sofas : neutral vs. bold

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Living Room, My House79 Comments

Happy Monday, everyone!  I spent the good part of my weekend resting my arm, hanging out with the family, doing a little bit of cleaning, and looking at some new magazines I picked up at the store.  I love decorating, but the last few months have been busy and I haven’t had as much time to do sewing and furniture rearranging and projects as I would like.  Now that I’m in a sling and restricted from doing these things, I am itching to do some decorating!  Isn’t that how it is?

Anyway, as much as I love color and pattern, I must admit that it’s much easier to go neutral with an investment piece like a sofa.  And, historically, that’s what I’ve done.  I will then add color, texture, and pattern with pillows, quilts, and accessories.  I think that is a good decorating strategy and there’s nothing wrong with it, but I have recently found that I’m more attracted to deliberate, bold choices.  So, as I’m replacing the sofa in our living room, I am pushing myself beyond the easy, obvious choice.

Let me talk about the current sofa for a minute first.  We got this sofa about four years ago and it has held up very well given the price.  It took a huge beating in our move, though, despite being well wrapped. One entire section was so damaged that we had to remove it and throw it away.  One of the sections that we’re currently using was also damaged, but it is on the backside, so it’s not very noticeable.  I have also learned that back cushions can be a little problematic with boys who like to climb around the top of the sofa.  Over the years, some of the cushions have been misshapen and I’m not able to fluff them back into form.

Those faults are all forgivable and fixable if I wanted to put the time and money into it, but since this is our formal living room (this was in the family room in our last house), I decided to wait and replace the sectional with one more fitting for the room.  And, for quite a while, I have had my sights set on this one…

It’s the Outerbanks three-piece sectional by Arhaus and it is just what I’m looking for.  The size is just a little bit bigger than the current sectional, but the shape is the same and it still fits nicely in the space.  I love the turns legs, the rolled arms, and the neatly tailored back.  It looks structured and a little bit dressier, but still comfy.

With the sofa selected, it was time to pick the fabric.  For some of you, the idea of selecting fabrics from online images and 5 x 5″ swatches might be terrifying, but I’ve become desensitized when it comes to ordering things online.  I have bought so many things online now from tile to toilets that it has become my go-to way to shop.  This is most likely due to the fact that I lived for 11 years in a two-stoplight town.  Online ordering becomes your friend in those circumstances!

I selected five fabric swatches, so I could see them in person and compare them to the colors and fabrics already used in the room.  I picked three neutrals, one solid color, and one pattern.

At first, I was drawn to the safety of the neutral fabrics. I was concerned the whitest one (Team Oyster) would be toast in my house, but I’ve heard amazing things about this high-performance fabric from people who have it in their home (see reader comment below.)  I still felt it might be too light for my space, though.  I really liked the other two and at first, those were the frontrunners.  They are Cary Linen (middle) and Team Quartz.

In the end, I felt like it would look too similar to what I already have.  It also blends in with the rug and, while I know the sofa would be beautiful, it would be the safe choice.  So, after a couple of days of living with the samples, I started to focus on the olive green (Leolaris Forest) and the blue Buffalo check (Ponder Lakeland).

Fortunately, I had some of the exact same fabric, because I used it on a couple of chairs I upholstered for the eating area.  I still have some yardage left, so I was able to drape it over the sofa to get a good visual of what it would look like.

I loved it!  I am a sucker for blue and white buffalo check, anyway, and this just worked.  It’s interesting and bold, but still traditional and timeless.

So, my plan is to order the sofa in Ponder Lakeland and then make a neutral slipcover for it down the road, so I can change out the look whenever I want.  That’s one of the nice things about investing in quality pieces – they can be updated with the slipcovers and reupholstery as needed and used for decades.  I already have several pieces from Arhaus (including my bed frame and drafting table) from working with them as a sponsor and as a customer, and I am confident in their quality.

I also inquired about ordering some of the olive green fabric, since I loved it so much.  It works with my painted kitchen island and butler’s pantry and I think it would make nice pillows or upholstery for side chairs.

Which way do you go when ordering a sofa?  Do you stick with neutrals or do you go bold?  If you went bold, did you regret that decision?

I’ll give you an update on the sectional and also share about a huge giveaway from Arhaus soon!

Disclosure:  This post is sponsored by Arhaus.  All words and opinions, as always, are honest and my own.

sofas : neutral vs. bold

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79 Comments on “sofas : neutral vs. bold”

  1. Ooooooooh so excited to see this fabric, on a sofa, and in your space when it arrives ! Love the sofa style too !

  2. Oh, i was so hoping you went with the green!!! There is alot of the blue check already. But eh, it’s your house and not mine. 😉 The sofa looks way comfy!

          1. I was hoping for the green too! I just love the green in your house. As long as you are happy, that’s what is important.

          1. LOl I was drawn to the green too! The color change looks refreshing to my eye. But you have such a knack I’m sure the blue check will be perfect!

      1. I know, I do love the green. It is a delicious color and fabric. I think I might get tired of it, though. I have loved blue and white for 20 years and green is a fairly recent addition. I’m seeing if I can get some of the fabric, though.

        1. I always Loved the green velvet chairs you had in the family room of your last home in the 2 traffic light town! The green plays so beautifully with the blues & whites! Love the sofa choice!

  3. Back in the say buffalo check was considered formal as seen in Thomas Jefferson’s Montechello in Va.
    Good choice Marion.

  4. Oh my goodness! I just bought this sofa over the summer and it is sink-into comfortable!! It also looks gorgeous all of the time because of the tailored back. I got mine in Team Oyster, and I was so worried at first. But when Arhaus makes performance material, they mean it! I have cleaned a crushed blueberry stain with just water and a cloth! You will love this couch!

  5. I am all about the warm greens, but I didn’t think this one would work with your custom green, which seems a little cooler (and needs an official name, by the way). You get to compare this swatch and that green paint in person, though. The blue check is definitely you! Yay for a gorgeous new sofa.

  6. I just went very light neutral after years of a print, and years of brown before that. I love my new pieces. Your sofa will be beautiful. Anxious to see.

  7. I went bold. When we got our last sofa & loveseat, which was our first major furniture purchase, I went with a beautiful purple. I kept the style very tailored & classic so it really looked classy. It’s a deep eggplant color. The brand was Rowe & it has held up amazingly well through 4 moves & 3 children over 17 years. It’s time for replacing though & I love the style of the sofa you have picked out! I may have to look into that.

  8. Green would give the room more warmth in the winter and is far enough away from your other greens that it would tie them together without clashing. Make a slipcover from the check for summer. Again, you know what you will be happiest with in the long run.

  9. This sofa is perfect in my eyes and I love your choice of the blue buffalo check. I can’t wait to see it!

  10. I sold my home of 50 year last December and moved into a two bedroom apartment. I had to decide what
    to keep and what to let go. Very difficult. I had a sofa bed I bought from Ethen Allan 30 years ago. I decided to get it re covered by Ethah Allen. Same dilemma neutral or bold color. Went with their bold dark blue and white plaid thin stripes.
    Very happy the way it has turned out. I can still use colors I like, rusty red, burgundy and even some greens.
    Cant wait to see how your sot=fa turns out. Be adventures.

  11. Hi Marion. I work in a furniture store which only carries very high end upholstery made in the USA. My experience has been that tight back sofas … nothing loose to mess with will be the easiest for wear & tear with children . I think your choice of the Buffalo Plaid is perfect for you . Also like your selection of green yardage for pillows . Your blog is sensational & I have read it for years !

  12. One thing you didn’t discuss is the fill in the sofa. We bought a small sectional almost 7 years ago and I was very focused on getting one made with spring down. It has been the best sofa for keeping its shape I’ve ever seen. It has down/feather pillows also and they bounce right back when you plump them. Same with the back and bottom cushions. I rotate the cushions, seat and backs, every few weeks and plump them with my fists. I highly recommend spring down.

  13. I knew before scrolling down, you’d pick the check!!! The sofa looks gorgeous. I really like your idea of making slipcovers. You will get two sofas….or more depending on how much sewing you want yo do😉, in one! I have always gone neutral either slipcover or leather. It looks fun to go bold, though! We have some chairs from Arhaus and love them. So sorry about your arm. Glad you are on this side of surgery. I will pray right now that it heals up faster than hoped. 😊

  14. Love your sofa fabric!
    I slipcovered my( formerly beige) living room sofa in a warm salmon jacquard fabric- and it’s been wonderful, doesn’t show dirt, it’s cheerful and works with all my blues. My living room is painted in BM Van Deusen blue..
    I had two other sofa’s slipcovered in polyester velvet, and they have held up so perfectly. Never use cotton velvet !!

  15. I went bold, a bit like the patterned blue and white but in a geometric white, steel gray with small orange squares in the center. Seriously crazy with color and pattern in autumn colors. My inspiration was very British: Kit Kemp, William Yeoward, and Ben Pentreath. I love it, my husband loves it, as well as my young adult kids. My mom gave me her three colonial samplers (we both worked on one of them together) and the whole room just reads cozy and warm. So, I definitely think you should go for it.

  16. Marion, the blue buffalo check is a neutral for you with the pieces that you already own, and your style. I was hoping you’d pick that one! That fabric looks fabulous in your room. That sofa style with the blue buffalo check is a marriage made in heaven. I could hardly wait to see it.

  17. Boy, did your post dredge up some anxiety in me as I purchased a new sofa a few months ago. I wanted a comfy sofa with a seat deep enough to nap on and back cushions high enough to rest your head. I had narrowed it down to a few styles and went to place my order. When I walked into the family-owned furniture store there on display was pretty much my perfect sofa. A “dive couch”! I asked to see performance fabric swatches and chose a classic camel color on the spot. After months of agonizing my choice was made in under five minutes. Funny, it also has the same turned legs as yours. I opted out of the nail head trim because my kitty likes it a little too much. Bottom line: I love it! But I wouldn’t have ever considered buying online because the swatches on my phone looked nothing like the actual fabric in the store which also looked different in my home. I’m just a girl who needs to kick the tires, look under the hood and take it for a test drive. LOL. I really love your choice to go bold and I can’t wait to see your new sofa! I’m also so glad you’re feeling better Marian. You know you’re on the right path when you get the itch to decorate. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

  18. You could upholster a couch in a brown paper bag and make it look good 🤣🤣. I’m a safe girl and went dark grey to go with my blues, whites, creams, and greens. Can’t wait to see it in your space

  19. It’s beautiful! Knowing me and how indecisive I can be, I go neutral as my husband would NOT like it if I changed my mind on a big purchase like that… it’s going to look fabulous!

  20. Very pretty! I think the green would be awesome, but the buffalo check is pretty also. Look forward to seeing your delivery. We need new sofas too… getting my husband on board will take prayer🤣😂😊 Get well soon

  21. Oh, yes, definitely the BLUE BUFFALO CHECK, love the sofa style, so anxious to see in your home.

    I can never pass up any shade of blue!!!

  22. Very nice options – hard to decide, but I’d probably go for the neutral sofa and then make the slip cover in the buffalo check. Happy you get to make that choice. I went for a neutral, yet darker gray sofa and went for a bolder print on wing back chairs. Still loving my choice after several years! Now contemplating moving and hoping they will fit into a “new” home.

  23. What a gorgeous color choice and sofa. I think the first three neutrals would’ve been beautiful also but great choice in the end. My only thought is the arm rests look awful short and not sure it would be comfortable for someone like me with long torso but otherwise it’s gorgeous.

  24. Love it! I was always pretty neutral until my mom convinced me to buy a red couch and love seat! I loved it! It’s long gone now (having been passed to two different kids and one’s mother in law), but I’ve never looked back. And, I’m not very brave. I’ve always loved something I read years ago in Southern Living Magazine, “Put a surprise every room!”

  25. I was hoping for the green! Then I was surprised again when you picked neutral for the slipcover and the plaid for the permanent upholstery! What a roller coaster. I’m curious do you think the pattern is going to bother you where the fabric is pleated? Like on the curved and rolled arms. I’m excited and nervous for you all at the same time! 🙂

  26. Love the check . Our family room sofa is a Flexateel – 15 years old and in red leather .
    The thing about the green fabric swatch is that from my phone it looks like the green I grew up with in the 70’s . 😑

  27. I have always loved your blue buffalo chairs so glad to see more if that. The slipcover is an excellent idea. I admire your skills and beautiful taste.

  28. Love it! Strangely, I consider a buffalo check to be a near neutral. You can do solids in all kinds of colors, florals, stripes etc. with it and it looks great! I have had a tan and beige buffalo check wallpaper in my kitchen for the past 20 years and though most everything around it has changed, I’ve never even been tempted to change that. It is so classic and homey, feel neutral and just works!

  29. I like the way you picked something that goes with what you already have in your home. I saw a pretty gray and cream buffalo check chair today in a store and as I mentally put it in my living room I realized I would have to completely redecorate everything. Bad idea.

  30. I’ve had sofas in deep red, navy, yellow, and a fall autumnal print. I’ve come to look at all colors as neutral, a back drop for decor. I personally would never buy a sofa that will be used daily in a light color. tI would kill me to have to replace a couch because I can’t keep it clean.

  31. Hi Marian. I love the blue and white check. I had a plaid couch for years and loved it. I currently have replaced all my couches for neutrals because I change pillows constantly(I def have to have lots of colored pillows) My sister has a green velvet couch and it’s been beautiful in her house for years. I do agree that anything you do is gorgeous!!! You have amazing taste and have a perfect eye for color. The blue and white is so gorgeous and def fits your style and is also timeless. I love that you are not afraid to go bold. That is what sets you apart from others and makes you such an amazing artist. Btw.. your golden yellow bedroom is absolutely dreamy😍😍😍Thank you for sharing your home with us. I can’t wait to see the sofa. It’s gonna look amazing!!

  32. Thirty years ago I went with a very similar blue buffalo check for a living room sofa.
    Hated it within less than a year.

  33. I was wrong! I know you and I both loved checks, but that was such a great green and the fabric looked soft and yummy so I thought you might pick it. It will be wonderful as buffalo check always is…

  34. I bought my first ever brand new sofa this year! I am a neutrals girl through and through, and absolutely KNEW what I would buy — a classic roll-arm sofa with white or natural denim slipcovers. Done and done. But . . . then I ran across the Anthropologie pied-a-terre sofa with the bird print fabric on the back . . . and it was all over. I couldn’t stop thinking about that sofa! It was way more than I’d thought about spending, especially in such a bold colour/ pattern, but the heart wants what the heart wants, LOL. I justified the purchase by finding a shop that would do custom slipcovers, figuring I’d just cover it all up when/ if I got tired of it. I’ve had the new sofa for close to a year now and have had ZERO regrets — and I haven’t had to have slipcovers made yet!

  35. All those swatches are beautiful, you have excellent taste. That green is gorgeous! But the buffalo check is all you, so I’m glad you went bold with it. I **ADORE** Arhaus and have picked out so many things I want from them (I want to re-do my entire bedroom, and they have a dining table I just love, with chairs to go with it!) but I’d need to save for years to be able to do just the bedroom. I am very likely going to start with one of their beds however.

    Cannot wait to see the unveiling of your new sofa. It’s going to be beautiful, that style is so lovely and I can’t wait to see it in the bold buffalo check!

  36. I had a green couch a bit darker than that & loved it, I also had a yellow Plaid chair&ahalf which I also loved, but within a few years they both seems very outdated. Now I have neutral couch, love seat & oversized chair, for over 10years & I love them because they’re so versatile. They’re all slip covered, and wash up beautifully. I switch out quilts & pillows at will. I do like the dark gray/taupe!

  37. Enjoy your new sofa! I am Drawn to blue more than green I remember loving all your blues when I first came across your page years ago. However, I had guessed you would pick the green I must ask as I have wondered and missed what happened to your leather pottery barn sofa? My favorite pieces I never grew tired of were leather and then my white slipcover sofa.

  38. How exciting!! I’m a neutral girl with sofas, but that blue buffalo plaid is awesome! I love the green as well, it’s actually the exact color I’ve been trying to get for new accent pillows for my sofas. Can’t wait to see the finished product!

  39. Love all of the fabrics. I’m trying to decide on a sofa fabric too . My color taste is similar to yours.

    Just a note aboutbthe ads. Before they were annoying but I persevered . Now the additional ones make it very difficult to read on my phone. Try to turn them off and it goes to a different blog post. I like everything you do and I know you need ads for revenue, but it’s become too frustrating. Hopefully I can pop in occasionally on a computer.

  40. I went bold… teal. My sofa set looks exactly like the one you’re getting {English roll arm, tight back, turned legs, nailhead trim}. I love it, but also want a neutral slipcover made for it… thinking black or brown ticking stripe. I had a thyme green linen slipcover on a previous couch set and lived that too. Love the buffalo check choice!

  41. I went with a bold choice for a sofa once. When you make the wrong choice it’s a really BIG wrong choice. Then you have to live with it in your face for a while, then you cover it with various slipcovers, then you are so sick of it that you send it on its way so that someone else can love it . Hopefully. Now I’m a little paranoid and haven’t replaced the sofa to this day. Love the one you picked out tho, maybe it’s time to try again.

  42. I have an Arhaus sofa and I love it. In my downstairs, I went neutral with their Remington sofa (my style is a bit more modern). But upstairs we did our sectional in a pretty deep blue color that I absolutely love. It was a big open space and it really needed something a little bolder to anchor it. All depends on the situation! 🙂

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Do you remember the fabric that you went with for your Remington? We are considering purchasing it in a neutral color (we like Belgian linen or Tolliver Sand), but read conflicting opinions on the way fabrics hold up to stains and wear.

  43. I used to sell furniture so here are some tips:
    If you re-purpose the old sofa to another room or give it away, check the bottom of those loose-back pillows for a zipper. If it’s a well made product you can unzip the cushion back and re-fluff or replace the insides.

    The green fabric will be more durable and will stay cleaner longer, but since the new sofa is in the formal living room that may not be a big issue.

    The blue buffalo check has Marian written all over it.

    For myself, being an English/Victorian/Traditional girl I use a soft cream neutral on walls, ceilings and accessories, and since my only living room is in a wood paneling I went bold with a colorful, floral tapestry.

  44. I went bold in the library. It’s beige, but it has a lovely brown scrolly pattern on it. It’s very eye-catching. Now in the family room, they are grey-brown and boring.

  45. I loved the green, but then again my sofa is green, an antique heirloom sofa, reupholstered each generation that inherits it, i put a contemporary, easy wearing light green fabric on it, and i still love it. I use green throughout my house, its a neutral, the Lord used it on earth, all colors go with it, look outside. I have a high quality plaid sofa from the 90’s, that need reupholstering. Will likely be a neutral, not green though.

  46. We love Arhaus too and have ordered from them over the years. We recently ordered new bedroom, living and dining room pieces and I just wanted to warn you that some of the pieces took 5 months to deliver. I love what we got, but order sooner than later and be prepared to wait. We only had one delivery fee however and I even added some items to my order in the interim without an additional delivery charge since I had that outstanding item, so that was good.

  47. Very funny that I have read your blog and followed you for years and recently made a move to a new , old house and just purchased a new neutral sofa because I always loved the look of your living room. I have eyed the outer banks sofa from Arhaus for a while but I went with a cheaper version from Ashley furniture. It’s not as nice and won’t last very long but it’s 1/3 the price. I had an expensive Arhaus sofa years back and it was a waste of money ! It was not comfortable and looked messy after you got up from your seat ! I figured I’d spend less and replace it in a few years if it wears out sooner. I may be ready for a change in style and color by then. Also I have it in a formal living area that isn’t used often. That being said I always wanted a green or blue velvet sofa and I knew you would pick the the blue and white checked! No matter what you picked I know it’s going to look awesome, I love your style!Feel better soon !

  48. I was checking out the sofa on the Arhaus website and I don’t see the buffalo check as an option on that sofa. How do I order it in buffalo check?

  49. I love the check and would like to order just fabric. Does Arhaus sell fabric by the yard and can you tell me the name of the fabric? I think you said it was Check Please by Ponder Lakeland. Love your blog by the way.

  50. You can buy it from several fabric stores online. The pattern is called Check Please and the color is Lakeland.

  51. So glad you picked the blue buffalo check!! My sofa in my livingroom is the same only black, I have had it for many years and haven’t ever tired of it. I can’t wait to see the finished product in your living room!!

  52. I thought you were going for the green! I meant to comment the other day, but had iPad issues. I love your selection and can’t wait to see the finished product.
    My first sofa was a floral print on a red background. I still love the print. I have always waffled between red and blue. My current sofa is dark grey and I’m happy with it. I switch my pillows seasonally, so I can do red or blue. I would have a linen color, but kitty cats make that a no. I love the look of a neutral and the lightness.
    I’m looking forward to what you do with the green as well.
    Hope the healing is coming along.
    I love to read the comments here as I get tips from readers as well.

  53. I can’t believe I forgot to say one of the things I wanted to say…I’m drooling over a pale pink sofa. Never did I think I’d be dreaming of a pink sofa, but I am.

  54. I live the buffalo check! I’m thinking of adding it to my living room somehow! I definitely need some color!! I wish I had room for a sectional. Enjoy your new sofa.

  55. My sofa is a beautiful aniline dyed, waxed leather. It looks like an old saddle. The blue check will be beautiful but that is a lot of check even for that big, open space. Will you go with something else for the side chairs close by now?

  56. I have a Arhaus clutch that is 30 years young!! It is a slipcover. So I just throw the covers in the washer and it looks new. It is the most comfortable couch I have ever sat on !! I hope you enjoy your new couch!!

  57. I would choose the Ponder Lakeland—I love Buffalo Check as it is, and all my large pieces of furniture are solid colours; this fabric would bring a little more fun to my living room, while still fitting in nicely with my cream wing chairs. Thanks for the chance to enter.

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