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What is the Best Colour for Living Room Furniture? An eDesign Before and After

My lovely readers reached out for decorating help just in the nick of time. They were in the beginning stages of furnishing their new-to-them large modernist house. They had just moved in, leaving a smaller traditional home behind.

It was such a big change in style. Coming from small, well defined rooms, they had no idea how to work with the large wide open layout.

Starting where people often start, they had invested a new sofa and matching chair for the great room. A young family with a toddler and dog, they opted for practical, brown leather. And were struggling with what to do next and how to make them work.

Buying a sofa first seems logical. You need somewhere to sit right?

Here’s the before with the furniture they had just purchased (below):

You can see that the paint colour is nice and fresh.  It works very well with the pale pink beige carpet and tile, so they didn’t need to repaint. The vintage dining set was existing and works perfectly with the style of the house.

See all that pretty light flooding in? They have gorgeous picture windows, which basically gives them a dual focal point. The corner fireplace and the view.

The issue here was that the traditional high backed sofa and chair are not the right style for this room. There was no way to arrange them so they didn’t interrupt the view and the flow of the wide open space. If you were sitting at the dining table, you would feel like you were staring at a wall.

This room needed a low, modern, floating seating arrangement, so unfortunately the new pieces were all wrong. I recommended that they find out whether they could still return them and instead get a sleek, low, leather sectional like this (below).

West Elm Andes Sectional

Fortunately, they landed on our Get Me Started eDesign package just in the nick of time. And were able to return the new furniture without penalty, hooray!

They also had a wonderful collection of vintage modernist paintings by his grandmother, along with some other pieces they had acquired and needed help figuring out where they should be placed.

Original Artwork by my Client’s Grandmother

Original Artwork by my Client’s Grandmother

Original Artwork by my Client’s Grandmother

As part of our eDesign process, I ask that clients share images of all their fixed elements (like carpet, tile, stone, any upholstery that they’re planning to keep) with white paper or board in natural light. This helps me see the neutral undertones and whites more accurately.

It’s an important first step in any decorating project to take stock of the colours and neutral undertones of any existing elements in the room.

My heart melted when I received photos from them like this below.

The cutest helper showing the carpet with a white board

The raking light here is not ideal, we ask for several photos of the room (before 2:00 pm in the afternoon) from different angles to get a good read on the existing colours.

What’s the best colour for living room furniture?

The best decorated rooms start with inspiration.

Either artwork (which we had in this case).

Or pillows (which is what we usually choose in Get Me Started Packages).

To go out ‘shopping for new living room furniture’ without considering what’s already in your house, or what kind of layout you’ll need is as backwards as choosing your paint colour first. BEFORE you choose anything else.

Here’s the Exception

A paint colour for an open plan layout or overall main neutral can often be chosen FIRST because you’ll need to consider the colour of your tiles, carpet or fireplace and that colour should pull those elements together.

However, if this house had a dining room that you decided to paint a dramatic blue but you chose the blue first and painted the room.  Then you found the perfect sofa or carpet but it didn’t match the blue in the dining room. Now you have to repaint the dining room.

Get me Started Package

The artwork gave me the perfect jumping off point for the decorating palette, and everything needed to work with the mid century modern style of the house while still feeling current. Here are some options I came up with for them (below).

Option 1 with dark blue leather sectional from West Elm

The area rug is bold to anchor the seating arrangement an, repeat the colour palette of the artwork.The accent chairs pick up the pretty turquoise, and the matching paint dot is a wall colour suggestion for the adjacent media room walls to create flow.

Here’s a second option pulling the warm red from the artwork instead:

Option 2 with saddle leather sectional from West Elm

Again, the paint dot is a recommendation for the adjacent media room to create flow. The warm cognac colour of the sectional relates to the wood tones in the room.

They went with option one, the blue, mustard and turquoise palette.

eDesign Before & Afters

Many of you have asked for more eDesign Before and Afters. And I hear you. It’s just that it’s a lot to ask to have a client get professional photographs of their home. There is more to styling and photographing a room than you might think. If you’ve ever done it, you know what I mean.

Life changes quickly, and it just so happens that this family unexpectedly put this house on the market shortly after our consultation. So they had some real estate photos done that I can share with you (below):

Here are some AFTERS:


The palette works very well with the warm wood tones which are repeated in the gold tones of the pillows and carpet. And you can see how the scale and style of the sectional relates well to the modern style of the room. She repeated the blue in a lovely console and vignette in the foyer for flow.

Here is the bright and functional breakfast area

They were so happy with the results, they also used our eDesign consultations to get help pulling together the adjacent media room. He insisted on a deep, plush leather media room sectional complete with a drink holder, so I helped them choose a leather colour that would make it relate.

We had them test a few leather colour options to find a good match to the honey coloured built ins in the room.

The leather swatch that best coordinated with the built ins

And in the right colour, the oversized leather sectional ended up working just fine. The dramatic teal walls created flow with the great room. You can see the must have cup holder in the bottom corner of the photo 😉

Client media room

They were delighted with the way it all turned out. And certainly got their house looking it’s best for resale. They are planning to use our eDesign services again for their new home, and I look forward to helping them make it their own.

Here’s the before and after again:



Most Mistakes happen When you Shop Without a Plan

Let’s go back to where they almost took the wrong turn at the very beginning of their decorating project. It’s hard to know what to buy for your main pieces like sofas and other furnishings before taking stock of what you have to work with and coming up with a complete decorating plan.

Having a plan is how to get clear on what will work best and why. And that’s when you get excited about your project instead of just feeling like you’re going in circles not knowing where to start.

Most mistakes are made when major pieces are purchased without a plan in place. You can twist yourself into a pretzel trying to make the wrong pieces work, but most likely you will never be completely happy with the result.

If you’ve made a big purchase, and your gut is telling you something isn’t quite right, check the return policy. Some companies are very flexible, you may be surprised.

The only way to be sure you are investing in the right pieces is to have a plan. And that is what you’ll get with our Get Me Started decorating package.

Over to you, have you ever bought a big ticket item and immediately or eventually came to regret it?

Related posts:

Inside an eDesign Paint Colour Consultation, Before & After

An eDesign Front Door Transformation; Before & After

Updated Painted Cherry Kitchen via eDesign; Before & After

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  • Linda says:

    Have I ever! Ask me how many times. I’m
    Sitting on one right now, a violet gray based rug in my living room with my new green gray furniture and walls. It’s s nightmare. It’s been sitting frozen like this for two years. I’m paralyzed and super disappointed. I know the only thing to do is get rid of it.

  • Jenny says:

    What a beautiful room!!

  • Julie S says:

    This is a great example of what you’re so good at – working with existing undertones to have everything make sense together in the end. And I had to go AWWW because of that cute little girl who looks a ton like my 2 year old daughter, in a house that looks a ton like my own architecturally speaking.
    I guess my only big expensive faux pas was an oriental rug that when I got it home totally ate the room in terms of style and size. Luckily the store took it right back! And I sure learned something about what my style actually was vs. what I thought it was.

  • Great post! Love the vision boards you created- different from each other, but both work so well! Fun paintings to have as inspiration.

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    I had to have a brand new accent chair reupholstered because the fabric that I selected looked awful when the chair arrived. I have a hard time making the right choice based on a small fabric sample.
    I’ve never had the luxury of being able to fill a room with all new furniture. I have had to buy my pieces one at time. And it can be a struggle to find things that work with my existing pieces.
    Your edesign client was smart to hire you. Your recommendations were perfect.

  • Nancy says:

    But the lighting is way different in the before and ater photos. I love the finished after photo, although not my style.

    • Maria Killam says:

      It was a lot warmer when the western light came in yes. But to my knowledge it was still the same colour. Thanks for your comment! Maria

  • JanetDR says:

    Wow! What a great transformation!

  • Miller says:

    Love their choice and your advice! Did not connect the red chairs with the cognac sofa, although I love cognac! Your clients were so fortunate to have fabulous art as the starting pieces … and you as the finishing piece!

  • Kathy says:

    What a shame they had to sell it. It looks terrific and I wonder how that new furniture will work in the next house. Perhaps they can return some of this new furniture too? Or find another home with similar finishes and floor plan. I think I would be heartsick if that happened to me. Furniture is a big investment!

  • Sheree L says:

    Maybe they can sell it to the new homeowners? When we bought our home 4 years ago, the homeowners offered the furniture for sale. Since it went so well with the home, we decided to buy it all (it was all or nothing). There were a few pieces I wasn’t that crazy about, so I just sold them after we moved in.

  • Lucy says:

    What a great post! Your inspiration pictures were both good. So glad that the store would take the high sofa sofa back. Some won’t do it. I am working with a client right now that is moving from one house to another and they want to use most of their previous furniture. I scaled all of it out but it just doesn’t look right. Somehow it is hard to make your previous furniture look the same in a new space. I will be working with it and maybe will have to buy new pieces. I understand that when you have the expense of the home, new carpet, window coverings,etc. spending more money on new furniture is daunting.

    Love the way everything came out and the way the blue in the room is perfect with the furniture! You are awesome!

  • AK says:

    I think the after looks great but I took notice to the use of the gold with the pink beige. I’m assuming it works because it’s repeated and looks intentional. ? I know blue looks good with pink beige but there’s also the clean and dirty color thing going on yet the rooms work. You’re very good at what you do Maria!

    • Maria Killam says:

      When the pink beige colour is that pale, gold beige is fine with it! It’s the darker pink beige’s that start looking wrong with gold beige. Maria

  • Bravo, that is absolutely perfect! I was secretly hoping they would choose option 1, I just adore it. And… how nice to see it come to fruition! Great job as always!

  • Louise says:

    Hi, Isn’t the fireplace blocked off now, no longer a focal point. Does that matter?

    • Maria Killam says:

      If you have to choose a view or a fireplace, sometimes the view wins! Good question thanks for posting it! Maria

  • Dana says:

    Love this before and after! Impressed by the 2 options and the results are beautiful.

  • Nikki says:

    LOVE IT!!! What a fabulous house! Amazing transformation!

  • Kay says:

    They were very fortunate to have such good modern art. It was a fabulous starting point, and I love how the room turned out, even though it’s not my style.

    I guess I’ve been lucky with furniture choices. I bought a lot of furniture when we remodeled our house, and it all has fit in and looked great. However, wear is a huge problem. I’m not talking about patina, but how the sitting pieces in particular hold up over time. My husband and I are both heavy readers and sit a lot because of that (we’re both retired). So the furniture gets a lot of use, in the winter especially when it’s so cold and snowy, we huddle by the fire, and going outside to do things is not an option. After five years, one living room chair in particular looks awful, like it belongs at the Rescue Mission, as my husband says. I know this blog is about how things look, but having to buy new furniture every five years is a non-starter for me. Now we’re looking at high-quality, light, stylish leather recliners to replace the two chairs, such as the German make Homilla. Nothing holds up like good leather, except maybe for super expensive fabrics that we can’t afford. This is an aspect that younger people might not have to think about, except for their children, who can give upholstered furniture a terrific beating! This family was wise to invest in leather.

  • JaneB says:

    This is beautiful and seems so simple and yet I know I could never see any of this on my own. Never have. If I ever leave her, I will need a Get Me Started Package!

  • Timely post! I need to decorate around our “I am having a tough time figuring what color!?! this is” new sectional that we picked up after installing the lvp wood look flooring (wood is like jeans!). I knew going in that we would add new paint and that would lead to coordinating things like pillows etc. I feel like I have a good handle on the system and seeing the undertones BUT I have met my nemesis in this sofa. It is not a solid but then not a print (like mottled weave of Threads) and I swear it looks different across the room versus up close. So this not Not fun. We cannot move forward until I get your consult. So when we try to figure out colors using the poster board … mine is glossy on one side and flat on the other. Which side should we use ?

  • Karen says:

    I love how their rooms turned out! Just lovely.

  • Keira says:

    Love this transformation and how it came about!

  • Annette P. says:

    Several years ago my husband and I purchased a large open-backed wall unit for our living room. It was a lovely piece and we were excited about the purchase but before it was delivered, I realized that its design meant everything that we put on it would be on display which meant there was really no hidden storage. It would be a collection of “stuff” albeit nice to look at but it wasn’t going to function as I needed it to. We didn’t really need so much on display and desired a cleaner look. I quickly called the store and cancelled the order which cost me a $25 cancellation fee. It was $25 well spent because I knew I would regret having such a large “display” piece. Eventually I found a medium sized chest for the space which not only enabled some hidden storage for my serving pieces, it also allowed us to hang two lovely pictures above it. Ta da!

  • Sandy Beaty says:

    Maria, this just shows what a magical genius you are. Best post ever.

  • Marta says:

    What a great post! It really brings to life what you and your team can do. Beautiful results!!!
    We need to send you pictures of our new construction e-design results. We loved it! I’m waiting for all the furniture and accessories to be in place. We worked with a local furniture store to decorate the common areas, and we’re still in progress because pretty much everything she picked is custom, super expensive, and takes months and months. She chose pretty and interesting pieces. But sometimes I wish we had just hired you for EVERYTHING. You all are extremely talented and down to earth.

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