Stop Buying the Neutral Sofa on the Showroom Floor

My house

I have talked about buying a sofa in your favourite colour many times on this blog.

Recently I had taken my Mom to a local ‘To the trade’ showroom because we were selecting pieces for the makeover we are doing on her sitting room and brand new sunroom. After that visit, we stopped by a furniture store on the way home because we were still searching for a few other items.

I was struck by how grey-on-cream-on-beige ALL the furniture was. Which is what you will find in the average ‘Buy a sofa, get a TV for free‘ big box store.

10 years ago, I chose a green velvet Sunbrella fabric for Mom’s upstairs living room sofa. I chose it because it was the green we wanted.

Not my Mom’s green but similar | Source

Now that she’s going to have a sunroom that needs fabrics that won’t fade, we are going to bring the green sofa downstairs, which means she’ll need a new sofa upstairs.

The beautiful thing about her existing green sofa is that because it’s a colour, it’s perfectly timeless.  Not only that, but the green is perfect for a sunroom.

When you choose colour over the current trendy neutral, that’s what you’ll have.

However, in all fairness to the consumer who is shopping without a designer, colourful sofas are few and far between on the average showroom floor. 

To get colour, you immediately need to enter the world of custom fabric making that sofa more expensive.  

Or you can get something colourful but less expensive online, but now you have to order swatches, or if that option isn’t available, you’ll worry that it won’t match when it arrives.

Bottom line, when people don’t know what colour to buy, they procrastinate.

Then when it hits critical mass and you can’t wait a single second because you either need something to sit on or it’s time to replace your old furniture, now you want it bought and delivered YESTERDAY.

And if that’s the case, you end up buying a neutral sofa off the showroom floor, yet again.

source (this one comes in many different colours)

Am I right?

source

The good news is, the best trendy neutral sofa to arrive on the scene is cognac. I wrote about that colour recently here.

Before you run out and buy an off-the-shelf-delivered-immediately couch, create a board that looks like this eDesign project and then you’ll see what works and what doesn’t work.

Of course, you already know how much I love decorating around my sunflower yellow sofa. And since Fall is here, let’s take a look at my seasonal living room decor.

Vince pants | Bodysuit similar here | Ivory jacket similar here | Gucci mules

My entry is so small I haven’t paid much attention to it other than plunk down a tiny little marble table for our keys.

Recently, after replacing the chairs in my kitchen breakfast area, I decided to create a vignette here with some faux flowers I purchased. I added a light which looks really inviting at night:

The basket works great for storing extra slippers.

Entry & Hallway (Cloverdale 7928)

My yellow hallway makes me so happy.

For a change, I’m thinking of switching out my raspberry drapes to green (I may have mentioned this already) but I need to talk Terreeia into it first. She thinks the entire house already has enough green and yellow.

Last year I bought as many fabric pumpkins as the store had and I love them on my mantel:

I’ve had this ottoman floating around my house and I recently pulled it up for extra seating and left it there, one can never have too many ottomans.

In January of this year, I added these botanicals to the back of my dining room wall, I love them! Etsy sells many combinations you can find here.

White spike pots  | cognac pouf | Oval coffee table similar here & here & here

Since the pandemic started, we got into puzzling so now we have one going at all times. We need to buy a puzzle board or we’ll never have another dinner party here again, haha.

White spike pots | Decorative Magnifying glassHouse Colors | The Perfect Kitchen

Art collected over time

 Photos by Macy Yap Photography

Over to you my lovelies, I’m interested in the story about how the sofa you had, ended up in your house!

If you’d like your living room to fill you with happiness when you walk in the door hire me.

Related post:

What is the Best Colour for Living Room Furniture; eDesign Before & After

How to Transform a Charcoal Sofa with Colour; Before & After

How to Keep a White Sofa White over the Holidays

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  1. I followed your advice and bought a navy sofa.. and painted the kitchen cabinets navy on the bottom and white on the top.. love love

    • I just ordered a yellow-green velvet sofa, my first colored sofa, based on your advice. Love it. My color scheme is grayish blues, and muted yellow-greens, plus greiges. I already have a ready-made neutral slipcover and a gray-blue one too that will fit my new sofa in a tucked, shabby chic kind of way for the summer months. My chairs are neutral and same with drapes. I wish I could incorporate some of that cognac!

    • I love your blog!!! We both love purple, and decided that our new sofa had to be a purple velvet that would compliment our black and white open kitchen. Twenty samples later (because no mfgr seems to offer purple velvet options), we had our sofa made in a gorgeous aubergine velvet from Online Fabric store. It’s beautiful, easy to care for and sexy. I’m so thrilled we went with a color over a white sofa.
      And I have your influence to thank for giving us the confidence in this choice.

  2. I had a purple sofa for 15 years and loved it. I did recently replace it with a greige one, but the large ottoman in the room is orange so there’s my awesome color!

  3. Hi,

    I picked a blue sofa based on your advice to pick a color you love and then we picked the paint, rug, etc. afterward. We’re happy with it and it works well with grandkids and our dog.

  4. I worked for an estate sale company 15 years ago and had the opportunity to buy my sofa for $75. It is a camel back dark emerald green velvet type material with two large seat cushions. It looks as good as it did the day I brought it home.

  5. I have had two green sofas for twenty years. They are kind of a celery green with a woven damask pattern in 2-3 tones of beige. I love them and never want to part with them. I’m so glad I didn’t succumb to the neutral trend and get rid of them. I find all of that so ho-hum.

  6. Rosanne Patterson

    Bought my 2 red velvet family room sofas over 12 years ago, and still LOVE them! I change the accent decor seasonally, and guess what? Red goes with everything!

  7. If you like blue (as I do – it’s my favorite) and don’t want to spend much, Rooms To Go in the US has a lot of options. I’d never been there until we needed some things for a short term rental, and I was surprised how much blue they have.

    • I need new couches. I always go white/off white slipcovered (kids and dogs) and thinking of doing a color in one of the rooms. I have an issue with commitment though, and I love to switch up decor, which I think is why my my rooms never feel “finished”. We are redoing our basement, and I’m going with a more distinct blue and green scheme though and trying to not make it look jarring. It’s hard for me bc my upstairs is mostly white.

  8. You are going to laugh. I got my black leather couch at a yard sale. Tommy the cat has pretty much clawed the ends of it to death.
    I agree. Green drapes.

    • YOU my dear are the reason I have a beautiful pale teal sofa that I ADORE. I’ve been too busy (working as a designer and Color Expert ahem THANK YOU) to decorate for fall but now I’m inspired. And of course you recommended cognac leather a year ago…also, I love the idea of green drapery in that room! Xoxo, Julianna

    • Love that apple green sofa. I have been looking for a one for weeks now – even with custom fabrics found it impossible – finally ordered a cream one last week. Thought I could get an area rug in my favourite colour but finding it is proving to be as diffucult. Everything in colour seems to be blue. 9

  9. Just talking about sofas, yesterday.
    As a widow in my 70’s, I’m facing a necessary move..smaller, NO stairs, no more sad memories. My sofa is over 40 yrs old. bought at the Dallas (to the trade) market, the year we were married.(Shocking and a little icky!!) It HAS been recovered many times and it’s still comfortable. The idea of replacing with a lower quality, mass-produced sofa along with all my other upholstered pieces is beyond daunting.
    Your mom is SO lucky to have you to help her!!

  10. Green drapes would be fine but you saved and sacrificed a trip to Europe for the raspberry ones so they have soul as well as beauty. I would miss them.

  11. I have a burgundy leather couch that is 16 years old and in great shape but was told burgundy is a dated colour, ,so not sure if any colour is timeless. I’m not really sure what to believe……any thoughts?

      • I had a berry/wine coloured couch for years and loved it. Kids and animals couldn’t make it look bad. We have now downsized and I wanted a navy velvet couch but it had to be approximately 80 inches as we have a smaller living room now. I was willing to buy new but couldn’t find what I wanted. Low and behold one showed up on Marketplace. It’s perfect. I will love it for many years. Animal hair vacuums up great.
        We still have to replace the floors as we knew going in that this was a house with projects but little by little we’ll get there. Going to redo the main bath before Christmas as it has a ‘smell’. Will be painting a dresser this weekend to use as the vanity. We’re having fun for sure.

      • Oops thanks Karen for posting this comment because I forgot to circle back and comment on this question about burgundy sofas. Yes colours that are overused do fall out of favour, and people got really tired of burgundy in the 80s but it is back now. If your burgundy sofa was in a classic style like an english roll arm sofa like mine, or a simple tract arm, you could re-decorate around it and make it look new. However, the 80’s big rolled arm, leather burgundy sofa with the brass nail heads will never look current, just like the big tuscan sofas are hard to bring into 2020 as well. Hope that helps, Maria

  12. (I posted this but it showed up as a reply to someone – sorry!)
    YOU my dear are the reason I have a beautiful pale teal sofa that I ADORE. I’ve been too busy (working as a designer and Color Expert ahem THANK YOU) to decorate for fall but now I’m inspired. And of course you recommended cognac leather a year ago…also, I love the idea of green drapery in that room! Xoxo, Julianna

  13. I have a neutral sofa (trendy brown). I chose it because all three seats recline and the middle has a fold-down table, all of which lets us cuddle or do our own thing. So I chose function over form!

    I recently moved and got your advice on decorating my kitchen and living room. The sofa has a lovely painting above it with browns and grays, and you recommended that I stay with that sophisticated brown-and-gray palette. I always struggle to successfully add color to my home, so this recommendation has actually been such a wonderful relief. It’s been easier to work on my living room than every before. I’m using color elsewhere, but my living-dining room are soothing and restful and I love them. So, to each his own I guess!

  14. I bought an Ikea sectional in blue and then for variety I bought slipcovers in an off white. This makes me really happy because I can switch them out whenever I want an instant change. Or whenever it gets too dirty from the dog. My favorite way to add color is by switching out pillow covers and throws. Also, I change out the seasonal decor on the shelves.

  15. I’ve followed your blog from its earliest days, so you’re asking me if I have a coloured sofa? Of course I have – well I have two sofas in my open-space living/dining/kitchen area. One is coral, the other has a neutral-ish griege/taupe botanical print of leaves with a coral gumnut/berry. (Warwick fabric Gosford- Coral.) Everyone who sees them comments positively – I think because they are surprised that I have so much colour in my room. I have small swatches with me at all times when shopping, lest I should come across something for the area. And yes, I am happy every time I walk into the space. My den has an apple green sofa, another joy giving colour.

  16. Your posts and color inspiration make me so happy! I could look at your photos all day!

    I bought a big box neutral (taupe/gray/purple) sofa in a pinch, because our higher end cream/white/blue English roll arm broke (husband is a big guy). Anyway, I thought the neutral would relate to my overly bossy stone fireplace. It makes the room so dreary. Doesn’t help that the walls are gray, too. Blech. I’ve added a few blue accent walls to break up the gray for now. I also ordered colorful swatches to recover the sofa. Your post could not be more timely!

    I love seeing photos of your home. So beautiful, bright and cheery. I can’t wait for my home office to be finished. It will be the one room I can do anything I want, and I’m hoping to channel a little bit of Maria in there! Thank you for your beautiful blog! Thank you for making me smile!

  17. I love your paint color advice, but I completely disagree with a colorful sofa. They date so quickly and look tacky, in my opinion. The best use of money is to buy a neutral sofa and then purchase colorful fun pillows and throws. That way when your presences and the grands change, it’s so easy to switch out pillows and throws. It’s also fun to switch them out for different seasons.

  18. I went to a Toronto high end store that sells Lee Industries upholestry. I wanted to buy two chairs in a colourful fabric which I knew was available by this manufacturer. The sales rep told me they do not carry these fabrics in the store to view as they only focus on neutrals. It was most disappointing.

  19. Another vote for colored sofas. My first sofa was a contemporary lemon yellow corduroy purchased at a huge discount from a high end store because who would be crazy enough to get yellow corduroy? It was gorgeous and later I took an upholstery class and covered it in bright blue corduroy. Sooo comfortable! Made with an oak frame, it would have lasted forever if we hadn’t had a house fire.

    Several years ago, I found it really frustrating to find a quality, comfortable sofa that I liked which was available in a fabric I liked. I finally ended out purchasing a tattered sofa with great lines and quality construction for $25 at a charity thrift store and had it professionally recovered in spearmint green. It’s lovely. As a bonus it cost me far less than purchasing a well made sofa.

    I enjoy walking through furniture stores in Florida and other coastal areas because they often have colorful items in addition to “safe” colors.

  20. I am so glad that I listened to you! I had the confidence to buy a pale blue sectional and it’s perfect. Because it is light it doesn’t look heavy and our neutral SW Shoji White walls no longer look like they are lacking. Thank you!

  21. Last Thursday, I went to the Hickory Furniture Mart with my sister. We walked the entire 4 levels and looked in every store and I can count on one hand the number of non-neutral sofas we saw. I was very disappointed! Everything was white, cream or grey. I love color. I bought a new leather sofa earlier this year and love it. The color is called Butterscotch; to me it’s a lighter cognac. I love your raspberry drapes but green would be a great change!

  22. I have the cream and black leather couches and I hate then. I am going to look for a turquoise couch. My last 6 couches in 56 years were all coloured. No more leather furniture.

  23. Would this apply to an upholstered headboard? So many are neutral but once and awhile, a hale navy pops in. Which would be the better choice?

  24. Over the years I have had blue couches, yellow couches, green couches, gorgeous cognac couches, and even red couches. My current couch is a beautiful neutral and I swap the pillows seasonally. I loved them all

  25. I had 2 dusty blue velvet love seats I never tired of. I’ve had two cognac leather chairs for years and I’ve never tired of those either. I haven’t chosen another colored sofa yet because I have so much color in my room right now that I’m happy with keeping seating neutral.

    Regarding your drapes, not green. I see a subtle yellow abstract vertical stripe on white with possibly some green splashes.

  26. For 10 yrs, since my divorce, I kept buying “neutral” and “practical” sofas. Hated them all. Worst was the first one: a pinky-beige thing instead of the fantastic cardinal red one I walked clear across a huge furniture showroom to see. Then a couple years ago, I finally bought the almost copper leather one (from IKEA, of all places) that I’d wanted forever. I donated a brand new sofa (neutral and clunky) – that thing again purchased because I chickened out. Had it two months and realized life was too short to live with mediocre. So I bought my love. Never looked back, don’t regret it. It brings my whole living room to life. An expensive lesson. Don’t settle. Buy what you love.

  27. I have a red sofa (blue red) and a blue green sofa in the same room 😊. They are both trimmed in dark blue velvet. The walls are SW Sea Salt and there are lots of pillows and a couple of blue velvet chars to pull everything together.

  28. I was so grateful to read your advice about buying a sofa in a color, as we were about to buy a brown one! We were working on a very tight budget and timeline, so I switched for a pretty blue in the same model and I’m so happy with the result!

  29. This topic hit deeply with me. We bought a sofa 3 years ago. Grey,beige(green undertone), from well respected high end retailer. Pressured, as it was on sale only one day, with few color choices, charcoal or all light shades of beige. It is the most uncomfortable sofa we’ve ever had.(married 41 yrs). Cushions constantly falling forward. 😡Complained to the company with no real resolutions😭 And worst of all three years later, I have no idea how to make it work. Why didn’t I listen to what I’ve learned from you, and my inner voice that said walk away. 😔

  30. As usual your advice is spot-on! I still regret not buying a pale blue sofa and instead getting a brown one ten years ago. My next sofa will be in a color I love. I have two tips for you: 1. For Puzzles –There is a “black felt mat for puzzle storage” (search this phrase on Amazon) with a blow-up cylinder that goes inside that you can roll your puzzles up inside with bands around it and then unroll them to work on them. Takes up less space than a hard board and it actually works really well! 2. I have used wrapping paper and scrapbook paper to cover books in the perfect color to use in vignettes. It’s so fun and cheap!

  31. Hi Maria, I always love your posts and it is always fun to read your followers responses. For me I have always stuck to neutral sofas. I put color elsewhere like pillows, chairs, ottomans and accessories. I change colors with the seasons so my rooms always look different each season. I love color so that’s how I handle it.

    Regarding your mom’s sun room. The green sofa will look fantastic with plants (hope it wont fade) and everything you will put in there. I’m so looking forward to the reveal!

  32. I was excited about reading this…. so I’m not the only one! When six years ago we bought our house with a vaulted-ceiling living room, I knew I was going to hang my jewel-toned velvet quilt, given to me as a wedding gift, on the wall behind the sofa. And I was going to recover the sofa, which was an 80’s Vanguard sofa with curved arms and a futsy skirt, in chartreuse green velvet–without the skirt. It looks dynamite, both modern and traditional., although I’m still thinking about what would be a better rug than jute.

    Oh, the matching 1980’s loveseat also got reupholstered, but in a darker green.

  33. I so appreciate all your comments! I love my readers and how ya’ll always leave comments that help move the conversation forward. If someone reading this is inspired to buy a colourful sofa, that is just happiness 🙂
    Love you all!
    Maria

  34. I love my sofa because my feet touch the floor. It came with a matching club chair in 1957 when my grandparents purchased it (Flexsteel brand). Today, the sofa is upholstered off-white and the chair is cognac leather because I’ve been reading your posts since the beginning. Our children were not hard on the furniture; our cat is–the black one!

  35. It’s so gratifying to know that I’m not alone in my love of color (I’m pretty much the only member of my family who doesn’t have neutral/beige/brown decor). In my living room, I have a blue sofa, floral patterned chairs, and green area rugs. My color scheme is mainly green and blue with touches of yellow, teal, pink, and orange. I love it!

  36. I did have a pale celery green sofa with some brown threads woven in. Loved it. My next sofa will be either a vibrant medium green or a soft turquoise. Velvet fabric. I LOVE your yellow sofa.

  37. I have a deep plum sofa that I love. It’s quite dark and it’s a chenille type fabric (doesn’t reflect much) so it just blends in with everything. It’s 19 years old and it’s understandably started to creak, so I’m considered what to do now.

    I think the cognac sofas are a wonderful neutral, too.

  38. I’ll be so excited to see the green Sunbrella sofa in your mom’s solarium for real. It’s gorgeous in my mind. And definitely a vote for green drapes in your home. Green is my color, especially yellow greens, and, though I never knew it early on, I’ll never live without it again.

  39. I slipcovered my navy floral which was a pretty oriental motif with another floral (circa2005) in a sort of muted aqua color. It’s pretty but so dated. At the time it was recommended to go solid and neutral and change pillows out seasonally. I rejected that advice but think it was good advice for me. Now I would like to buy a new couch but am sure I will be paralyzed once I start looking. t

  40. I believe the neutral sofa debate is dependent on where you live. I live in Houston and the homes that are published and photographed and are the envy of locals have a lot of creams, whites and neutrals. And most likely on the sofa. Pops of color are used in art, pillows, side chairs, etc. The color combination of soft yellow in a foyer and then bright yellow, green and raspberry in a family room would not be something you would likely see here. The soft yellow paint color in the foyer is reminiscent of many decades ago in Texas. So I think it just depends on what is trending in your area. Green sofas are seen here, as well as navy and cognac, etc. Not like it isn’t happening.

  41. Christine Mueller

    I bought a neutral sofa, but have colorful drapes; chairs, ottomans and wallpaper! It makes me happy. I love your home and the raspberry drapes. I could see switching them up with green. Maybe compromise with raspberry 6 months and green 6 months! Do tell, where did you get that wonderful white pumpkin wreath on you door?

  42. I was in the market for a sofa. Saw one in a thrift store that had interesting lines. Certainly needed to be recovered. Went to an upholstery store nearby, got the name of a guy who they recommended, called him to get a ballpark price and ask a few questions. Bought the sofa for 25 bucks. He picked it up a day or two later and took to his shop. Meanwhile, I went back to the upholstery store, straight to the remnants room. Might as well start there. Found 16 yards, just what was needed, for $3 yard in a rusty velvet-like fabric. When he was done, he delivered to my house. For a total of $435 I have a great rusty colored sofa that works perfectly with my colorful Andy Warhol striped rug. Bought local, but can be found online here:
    https://www.hayneedle.com/product/sphinxbyorientalweaversandywarholpopabstractsfancyyarnrug.cfm

    At the risk of stating the obvious, I love color. I have a friend who says my home is colorful and vibrant and she loves to visit but couldn’t live in it. Her house is very tastefully neutral. It looks great. I love to visit, but couldn’t live like that.

    Thank you for doing a blog like this, Maria.

  43. I like Christine Mueller’s idea of changing out your drapes seasonally, because I think both colors are gorgeous! When we moved into our current home 6 years ago, we bought it fully furnished. We live in Arizona on a mountain in the desert, and our home has an adobe, southwest vibe. Both our living room and family room sofas are cognac leather. I love them! They look perfect for our home, and go with so many colors. In the living room I’ve got shades of blue and green, and in the family room reds, creams, with small hits of blue and green. Maria, I love looking at your colorful home; it feels so happy and vibrant! Love your vignettes!

  44. I still have a Lee slipcovered sofa and loveseat in white and I add colorful pillows and textiles to add the color. I love being able to whip off the slipcovers if it gets a little spotty from hubby’s chocolate Doves. ;). But hubby hates this sofa and the look of slipcovers. I was planning on a blue sofa of some type for replacing this one that is 10-12 years old. We looked at a neutral chenille type sofa recently that can be customized. I just couldn’t make up my mind, so we still don’t have a new sofa or loveseat. We also have a neutral colored sofa in our formal living area and use colorful textiles and pillows there also. The walls are white, but it backs up to the formal dining room with turquoise walls.

  45. Yay for this post! Just bought a sofa when we moved recently from overseas to AZ…sadly in a brown/gray color. However, it’s on major backorder and we’re sick of sitting on patio chairs to relax. Long story short, back in store and mgr says choose an in stock one for immed delivery. I fell in love with a more expensive one (natch) in a color called ‘Baltic Blue’. Mgr says it’s in stock too – since ‘no one wants anything other than beiges and browns’, lol…Here’s to stepping out of my comfort zone and buying a not so boring sofa color!! 💙

  46. So funny, it never crossed my mind to have a neutral sofa. I grew up in a house with a bright yellow sofa, one grandmother’s was deep green velvet and the other’s was a colourful print of birds and flowers. The only neutral sofa I ever owned I immediately slipcovered in deep red. Now I’ve inherited my grandmother’s sofa, reupholstered in the green colourway of William Morris’s Willow Bough.

  47. Hello Maria,

    You are absolutely slaying it with this post…the photos illustrating the use of color along with your cheery self are fabulous! Love it.

    – KNJ

  48. I ordered a custom Red sofa years ago and loved the fabric but that sofa was the most uncomfortable thing I’d ever owned. I kept it until my daughter and her 4 kids came to live with us and suddenly we needed much more seating. I was walking out of IKEA one day and in the discount area there was a sectional Ektorp sofa for $400! My daughter thought I was crazy when I bought the ecru colored slipcover….because….4 kiddos. I created the term “Couch Hands” which meant…..look at how dirty your hands are/aren’t. That term worked. Kids washed hands and the slipcover only needs washed a couple of times a year. Now 5 years, 4 kids, 1 dog and 3 cats later, the ecru sofa still looks great. From a design perspective, the ecru fabric helped turn a dark room with a brick red sofa into a much brighter/lighter space.

  49. I followed your advice a year ago and put my foot down when we had to suddenly buy a new couch. The fabric is navy and black threads woven into white and (occasionally) beige threads. And for some reason it came with teal throw pillows which look surprisingly good (well, surprising to me). The fabric was slightly fuzzy, which has turned out to be a mistake with the number of bums we have using the couch multiple times a day. However, since it looks great and didn’t ruin the look of the room (my husband’s fear), I already have the go-ahead to pick the blue of my choice when it gets reupholstered with something that won’t pill and wear as quickly. I will never allow a beige couch in my home again.

  50. Needed a sofa THEN, couldn’t wait any longer so ugly, ugly gray right off the showroom floor. Big mistake! I want a coral or yellow sofa so badly!!!

  51. Love how you’ve put your home together inside and out! I think the raspberry drapes are wonderful but as the “Colour Me Happy” Queen, I can see why you might like a change to green drapes for a while.

    I have a small sofa in a darker shade of French Blue with a cream/white and light blue floral pattern that I bought over 17 years ago. It still looks amazing. It sits atop my favorite striped cotton area rug that has that same blue repeated in the woven cotton rug. Coordinating chairs are across from it in a similar shade in a tiny check. They still look great, too. Now, if I could only decide on the adjacent room’s sofa replacement. That one is 26 (!) years old and is truly threadbare and in a faded sage green fabric. I’m waiting for a remodeling project to start and finish. No sense in buying new fabric upholstery before the dust flies.