How to Figure Out Room Colors with a Colorful Sofa

Dear Laurel,

Here’s my dilemma which I’m hoping you might discuss in a blog post.

The topic is How to put together room colors when working with a colorful sofa.


One Kings Lane Brooke 3-seat sofa in Peacock velvetIn my case, it’s actually the Brooke Sofa on One King’s Lane in peacock velvet.

For some reason, I’ve become obsessed with that color. But, I’m stumped where to go from there with the other room colors.


Would you consider discussing the pros and cons of selecting a bold color for a sofa?


For context, it’s time to retire my current sofa, which is slipcovered in a neutral sand-colored linen fabric.

I’m kind of sick of it. And, I truly feel ready for a big change.  However, this is such a departure from anything I’ve ever had, that I don’t know where to begin.

Thank you for considering my question. I appreciate your time.

All the best,



Thanks Debra. Actually, there is a post from about 2.5 years ago that talks about a bright red sofa and how to work with it. And, I explored three ways to work with it. As I recall, you guys enjoyed it a lot.


But, here’s the thing. I chose three ways, but it could easily have been 300 ways if I wanted to spend a year working on coming up with that many possibilities.


Figuring out our room colors; the color palette of our rooms is one of the most difficult parts of decorating. I get it. We make ourselves crazy for fear of making a mistake.

That is why if you can figure out how to use picmonkey (there’s a tutorial here), you will have a wonderful tool at your disposal for visualizing how your color scheme will work together.

And, that is also the basis for the Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection.



The curated Laurel Home paint collection consists of these 144 Benjamin Moore paint colors. And, there are 40 boards where I put the colors into palettes. All together, it took me an entire year to put the two part collection together.


But, getting back to how to figure out room colors with a colorful sofa, here is what I have always done when I get stuck.


I look for inspiration.

We recently talked about monochromatic color palettes and analogous color palettes. And, if you go to those links, you’ll find that some are pale, some dark and some are quite colorful.

Some designers only work one way. For instance some decorators love only pale muted rooms, or earth toned interiors. And, some love to work with highly saturated colors.

And, there are many designers in the US who love to work with saturated colors; like, Miles Redd and Katie Ridder, Sheila Bridges and Jeffrey Bilhuber for example

And, remember this post about Tony Duquette. His jewel-toned rooms are legendary in the world of interior design.


However, whenever I think of lots of color in interiors, the designers who frequently use saturated room colors. Well, we have to swim across the pond.


The British designers.

But, here’s the thing when it comes to English tastes in color and American tastes in color. They are as different as chalk and cheese.

Or, rather it’s identical to how most Americans feel about marmite.

You know that concoction the English love to spread on toast. Except that it looks like axle grease? They love it. We don’t have the foggiest why they would enjoy this barf-flavored substance.  Apparently, you have to be breast fed marmite in order to enjoy it; if “enjoy” is the word.


Actually, I fear that I’m about to be shat on from a dizzying height.


So, I will just say that my wasband was rather fond of marmite. Or, rather veggie-mite– a slightly milder version. And, since we always had some on hand in the fridge, I would gingerly venture to have a little on occasion.

Admittedly, after the initial shock wore off, it began to grow on me. A little.

Well, I feel the similarly about how the Brits use color in their interiors.

Here, let me show you what I’m talking about.


Gavin Houghton - English color scheme living room

This is from the home of the illustrious British designer Gavin Houghton. You see, no American in their right mind would put the print from the draperies next to the print on the chair. And, then the print on the lampshade and the design on the base. All on top of each other.


But, in England, this is considered to be a delicious way to decorate; just the same as marmite.


And, then there are the colors. It would appear that anything goes. And, apparently bright mustard yellow is a neutral. Fine, it’s pretty Gray in the UK. I’ll give them that.


Gavin Houghton living room yellow green walls

Now, I found what I believe to be an earlier iteration of the same space. I prefer this version. In fact, I love the wall color! - Gavin Houghton - colorful rooms And, how sublime is this vignette with that exquisite fireplace mantel from Jamb.

I also featured Jamb mantels in this post.


Gavin Houghton - green on green living room vignette - colorful rooms

I did not know until today that this very popular vignette is also Gavin Houghton’s work. The other side of the room features bright yellow draperies.


_methode_sundaytimes_Gavin Houghton interior - colorful rooms


Gavin Houghton - vignette colorful rooms - green walls

See? An American would never put that pillow on this chair, in front of that bright green wall color. For us, it’s like eating oysters topped with BCP (banana cream pie). Both are lovely; just not together.


But, who am I to say?


And, in the scheme of things, I am truly not bothered by this. However, I know that some people are. In fact, I’m quite sure there are readers at this very moment having an apoplectic fit because the lamp shade is crooked. That is, unless it’s meant to be like that.

Apparently, they do some things differently over there. But, they are the most charmingly kind folks, I have found. I still have the fondest memories of my trip to England.


Max Rollitt British living room unique color scheme

This is from the website of the wonderful furniture maker and antique collector, Max Rollitt. Remember? He’s the one who created Ben Pentreath’s fabulous yellow sofa.

Speaking of Ben. Remember when I cracked his paint color code? (or, at least tried to)


Still, most Americans are going to be confused by this room.


I kind of love it in a masochistic kind of way. ;] It hurts a little. But, it’s a good kind of hurt. Actually, I genuinely love the wall color and ALL of the art. Love, love, love!


Max Rollit - Colorful rooms - British StyleAnother Max Rollit space.

What do we think?

Somebody is having fun with us, I think.


@tom_mannion_photographer @houseandgardenuk - upholstered sofas furnishings @max_rollitt

@tom_mannion_photographer @houseandgardenuk – @max_rollitt – all on instagram

One last one for Max Rollitt. This is not a common color scheme in the states. But, I think that most of us Yankees would find this to be quite a jolly room.


In my internet travels, I found another British Designer with some interesting work.


She uses very little pattern. But, there is often, the same kind of quirky color palette in her room colors.

Her name is Beata Heuman

This is Beata’s beautiful instagram account.


beata_heuman_paddington_pied_a_terre - colorful rooms

I don’t know why. But, I don’t mind this. And, actually, I bet these colors are wonderful at night. Plus I like the mix of cool and warm.


And, what a cool TV concealment. Recognize Cole & Sons wallpaper?


beata_heuman_west_london_townhouse_colorful rooms - pink walls

What do you guys think of this space?


beata_heuman_west_london_townhouse_colorful rooms

I do love this view in another one of Beata’s lovely spaces.




beata_heuman - colorful living room design

Love this colorful living room that Beata did.


beata_heuman_sussex_cottage_colorful rooms - dining room

And, one last colorful Beata Heuman interior with interesting room colors.



The lesson could be that we need to learn from our British friends how to just go with the flow more.


Besides, I do think it was wrong of us to dump their tea into Boston harbor. Pardon me. I mean harbour. That was quite a childish thing to do. Don’t you think?

Fine. The tax issue was a little draconian. But, I guess what’s done is done.


Well, Laurel. Are you going to get to the peacock colored sofa?


Yes, right now.

One reason I decided to do this post is that I just happened to have done a Laurel Home Palette Collection board with a teal sofa. I made this in the fall of 2016.


galapagos turquoise living room - saturated teal wall colors
galapagos turquoise 2057-20
galapagos turquoise 2057-20

galapagos turquoise living room palette

Here is the palette I made for the Galapagos Turquoise  board.

But, there are also other palette families that can be mixed with these colors.

For example.

Remember this board from the other day?


ballet white with raphael sandberg wallpaper dark blue

It’s the board that uses ballet white as the paint trim. Oh, by the way. Sorry, some of you wanted to know that wallpaper. That is Raphael by Sandberg.


raphael by Sandberg in dark blue wallpaper

You can purchase the Raphael by Sandberg wallpaper here, if interested.


And, you can see it in another color way in this wonderful bathroom.

And, more of the bathroom with the Sandberg wallpaper here.


Well, Laurel, is there anything else you can do besides teal walls with a teal sofa?


Sure, you can do fuchsia walls, if you like. Or, orange, or lime green.


Well, what if I want a teal sofa but I don’t want a deeply saturated wall color? Is it possible to do a pale wall.


I knew you were going to ask that. So, I came prepared. :]

But, first a little background.

Some of you may recall that early in December 2018, I attended a luncheon and interview with Charlotte Moss in Manhattan.

Before the event started while we were chatting, the most darling young woman came running up to me with her husband. I mean she was absolutely gushing and fan girling all over me. It always tickles me because I just see myself as this aging former housewife from Westchester County NY.


Well, let me tell you… It should’ve been me fan girling and gushing all over HER. This girl is the real deal. Super talented. The freshest newest trad out there.


And, I’m so happy to have an opportunity to share her instagram and website with you.  Her name is Alisa Bovina

Her instagram handle is @aglassofbovino (please be sure to follow her)

And her website is A Glass of Bovino

So, in answer to your question. Yes, absolutely. You can do a pale or even a white wall with a deeply saturated sofa and other furnishings. But, like everything else it needs to be balanced out with architectural elements and art.

And, some other strong elements in the space.

via @aglassofbovino on instagram - forest green anthropologie sofa
Alisa did this spectacular living room for the One Room Challenge last year. And, she’s done other rooms, as well. I love all of them. Just gorgeous. That bathroom! I’d hire her in a nano-second.  By the way, yes the trim is from Metrie.


Oh, and the sofa. It’s not quite teal, but almost.



Anthropologie Chesterfield Sofa in Forest Green Velvet

Well, this classic Chesterfield is from Anthropologie. It’s available in numerous colorways. And, there’s also a three-seat version.


Anthropologie teal sofa

I also love this teal velvet sofa by Anthropologie

And, I have a couple more images to share with you that I found on One Kings Lane. They are currently have a wonderful 20% off sale on their beautiful upholstery. And so, is Serena & Lily. For more of my favorites, you can go to the HOT SALES page. Or, go directly to the websites.



Another favorite of mine is this pretty blue-gray sectional by Rachel Halvorson


Oh, my. May I be excused?:]


Hope this post was helpful in terms of working with more saturated room colors.

You might also enjoy another favorite post from a year ago about 25 colorful home decor vignettes. These are always so good to read at this time when we long for spring to arrive!



PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES


Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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