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BeigeUnderstanding Undertones

Are Patterned Sofas Trendy? Yay or Nay

One of my lovely readers Becky, sent me this email earlier this week:

yesterday in the New York Times Mag I noticed an ad for a couch from….a British Company that is now in the Big Apple.The sofa
has two different types of upholstery, one on the base, another on the
cushions…photo of sofa (plus puppy) is attached.  I wonder if there
is a term for this type of look? Do you think it is a new trend  or
just a passing fad….I have seen it in at least two other designer
showrooms locally. Does this trend have “legs”  Would you do it? How
would you approach this color-wise?










My response was “Most people buy solid colours when they buy sofas but it could have legs, remember the 80’s how many floral sofas we bought? I still walk into homes with floral sofas from that era”. Colour wise I would approach it just like any other large pattern in your home. Certainly with a pattern this large scale, it needs to be the most important piece in the room.

Notice though that had this sofa been photographed against the brick wall it would have been way too busy, instead the back of the sofa has some kind of art against it.

Over to you, what do you think? Does this trend have legs?

Those of you that have been following me on Facebook in my 37 Days of Learning Undertones Series this is a test. What’s the undertone of the beige in the sofa?

Related posts:

What Colour Sofa should you Buy?

Does your Colour Consultant Understand Beige?

Two Ways to Know if you are a One-Trick Pony Designer



  • I’ve seen this off and on for years, so I haven’t yet thought about it as a new trend. It’s actually a pretty great way to update a solid sofa in a less expensive way — if the cushions are worn or stained but you still like the sofa itself and the color, you can re-cover only those cushions as opposed to reupholstering the entire sofa. But I do think it is a very specific look! I haven’t recommended it yet, but never say never! 🙂

  • Ginger says:

    Some families with small children like patterned upholstery because it hides stains.

    I know they come and go as trends, but I think they’ve always been around. I remember a sofa from my 70’s childhood with a large green and blue floral, and my grandparents had a rusty floral sofa from the 50’s. Of course, you are right about the 80’s being filled with chintz sofas, but plaids were abundant, too, even into the 90’s.

    Now that I am thinking about it, most of life, I’ve seen as many patterned sofas as solid. I’ve only seen the solid, twill weave upholstery for the past 15 years. (Granted, my friends and family are not style icons by any stretch.)

  • Since I’m still stuck with well made floral sofas (why did I have to buy quality?), I’m praying this trend doesn’t have legs! Even though I actually don’t mind the sofa in the photo… I think sticking with solid colours for large pieces is great advice!

  • Schalene Dagutis says:

    I have always purchased solid sofas. I prefer adding pattern and texture with decorative pillows. I have never liked the look of sofas or chairs with different fabric on the seat cushions. When done right, having the back of chairs upholstered in a different fabric can be stunning, though.

  • I too still see a lot of patterned sofas (mostly florals). Personally I suggest to my clients a pattern free sofa because it’s so much easier to add pattern with throw pillows and other accessories in the room. My mom has an 80’s patterned sofa that makes it incredibly hard to decorate with! We tried a pre-made slip cover but it just doesn’t quite cut it. So, no, I doubt I would suggest a patterned sofa of any kind unless the client fully intends to change it out later.

    On my monitor the undertone appears to be a sort of pinky-greige. I could tell more in person 🙂

  • No I don’t think it has legs. Solid colours have been a trend for years because of a very good reason – they are much easier to decorate around. I still remember my hideous floral couches/bedspreads/curtains from the 80s. Never again!!

  • sheri says:

    I love patterned sofas and always will. If you like that Pottery Barn look with a lot of pillows for “colour” or “texture” or whatever it’s called, then that’s fine. I would much rather have a classic floral well made sofa than some PB tat. Anyway, see the designs of Robert Kime, Carolina Irving, Micheal S Smith, Charolette Moss, Bunny Williams, Alexa Hampton to name a few. They are some of the best, IMHO at using pattern (and I have to say, I love Colfax and Fowler – many of their chintz filled rooms are still absolutely stunning). My advice, who cares if it’s a trend or not. Figure out what your love and invest in the best you can buy.

  • If anyone has ever lived with a patterned or floral sofa they would not buy into this look. My first sofa I bought way back in 1986 was a pink, green and blue, huge flower pattern. Within 6 months I was tired of the print and I looked for about 5 years before I could find a rug that looked even semi okay with it. Never again for me.. I’m solid all the way now.

  • Kathi says:

    Nay! some trends should not come back, and that is a big one that should be left behind, we had lots of ugly plaid sofas,small and large patterned flowers, they cost so much money that we had to keep them for about 10 years each, talk about being stuck from updating and getting a fresher look in a room-ugh!

  • I think everyone is right, it’s too trendy. My friend’s mom had an American Indian Print sofa that was pure awful, she actually had bought bear pillows to go with it once. I remember it looked so dated by the mid 80’s.

    Solids are awesome but even then it comes down to color. Choosing neutrals or classics and using throw pillows is probably the safest bet when it comes to long term value.

    Go crazy with an animal pillow even!

  • Meeshbabe says:

    I have been seeing this style of sofa in Spain since we moved here in 2003. I could never get my head around it. Personally, I prefer a solid color sofa, or maybe a nice print, but through out. This hurts my eyes.

  • Divadecor says:

    I have always had patterned sofas and absolutely love them! If your careful with your choice and know what you really are drawn to, it should be the foundation of your room. After decades of decorating I know what I “crave”. The only way I could go solid is with a really rich color like red or royal blue. The white sofas that are so popular remind me of beds in every way. I once owned a sofa with the loose pillow backs and I had to make up the couch every time I got up! Now with the slipcovers,…..well you know…just like sheets on the bed!!

  • KJ says:

    Agree with the others: anyone who has ever had a patterned sofa before would probably never buy one again. You can easily change a solid sofa with patterned pillows but the reverse isn’t true. But there are definitely some fabulous rooms out there with patterned sofas. I would just be too chicken/cheap to do it

  • Wendy says:

    I would say the sofa pictured has a Bohemian vibe…unstructured, a bit messy, comfy. The piles of messy books are a hint too—DUH! The stylists were forced to stay in the tan family to set up the photo shoot, which is how one would approach building a room around this sofa in real life. It’s very bossy, and yes, anything other than a plain painted wall would fight with this stripe. As for having legs…yes, for a specific type of room. Bohemian, mono-chromatic.

  • The sofa does have a cool vibe and could look great in a specialized application. It certainly makes for an eye-catching photo! But for most of us, a solid will look fresh longer and be easier to live with.

    As far as the undertone, my vote is green. Loving your posts Maria- thanks!

  • Mary says:

    Ditto what Kathy said: NAY

  • Cherie says:

    I agree with Wendy all the way!

  • Cyndia says:

    I purchased a muted coral floral sofa at an estate sale a few years ago. I still love it. It has green, aqua, yellow, and purple in it, all colors I love. I love blurring the lines between home and garden, and this is one way I do it. As a matter of fact, that sofa is where I sit to gaze into my back garden.
    I think like everything else, the key is to go with what you love.

  • Sara Smith says:

    I think that the trend of having 2 different fabrics on a single furniture piece (like the sofa in the picture and so many chairs we’ve seen in the past couple of years) definitely does not have legs. No matter what, a solid color is much safer and more versatile. It’s so much easier to change the pillows, throws, and surrounding wall color & decor with a solid.

    But, a pattern can have such an impact, I can see the appeal. I think a stripe like this one is safer than a floral or chevron, etc., but I would still only advise any type of pattern if it is one that the clients themselves truly love. Would they have loved it 5 years ago? Will they love it 5-10 years from now? If they’re not sure but really want a patterned upholstered piece, I would steer them toward a chair or a settee (SO many of those out there right now; you can get one relatively inexpensively, so when the trend goes away it’s not horrible to replace/redo it).

  • Kristine says:

    It definitely depends upon the income level of the client. If they’re planning to hold onto the sofa for awhile then it’s a ‘no’, but if they have the money/budget to replace in 5 years, then ‘yes’. It IS trendy, but fun and interesting too. Trendiness is not for everyone….especially those with smaller pocketbooks.

  • Loren Snyder says:

    Yay, nay…maybe?
    Patterns and colour choices are influenced by the current trend. The chesterfield will “have legs” if it’s a colour or pattern that the buyer has ALWAYS loved.

  • Lisa says:

    My first sofa was a pattern of blue, green, and orange that I found in a model home when house hunting. I fell in love with it and it ended up defining my color scheme for my house. I still have that color scheme today even though I no longer have the sofa.

    Seems prevailing opinion is to go neutral or solid, but I agree with the few comments leaning the other way. I think if you find a piece you love, go for it. I never regretted buying that sofa and when it started to get worn, I looked in vein for the designer to try to get the cushions reupholstered. It wasn’t floral, but it was a statement piece.

    That being said, my couch and loveseat actually are neutral now but it was mostly because I wanted something a little more durable for the dog. And I was able to get a contemporary (floral) patterned club chair!

  • Karen says:

    Hi I have a solid sofa for my living room – but a blue and white stripe ( like old pillow ticking) in the family room and I still love stripe – it is not busy – it is casual and fun – and i have striped chairs in the cottage – fun .

  • katkins says:

    Too often this trend looks like a mistake, or a make-do because the cushions were wrecked. (Wish I liked it, because my sofa cushions could stand to be recovered.)

    I like the way this example has a single background color, but the cushions have stripes. It looks intentional. Because there are larger and smaller stripes in the pattern, the eye doesn’t immediately recognize the solid tan base as something other than another stripe.

    This etsy sofa also works for me because of the way the different fabrics are incorporated into the base:

  • Deborah says:

    I show before/after photos of sofas & chairs that used to be a print, and are now recovered in a solid (with high end pillow fabrics). Notice that we sometimes change the cushions or legs. Clients tell us they are SO HAPPY with the end result. Search word “recover” – the photos speak volumes regarding how much the look is transformed!

    I also wanted to say that your blog is amazing! I can’t figure out how to do a lot of things as I’m new to it, your posts on blogging were helpful, thank you.

  • Lisa says:

    I like a hybrid maybe where you have the the back cushions patterned and the seated one solid. There is a lot you could do.

    Overall, passing trend. Solid couches with patterned pillows. It’s too hard to mach a good pillow if your couch is all patterned up.

  • Rebecca says:

    Things either wear out or ugly out. A patterned sofa will ugly out more often than wear out. But for some individuals it is the right way to go. All rules are meant to be broken.
    I bought into the 1970’s floral sofa. It would not wear out. After 20 years I told Hubs it was going. He did not think it needed to be replaced as it still looked nice. Gave it to our college daughter and she had it for several years. Beware………………

  • Stu Stiller says:

    I thought I would reply via ths way for once dear friend, so all your followers would also know, that as a design professional and CMG colour “know enough to make me dangerous after 32 years Southern Norht American Classic”, right now boldly coloured large furniture pieces in ANY application (residential or commerical where I exist) are RISKY for the long run. The colour must go as accent aganist/integrated with, or on top of, subbordinate to the NEUTRAL which is THEE COLOUR TREND I am now forecasting.

  • Megan says:

    I don’t think it is a trend at all but a way that some choose to decorate. People have been doing this forever, it is a very personal expression. I think of it like when someone chooses to paint a bold colour. It takes a special breed of person to do it. Most people would NEVER dream of doing this, just like they would never paint with a bold colour. Like in life it takes all kinds. I suppose that is what keeps life interesting. In fact there is a sofa I have always loved, it was in the home of designer Lisa Luby Ryan. Before she changed her style to a more Belgian aesthetic she was very French Country. It could be found in Beautiful Interiors 2007 or on Pinterest…
    Have a great day Maria!

  • Pam says:

    I like this look, I think it works in this setting.
    Maria, I have loved the undertone lessons. It’s kinda hard to tell with the lighting, but my vote is pink-beige.

  • Carol says:

    Sofa…no. Doggie yes!!!!

  • Christie says:

    The stripes are stylish and classy. But I think anyone who buys into this trend would have to make a smart decision about which pattern they choose. Maybe choose a neutral along with a pattern like the couch above.

  • Loribeth says:

    Back in the late 90s, I bought a floral sofa. It’s now at my mom’s house, but surprisingly I still love it. The colors are very muted, and it has a great shape that appeals to me. It’s very English country, which is a style that I really like. Of course, now in my own home, I have a green sofa with a tufted back, that I also love.

    I don’t know if patterned sofas are a trend or not. I really think it is a matter of what you love. I still love my old floral sofa, and if I hadn’t married my wonderful husband, I’d still have it.

  • Lauren Tyson says:

    In answer to the test question, I think the undertones are pink. Let me know if I’m right. 🙂

  • Margie says:

    It really is a matter of taste. Many people don’t like floral couches, but I do!! It really does bring in a natural setting into my living room, and the family room has beige leather couches. Floral designs give my home (plants in every room absorbs impurities in the air) a sort of island look. The woven braided rugs have the same colors and blend in beautifully. Of course the drapes are all solid colors. You cannot please all the people all the time. If a home is kept clean, and you welcome your guests with open arms, having solid couches or florals really don’t make a difference. Let’s get on with life, and stop focusing on what type of furniture we have. Thank God that you have a home to live in because many don’t!!!

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