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Ask Maria: Will my Cherry Kitchen work with a Cognac Leather Sofa?

By 10/03/2021February 15th, 202438 Comments

I’ve been talking up the virtues of the trending, yet classic, cognac leather sofa quite a lot lately. And yes it’s true… something that is trending can ALSO be classic. But does that mean it’s the best choice for your room?

There are some limitations though because, in actual fact, cognac leather is still a colour.

Scout design Studio

Today I’m sharing a question from a reader who recently enrolled in my Shop Online with Color Confidence course.

Before she dives into updating her living room she wanted to know if a cognac sofa was right for her space.

Ask Maria Colour Advice

Will my Cherry Kitchen work with a Cognac Leather Sofa?

Hi Maria,

I just completed your “Shop Online with Color Confidence” course and am excited to start searching online for furniture and accessories to complete our family room.  To begin the process in the right direction, I was hoping you can answer a question related to a cognac sofa. 

We have an open concept floor plan with dark cherry kitchen cabinets and island and orange toned wood floor throughout the main level.  Unfortunately, when we remodelled in 2013 and made these selections, I had not found your blog yet and we did not work with a designer.  The existing black sofa and recliner will be moved to the basement and we will purchase new pieces to replace them.   The gray chair and area rug (main colors are cream, gray, blue and cognac) will stay.  My question is would a cognac sofa be a good choice or too much of that tone with our orange toned floors and cherry cabinets?   Or would a blue color sofa be better?  (We do have blue tones in other rooms). 

I should point that that we will not be painting the cabinets; however, we will likely paint the walls (currently SW Argos) soon to a warm gray (BM Balboa Mist or BM Collingwood) to coordinate with new carpet on the steps and upstairs areas. 

Maria, thank you for sharing all of your very helpful information on your website and courses!  I have learned so much from you!  

Great question Jodie, and I’m glad you asked because this is not something I have covered (even in my ongoing theme of cherry cabinets recently). 

What colour is a cognac leather sofa?

A cognac leather sofa is orange. Most cognac leather is in the range of a light warm orange to gold brown colour that looks great with natural and medium neutral wood tones. And because of that, cognac leather warms up a grey or black and white colour scheme. It acts almost as an accent colour, like decorating with a muted golden orange.

The cognac leather sofa has a lot going for it, in addition to all the practical features of leather.

And warm accents is what grey, black and white rooms out there right now need for balance. Hence the trend for warm cognac sofas.

What colour is a cherry kitchen?

A cherry kitchen is red. In my mind, and a Google image search confirms my perception, “cognac” leather is more in the realm of orange to gold. And while it is good at picking up natural, golden or neutral medium brown wood tones (maybe it’s okay that you didn’t refinish or replace your honey oak floors now), I don’t think it will look as good with woods stains as red as this kitchen. 

In fact, it’s highly likely that it will clash. 

But let’s take a closer look. Here is a mock-up with Jodie’s cherry cabinet kitchen and a cognac sofa below.

This kind of hot red wood-tone needs to be paired with cool colours to balance it out and make it feel fresh. The blue accent she already has in her area rug (sampled in the image above) is a much more promising direction.

What colours go better with cherry cabinets?

Cool, rich blue is a better choice with a cherry cabinet kitchen. In general, blue looks fresher with the red wood.

See if you agree with me… I think a blue sofa would look much better in this space (below).

A while back, I refreshed a client’s rich, formal warm wood dining room with fresh blues and whites (below).

Maria Killam

Deep warm wood tones have a visually heavier, formal feel. They are WARM. The richness of deep blue accents connect to the dense red, but overall, blue and white is so cool and fresh that it creates balance.

Blue and white pottery and accents are the perfect way to wake up a too formal warm wood kitchen. 

Warm wood tones need fresh accents to look current

You might be wondering if a warmer leather that is redder like the kitchen would work? Do you think that would be a good choice?

Well, I don’t recommend adding more reddish-brown to the room if you want to create a current look and feel. The floors are already pulling the colour through the space. So what’s needed now is freshness and balance – something that moves the room forward, not back in time.

That’s why I absolutely would go with deep blue and lots of white. Another great update for this kitchen would be crisp off-white quartz because the patterned black countertop is too heavy.

What would Maria do?

Here’s what I would do below. In the mood board below, I added in a pale green-grey greige for a fresher backdrop as a wall colour.

The best decorated cherry kitchen I’ve ever seen in one of my consultations was, in fact styled with lots of blue and white porcelain! Just beautiful!

And I ALWAYS recommend adding more lamps.

You could also repeat the cherry in smaller doses like coffee or side tables.

HOT TIP: If you’re mixing wood tones in a room, repeat it twice.

Blue and White Barstool | White Lamp | Blue and White Rug | Sofa | Blue and White Pottery | Coffee Table

Just for fun, I popped the cognac sofa option in the same mood board below. By the way, creating a mood board is the easiest way to see how things will all work together. 

While the blue and white accents help make this look ok to my eye, the cognac sofa looks out of place. And that’s because more warmth is not what this room needs.

So the answer is NO

Blue, however? Yes, that’s exactly what this room needs!

Cognac Sofa

Always create a mood board BEFORE you make colour choices

Never skip the step of creating a mood board when you are decorating or refreshing a room. It’s simple and allows you to gather all your ideas in one place. You will immediately see how the colour, shapes, and patterns are working together.

HOT TIP: No designer would ever specify furnishings for a room without this step!

Get more on this and other fantastic tips that will have you decorating like a pro in my new Shop Online with Colour Confidence course.

So, I’d love to know… are any of you thinking of a cognac sofa? If you have a cherry kitchen, what colour is your sofa?

We’ve just finished two back-to-back Virtual workshops, check out this video on Instagram, and what two students shared was the most powerful takeaway from the course. 


My February ‘Create your Dream Home’ virtual course for homeowners is sold out, email here if you’d like to get on the waitlist. However, there are still seats left in the April 26th & 27th course

If you are a design professional OR you’ve decided 2024 is the year to start your dream career as a colour designer my True Colour Expert training will be in LIVE in Chicago, May 15 & 16, 2024. Register Here



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  • Lisa says:

    I’d go for a warmer cognac leather, more like a tobacco, and then reupholster the kitchen stools in aqua for that bit of contrast.

  • Ann says:

    Maria – brilliant, as always. As for the mood board, you probably use a professional program, but I’m hoping you can suggest versions for non-professionals.
    Thanks, Ann

    • Laura says:

      Yes, that would be so helpful! It really does help to see all the options in one place.

      • Kristin says:

        I use Google slides for this. It’s not perfect, but it’s works reasonable well with the bonus that it’s free.

    • Nitza says:

      I use my word processor. I copy and paste pictures into a page. Works great.

    • Calliope says:

      Hi! I use power point to make my mood boards.

    • Katie says:

      You might try Canva.

    • Sylvie says:

      Ann, as another option… I taught myself to make mood boards with PowerPoint. You can remove the backgrounds of your images, crop, resize, etc.

    • Janine Willis says:

      Google slides is free and also very easy for newbies like me.

    • LC says:

      I’ve used OneNote a lot for my mood boards. OneNote 2010 has a great clipping tool that has been really helpful, and the layout makes it easy to copy and paste images from my personal “gallery” of my own belongings, or to create duplicate variations once I have all the permanent features of a room (photo of fireplace, tile, ceiling fan, furniture that isn’t moving, etc.) Or I can do pages that have my chosen paint color and then paste things on top of it.
      The main trick that may not be apparent at first – when adding something to the collage, add it to the far right of the “box” that things are in. Then you can drag it wherever you want. Sometimes pasting things make the object appear directly below another photo, which may not be what you want.

    • Barbara M says:

      Hi Ann. I mostly use PowerPoint to create mood boards. I believe you can also use Canva, and Pic Monkey, but I’ve never tried Pic Monkey myself.

  • Stacy says:

    I like the cherry cabinets here. Adding anything else brown/red/warm is overkill and starts to teeter into the Tuscan era….let’s not fall down that crater. It needs cool, and blue is the solution along with paler walls. Navy is ideal! Then she doesn’t have to redo anything and can spend her money on a really comfortable new navy couch.

  • Barb says:

    As usual this is why you’re the color expert! Love the blue mixed with the cherry!!

  • Bette says:

    I noticed you replaced the countertop in your mood boards. If that’s not an option, why not keep her existing black sofa and lighten with pillows, rug, and other accessories?

  • Wendy says:

    Nailed it!!!!

  • Kristin says:

    The mood board with the blue sofa is beautiful. I also noticed that it has different counters, though, and it seems like that piece is essential to the fresher look.

  • Marta says:

    Love your suggestion of the navy sofa. For my eyes, it’s not just the colour of the cognac sofa, but the style that doesn’t quite work. As you pointed out Maria, the cherry cabinets read quite formal and need the traditional and more formal navy to balance them. Cognac sofas to me read mid century or boho inspired and need rooms that overall read in those styles and not as formal as this cherry kitchen.

  • Anne Hudson says:

    I vote for a navy blue leather chesterfield. comfy and classic! and yes, re-upholster those bar stools…navy blue microsuede?

    I have natural cherry dining chairs, which go more toward cognac/orange than red; but they look great with blue as well.

  • Karen says:

    We are in the planning stage for a kitchen redo. Right now (could change lol). We are looking at a medium cherry, not too dark and not too orange, for Cabinets. We both love the color green and have found a lovely Verde bourgogna green granite with a pretty shade of yellow in it. I wish I could attach a photo of it. The drapery fabric is a black background with magnolia blooms and leaves in green and rust underside.

    My mood board can’t decide btwn a butter sofa or a black one, so we will wait to buy one after the new kitchen is done. I am seriously leaning to butter wall paint.

    Update to follow!

    • Annie says:

      Karen, I know this is a rather old post but your comment caught my attention. It took me on a stroll down memory lane lol.

      We built a house back in the 90s and chose a medium shade of cherry for cabinets. My designer, Laura, wanted to put a green granite countertop in the kitchen. I was afraid of being tied to green forever so I opted for what I think of now as busy beigy brown granite. It looked fine with the non busy backsplash. Ironically I ended up painted the kitchen green 😂 The kicker is that Laura renovated her own kitchen and put the countertop in hers. It was gorgeous!

      We moved 13 years ago and ended up with a tear down/new build. Laura came on the scene a few months in and thank goodness! Yes, I pushed hubby to hire her as we were in over our heads. Laura did a fabulous job taking a backsplash that I had my heart set on. It was made by Ann Sacks and is a deep blue and green, almost with a feel of the northern lights is best way to describe it. Everyone, including her, at first, told me I would tire of it but Laura did a wonderful job working with it, basically using restraint! The backsplash is only behind the range so the kitchen is not covered in it. Two white cabinets and then a window on each side flank the hood on that wall. I often turn the lights on under the hood because they highlight that gorgeous glass tile. The rest of the kitchen is rounded out with honed dark grey granite (soapstone looking) on the perimeter, with the an island painted a French blue and topped with Carrera Marble. The walls are painted a light blue and the wide plank floors are finished in a medium dark stain.

      We also incorporated a keeping room concept with a brick gas fireplace that is painted white placed directly across from the island where the sink is. There are 2 swivel/rocker tub chairs placed in front of it so people can chat with the chef, have a snack or watch the tv above the fireplace.

      I hope your renovation turned out dreamy and you love it as much as I love the one I have now. It’s hard to think that I turned down that beautiful green granite countertop back then! It had beautiful veining and movement. I would love to hear how your kitchen turned out!

  • sandyc says:

    Maria, your mood board with the blue couch, the blue and white rug and all the blue and white pottery and the greenery of plants is so right, and the white countertops in your mood board kitchen pic make it perfect. I reread your reader’s letter and, although she said they wouldn’t be painting the cabinets (don’t need to), she didn’t mention the countertops which are frankly dreary and distracting to me. If she could see her way to changing out the countertops and following your suggestions in the mood board, I think she would end up with a truly upscale kitchen/living room.

  • Jennifer says:

    Definitely the blue sofa…and definitely new barstools. New countertop would be awesome if in the budget… I so wish Maria would share the pale green gray greige color that she is referring to… DR example with blue & white looks like paint could be SW Agreeable Gray or BM Natural Cream, Pale Oak or ??…too many damn paint colors out there!! Best wishes to the homeowner who shared her dilemma!

    • Janine Willis says:

      Lookon her list or at the paint boards. There are only a green grey greiges so you can probably figure it out that way.

  • Karen Hyman says:

    My kitchen cabinets are medium light cherry — definitely cognac rather than red. My question is: why doesn’t a kitchen with cognac cabinets, creamy white tile backsplash and dark countertops fit in with the black, white and cognac trend?

    • Maria Killam says:

      That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying I wouldn’t install a basically orange sofa with a red kitchen. Hope that helps, Maria

  • Sue says:

    You also asked if anyone was drawn to the cognac leather sofa?

    (Raises hand) Me! I’ve never liked leather furniture-I really dislike brown anything and black leather couch seems like an awful lot of “weight”/heaviness in a room. (I’m also anti-giant sectional stuffed into a smallish room and called “decorated” bleah! )

    BUT I’m surprising myself and loving mid-mod clean lined cognac leather sofas. I’m not buying furniture right now (floors first) but if I were I’d be looking hard at one of those. Just worried I’d wake up one day and go back to hating all leather couches after I’d spent a pretty penny on it. It’d have to be just the right shade of cognac and something styled just right, though.

  • Holly says:

    Maria to the rescue again! 🙂 To be honest, I espresso couches better than cognac, but I absolutely love cognac with gray and black and I may get an aniline dyed leather couch because I love my dogs and want to be okay with them getting up on my couch (loved Tricia’s sexy cognac leather couch post and decided on the aniline leather based on that). I definitely agree cherry is very formal and the blue and white takes out the heaviness. I also don’t care for dark countertops with cherry and think the pale countertop in the mood board gave it a fresh look with contrast and also brings out the beauty of the cherry wood.

  • Kate says:

    Hi…enjoyed the post. What is the pale green-grey greige paint you have on your mood board? Thank you.

  • That was excellent! Room transformed, fresh, and visually pleasing! Bam problem solved.


  • Pascale Jones says:

    Hi, I think a pale blue sofa would also work. It really depends on the size of the room, assuming there are 2 sofas

  • Sarah Blair says:

    I had a natural cherry kitchen in an open plan house and had a teal green velvet couch. I loved it!

  • Rebecca Schildroth says:

    Countertops need changed to make it work.
    If the homeowner really wants the sofa in a cognac color, it can work if cognac is repeated in the kitchen. The right accessories can pull it off. Think pillows and artwork.
    Sure the blue is better and easier to pull off.
    Also there are many shades of cherry stain colors. The darkness and redness will make a huge difference in what will work.
    Personally I dislike the blue and white jars. They read, have to say it, cheap.

  • Linda says:

    Nailed it! Love the blue.

  • Barbara M says:

    I love a Cognac sofa or chairs, when appropriate. But in this situation I’m in total agreement with you Maria, Navy is the way to go, plus the blue and white decor. Beautiful

  • Andarson says:

    So beautiful. I love everything you do. A very creative post!!

  • Drea says:

    Is there a secondary color that could be brought in here? A bit worried that navy has had its moment or at least for me.

    I have a similar issue.
    -Cherry cabinets
    -Granite countertop – Santa Cecilia I think
    -A tone of honey oak – painting or staining darker. Haven’t decided.

    Recently painted walls edgecomb gray. The space is very dark and this helped tone down the oak for now.

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