. 

sofa with spot print cushions

Think texture

In the way that a piece of clothing might appeal to you because of its composition or the way it feels, the same applies to soft furnishings. Velvets, embroidery, weaves, jersey – they can all help to create interest, adding diversity to our surroundings. Velvet, for example, is a hero fabric because of its softness and the way it absorbs light, making the same panel of fabric appear different depending on the angle it's viewed from or the time of day. Heavier fabrics like wool are becoming more popular and they contrast well against cotton upholstery. A build-up of textures is a surefire way to make your sofa or armchair appear inviting and cosy.

‘Texture can take a whole room from plain to wowzers,’ says Emma. ‘Think about how you layer up the space: try a rug under the sofa with a thick tactile throw over the arm and different fabrics on the cushions. Mix and match in a similar theme: luxurious velvets with shot silk work well, as do chunky knit throws and textured linens – even a bobble, tassel or fringing on a throw can make all the difference.’ 

how to style your sofa with throws

Start with subtle over safe

Unsure what your interiors ‘personality’ is? Take a gradual approach with a mix of darker and lighter neutrals, which means all manner of shades from charcoal to oyster and, unexpectedly, pink. ‘We’ve seen a big resurgence in pink, with blush almost like a new neutral,’ says Nicola.

Emma agrees: ‘The trend for wellness has brought about the most gorgeous mix of calming shades for the home. From slubby beige to dusky pinks, they all evoke that desire to chill out and enjoy your space, making them ideal for cushions and throws. Look for nature-inspired designs, such as a silhouette of leaves, a seascape or an animal print. As long as the colours are subtle, it's a look you'll love.’

sofa with clashing cushions

The more the merrier

When it comes to clashing prints and patterns, the best news is that there aren’t any rules. ‘We’re focusing on rich blues and greens,’ reveals Nicola, ‘which you can mix in with warmer neutrals and softer tones and then inject some exciting bright pinks and oranges. As a nation, we’re embracing colour and pattern, which is really exciting.’

‘Whoever said that blue and green should never be seen was totally wrong,’ agrees Emma, ‘they look fantastic if they are from the same family of colours, and by that I mean pastels with pastels, bold with bold and deep with deep. It really doesn't matter which colours you chose as long as the tones are similar. And that goes for adding patterns too – stick to the same shades and similar fabrics and you can break any rule you want!’

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