sofa remorse : living with a dark sofa

I think that our little sofa remorse post struck a chord with a lot of you. So while I’m definitely keeping you up to date on our sofa-replacement-drama-journey {aren’t you so glad?} In the meantime, I thought I’d address another aspect of it all.

What do those of us who are stuck “in the meantime” (who can’t really just up and replace their sofas right now, due to various {sometimes husband induced} reasons) do?

Last week, Sarah wrote this:

**Shhh! Don’t Tell Anyone!!** I have been having the same exact thoughts! (Not so much the velvet… but love the lighter/brighter looking couches.) My husband and I bought our leather couches last year, they’re beautiful… and we thought long and hard about “durability” and “getting the biggest bang for our buck” and “other boring things.” Now, I totally feel like they’re some kind of anchor dragging my living room down into the depths of something terrible.

Unfortunately I am not brave enough to:
a.) do something that drastic (i’m a super over-thinker)
b.) tell him (i can hear it now… the laughter followed by complete silence)


So, does anyone have any suggestions about how to make a living room work with dark couches? All the mags and websites seem to have light and airy rooms. I’m jealous that I can’t go there… Is there any way to brighten them?

First of all, Sarah, thanks for writing this. I think there’s a lot of women out there who just aren’t going to replace their current sofas. Although I encourage you to do what you love, and simply go for it, I realize that’s not always a possible option for some people. I personally have a no-divorce policy, especially when it comes to living room sofas. ;} So, while I’ve been making do, as seen in the first few photos, with bright pillows, light paint + light accessories, I think it’s a good idea to take a look at the way other people are doing it, too.


I wanted to include a few inspirational shots for all of you. Because I think that just because I’m tired of mine, this combination isn’t a bad one. It’s actually quite beautiful.


As you’ll notice in a lot of these photos, I think that the key to keeping the living room bright and airy, even with a dark piece, is in the accessories. Pillows are essential. They really make things pop, and I think you can really work the piece with great shots of color.


First and foremost, you’ll see in a lot of these photos, that there are no “matching pieces.” I think that’s what I hate the most about our living room. That we have a matching loveseat and sofa. For me, with their shape, personally, {read: this doesn’t apply to all matching pieces} this drags it down, and dates it. I believe that to keep the space light and airy and fresh, unless you’re going for a more formal look, is to skip the matching, if they’re dark. {disclaimer: not a hard and fast rule or anything. Just my current feelings on my own space.}


Rugs. As yet another option, they’re a perfect way to keep that darker piece fresh, particularly with a brighter color. A nice, natural fiber is always a great option, too.


When paired with a lighter piece, those darker pieces go well, and provide an eclectic, fresh, contrasting look.


This room is a prime example of keeping those walls light and bright, and bringing in pops of color. Let’s be honest: brown velvet could easily become dated and drab. But these accessorizing pieces along with an open space…are the many things working for this room.


Don’t let your sofas drag you down and define you. Yes, I realize this sofa is awesome in shape, even if it is dark. But pretend the sofa is drab, and ugly, with everything else still included in the space: The fresh feel with inventive accessories keep it bright and definitively different.


While wood on this sofa keeps the shape modern, the accessories and colors paired with it, such as the rug, cofee table and pillows, do a lot for the space in terms of keeping it fresh..


Dark sectionals can be tricky. But I love the piping on this piece, paired with the bright cofee tables, pillows, and rug. Piping is always another option for those of us who do not wish to reupholster an entire piece…and just a thought for consideration when thinking of reworking a room.


If the hubs is handy but won’t compromise on the sofa-ask him to whip up some ceiling beams for you instead. Okay. Probably not. But this is another example of fresh walls.


These colors are almost like one big juxtaposition, but they definitely work wonderfully with this sofa. I’m loving these pops of color.


This is a lighter toned leather, with dark walls. And it works. So there are no hard fast rules. I’m loving the nice trim, as well. But what I’m focusing on are those pillows. They keep the space swoon worthy.


Definitely a more formal look, but I’m loving the yellow pillows, again with light walls.



Of course this one is velvet. But I think its all about how you choose to pull the rest of your space together.


Love these pillows.

And there you have it. A look at some inspirational photos for a few of us who just may be “stuck” in the “meantime” and want to make the most with what we have. I truly believe there are no hard and fast rules, the possibilities are endless, and you should aways do what makes you happy. And if that includes getting rid of your sofa (or keeping it for the sake of your marriage) then find a compromise and do what works best, for you.

I hope some of you find this helpful. I’m just glad to know I’m not alone!

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Responses to sofa remorse : living with a dark sofa

  1. That makes me feel so much better! We had just bought a big brown leather couch, kinda like yours, before we had to move. It is now in our bedroom at Mom and Dad’s. Luckily, we just got a couch and am hoping to get a white slipcovered loveseat later. :)

  2. Mae says:

    Another sofa remorse sufferer here. We bought our rust colored sofa 5 years ago, specifically to match our red-toned golden retriever who had basically ruined our old yellow sofa. Now we have a two year old and all the crayon/sippy cup/play doh accidents that entails. I can in no way justify getting rid of a sofa that excels so wonderfully at taking all manner of abuse without letting on and replacing it with the gorgeous tufted royal blue velvet one that I REALLY want, for a variety of reasons ; )

    So Thanks for this post!

    Pillows. Pillows is where I shall start. The toddler can have the old (hideous) (fringed in a very supposed-to-be-modern-but-just-looks-dumb way) (square and flat) (7 different shades of rust) ones to play with and I will make new ones that I love.


    And then. Possibly. Paint. But that may test the “no divorce” policy…

  3. Sarah says:

    Thank you so very much for this! Yes! You have made my Tuesday so much better. Our living room walls are a light gray color and our accents are mostly poppy-green and teal colors, and to see a few of these pictures with my same color scheme absolutely makes me feel like my living room has hope! We’re not losers afterall! :)

    I actually painted my “gift coffee tables” (rather, my Dad’s work was throwing them away so I took them) the same bright yellow as the picture with the sectional. Validation.

    My next steps:

    Pillows (recover a few of the dark ones my Mimi made.)
    Art on the walls (love the b&w photography in the white frames)

    Seriously… thanks for writing this. I appreciate it, and so does my marriage. Now my husband never even has to know I stalked craigslist for 2 weeks looking at sofas.

    • Sarah says:

      Btw… I wonder how one would make those fantastic beams?? My man could totally handle it. And he’s all about rustic, manly looks (I married a Texan) so I think I could definitely twist his arm on this one. (muwah-ah-ah…)

  4. Leen says:

    We just bought our first set of brand new living room furniture and after weeks of looking at every piece out there we went with dark brown microfiber. I know you are thinking YUCK but it’s really very nice. I would have loved the PB white slip covered pieces…for about ten minutes then they would have become a chore (and I’m not looking to add chores to my list!) We did buy a light aqua chair and ottoman with a pretty leaf pattern. that and the light pillows and light walls keep the dark furniture from darkening up the room.
    I found some great pics on Houzz of light rooms with dark furniture. That helped make the decision a bit easier :)

  5. I am in the same boat. I recently did a mini make-over of my living room and I am very happy with it. While I love the bright and airy colors I am still drawn to wam tones. Here is how I lightened it up but still kept it warm and hopefully you aren’t just drawn to the big brown leather sofa! here is the link:

  6. Erin says:

    This is a great post, Ashley! You did my room redo for the giveaway. These pictures give me inspiration for how to lighten up my chocolate brown sectional (which I still love!). Now I see how brighter pillows will work and what to look for when I shop! :)

  7. casacaudill says:

    I have the exact opposite problem as you – I would *love* a deep, rich, dark leather sofa but when we bought ours it wasn’t the practical solution. Now I’ve got a very sturdy, durable, WASHABLE, beige sectional. I long for the drama of leather, but it’ll be a couple of more years before we can go that route. In the meantime, I covet. :)

    As I was reading your post the first thing that jumped into my head was, “it’s not the couch, it’s the wall color.” For some reason that shade of green just doesn’t work with the richness of your leather. It would work wonderfully if you had a lighter sofa, but not here. I can’t quite tell what the rest of the room looks like, but in looking at the accessories you have I’d say to go a soft white or go whole hog and paint your room peacock blue. Then again, I’m totally unafraid of crazy colors in rooms, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

  8. Laura says:

    These are great pictures for inspiration! I’m “stuck” with a dark sofa right now, and I think I want to make my pillows more interesting. I definitely need to recover them, so I’m deciding on fabric now. What do you think about the mis-matched pillows in the picture above? (The pic where your comment starts with “These colors are almost like one big juxtaposition”) Is it weird that I kinda like the idea of 4 pillows with totally different fabrics on them? I’m intrigued – and scared – by that idea. :) I just really love color & I’m not afraid of it, and I don’t necessarily have just 1 or 2 colors in my living room. Hmmm…

  9. Stacie says:

    If you don’t mind me asking, what color paint is your living room? I absolutely love it. Thanks- Stacie

  10. jessica says:

    oooh thanks so much for the inspiration pics!! i love the bright and airy look but also really love our leather sofa and have been having lots of trouble picking out side chairs so this is a huge huge help! thanks so much!

  11. sherry w says:

    I’m right there with ya sista. I too have a dark brown leather couch that I’d trade in a heartbeat but it’s staying for now. We have a yellow lab so hence the leather. I was surprised to see so many pretty pillows on leather couches. I didn’t think this would work because they would slip around everywhere. Thanks for the inspiration as always.

  12. gracie boyer says:

    I love your sofas. I went with the brighter colored ones last year when I bought mine. Its like a cranberry modern sofa and love seat. And Now I am not crazy about it. I kinda want a leather one. I think because the rest of my house is so bright and a little nutty. That it may just bring it down some to have a strong leather piece. I think a fun colored sofa would look great in your space. Im looking for a modern/traditional leather any suggestions?

  13. Meg says:

    Oh my goodness, I am so glad I stumbled upon this (via the nester)!

    We bought our house last August and it is a 1940s colonial that just screams “classic”. And we bought the leather sofa that I had been drooling over, daydreaming about a 1940s-style cozy men’s smoking lounge/library feel. We also have multiple pets, so going with leather seemed to be the most sensible option. And I like the sofa. I really do. It’s gorgeous, actually – a rich weathered whisky leather. But with the dark, original woodwork in the room – it’s dark. I mean DARK. It about killed me this winter and I was so disappointed! The rest of our house is very light and bright and airy and this room is literally depressing me.

    Alas, buying a new sofa is so not an option. So we are going to re-paint the walls (poor bf is ready to kill me, I’m sure) and we’ve decided to paint all the original trim white, which I think will really open it up (this room is the only room in the house with original trim). Hopefully with some strategic artwork and pillows, we can make it work. Thanks for the great post!

  14. Brittney says:

    YES!! ugh- I have been bugging husband for MONTHS about our horrid, L-shaped, brown, leather, matches-the-wood-floors couch. Thanks a ton for this post!!


  15. thanks! my hubby has a burning desire for a leather sofa(he’s more along the lines of library/den when it comes to decor) while i’m all about light/bright airy feels from the sea. the first set of furniture we bought early in our marriage is a khaki – not sure where we’ll end up next, but with 2 young boys, my guess is it’ll probably not be white. 😉

    i’ve already pinned that ‘made by girl’ photo on my pinterest board, and i’ll be adding that last image you shared to my collection of ‘just in case of leather’ inspiration pics.


  16. lori says:

    Two small children and 2 furball children lead me away from a white sofa,even a slipcover won’t work so I am actually looking at leather.pillows will be easy to change look of the room.

  17. Jennifer says:

    I added some pillows to my black hole; need to do a couple of tweaks then I’ll send you a picture. Makes SUCH a difference!!

  18. hey Ashley!!! I felt to great about my recent purchase when I read this because I actually went with my gut (and what I really love) and got a light creamish tan sofa for our living room (despite that I knew it would be dirty with kids!)…anyways, I love reading your blog and if I ever get around to it I want to do your email consult thing because I’m still working on our new house that we moved into last fall and need some help!! Love your style…and such a great biz you have going!

  19. Robyn says:

    I’ve just been catching up on my blogs and wanted to say THANK YOU! for this post. We have a modern shaped choc brown leather sofa and am in desperate need of bringing in colour to our living room. We are in a rental with a beige carpet, cream walls, stone wall on one side, wooden panels on the other, beige vertical blinds and everything just screams UGH! and BORING! to me. While not wanting to spend anything on this house, I love the inspirational photo’s you have posted and will be heading out to look for some bright cushions. I have a coffee table to make-over (currently dark brown – more UGH!) and am contemplating doing it in either white or black.

  20. Amanda H. says:

    I just found your blog today and breathed a sigh of relief when I read this post. We bought our dark brown couch when we lived in a recently constructed home with a bright open living area. Less than a year later we moved to an old home with beautiful hardwood floors and woodwork everywhere… all if it dark colored… Needless to say our couch blends in to everything. I tried a light colored rug and it seemed to help, but my toddler quickly ruined it with multiple juice spills so I’m back to the drawing board on that. I’m planning on switching out other dark pieces of furniture (I am sooooo over our black tv stand) with painted furniture in hopes that will help. Thanks so much for the inspirational photos!

  21. Erin McCall says:

    I have almost the same exact sofa and I love mine so much!!! I have bad allergies and that along with taking up the carpet was one of the things the doc told us to do. I haven’t tackled the carpet yet, but the couch was doable. Check out how I have my living room. Hope you like it.

  22. Baby Mama says:

    I’m so glad I found this post… my husband and I are couch shopping for our new house. We have lovely wood trim and hubs is convinced we need a sophisticated living room complete with dark leather sofa. My gut tells me I would hate it. Any chance you want to do a follow up post on how to live with dark trim? Our wood is lovely, I can’t bring myself to paint it white, though I love the look of white trim.

  23. Jennifer Brooks says:

    I just recently found your site and I love all the pictures in this post. I’m adding some pillows to the living room and like the ideas for mixing, matching and arranging as I go from traditional to eclectic/transitional without buying any big pieces.

  24. Teresa says:

    I’m so glad I found your site as well, we just bought a house and are choosing furniture. We have one very light and airy room that we would absolutely love to have a light sofa in, but with my two year old around I know that it wouldn’t last more than a week! The previous owners painted most of the house this depressing kaki color, and along with the dark brown cabinets and the brown wooden floors and light brown carpets it feels like the brown goes on forever. Therefore I didn’t want our bright living room being brought down by yet another brown sofa. However, with the children being so rough on the furniture I just don’t have a choice. So your great ideas will come in very handy!

    On another note, I’m not sure of how to brighten up our depressing TV room. The walls are kaki, the carpet is light brown, and one whole wall is taken up by dark wooden shelves. To top it all off, we had to buy brown leather sofas as well because of the children. I wasn’t sure of whether getting a white rug in there along with off-white cushions would work, so I tried it tonight. I have to say that I’m not sure of whether the rug brightens the room up or whether it simply clashes with everything else.
    Here are pictures of the room with and without the room:

    The rug looks less contrasting in the picture than it does in real life. What do you think? Should I stick with this white rug or should I get more colorful rug and accessories in order to liven up the room? I also want to eventually paint the walls another color (although they’re staying as like that for now since I’ve got too much else going on these days). But I can’t even figure out which color I should paint the room. The previous owner had it red for a while and it didn’t really work very well. I have definitely over-thought this to death, so I welcome other opinions!


    • Teresa says:

      I meant to say that the pictures are of the room with and without the rug (that’s what I get for posting when I’m tired!)

  25. SweetAmbs says:

    Oh man girly, you are crazy to not want a dark couch!!! :) I am moving out in August with my boyfriend to my very first apartment and that means lots of hand-me-down furniture.
    All I was certain I wanted was a chocolate brown slipcover to put over my mom’s faded gray pasiley flowerish couch. I also went to Ikea and bought some beige fabric that has green olives and tan leaves so I can make throwpillows. I am doing a light brown accent wall in my livingroom and a sage green on the walls of my bay windows in my adjacent dining room. My other main thing I want to get is a white or green chair to make it all come together. I hope it does, I am so excited!

    I was looking at all those pics though and now my mind is buzzing some more… I think the key in all of it is lots of light. Best of luck to you, I luf your site!

  26. Debbie says:

    Hi! Love your blog! Do you know where the green pillow in that very last photo came from?

  27. I am one of those unfortunate folks who is stuck with a large black leather sectional. Ironically, it wasn’t The Mr. who talked me into it, but an interior designer. We sought his help to decide on a sofa that would work with our cats, who tend to vomit a lot. I absolutely love textiles, but I was stuck on what to do about a sofa that is cleanable. So we ended up with leather. Looking back, although he may be the top designer in our city, I think he talked us into it to sell it from their showroom. We got a good deal on it for what it is, but ever since then I’ve been putting lipstick on the pig.

    I have a greige color on my walls right now, but since the room doesn’t get a lot of light anyway, I’m considering painting the walls a dark color (navy?) to embrace the darkness. I think it would help the sofa blend in, rather than stand out. I’ve still got to convince The Mr., as it seems counter-intuitive, and he doesn’t look at design photos day after day like I do!

  28. Karmen says:

    Last post. ….. Love these pillows. Where is the couch from?

  29. I am so glad to run across this article !!!! I am having severe sofa remorse. partially because it’s just too much for an apartment and it closes the space in and I let my husband talk me into a dark brown which I hate. Love the ideas. We will be moving in a few weeks can’t wait to brighten up whatever new space we get.

  30. shaunie campbell says:

    i love my couches but the darkness in my livingroom was starting to depress me. thanx so much, im definetly gonna try these ideas out….

  31. Julie says:

    Where is the dark gray sectional with the piping from? I love it!

  32. CATHERIEN Tredoux says:

    Thank you, not only have I been inspired, have fresh hope, but also giggled with the truth of your comments! Please do send more pics of dark leather living/tv rooms! Cx