Ideas to Change the Look of a Couch

A couch strongly influences the style and mood of the entire room because it’s the largest seating piece and often the most expensive. To update a seating space, it makes sense to begin with the couch. Some options are relatively simple and inexpensive and others more complicated and costly. Changes could be permanent or seasonal, but in either case it is important to assess the impact on other furnishings in the room. Modifying the couch itself or its surroundings changes the perception of the space.

Major Redo: Modify the Shape

Man lying on a couch.

If you want a major change in the look of the couch, work with an upholsterer to raise or lower the couch back, roll or straighten the shape of the arms, change a straight back into a cushioned back and add to or reduce the number of seating cushions.

Switch Up the Details

If you like the fabric but want a different style, remove button tufting to create a less formal look; add nailhead trim to give a luxurious feel; or add, remove or change a skirt. A tailored skirt evokes formality, a ruffled skirt adds a casual vibe, and no skirt at all looks sleek and sophisticated. Replace a low, bun-shaped foot with a tapered, square foot for a more contemporary look.

Change Fabric for a Whole New Mood

Sew, buy or have made a slipcover to fit over the existing upholstery to inexpensively change a couch’s fabric or have it reupholstered if that's affordable. Make a design statement by covering just the seat cushions of the couch in a new fabric. The result depends on the style of the fabric -- a whimsical flower print looks informal, silky velvet exudes elegance. On a neutral-toned couch oversize back cushions in a large-scale pattern update the style and add flair. A bed sheet or a colorful blanket tucked into the frame of a vintage couch and also covering the cushions provides a fresh and appealing new look while protecting the underlying upholstery and hiding unsightly wear and tear.

Punch It Up With Accessories

Throw pillows quickly and inexpensively change or emphasize the color scheme in a space and add punch to a blah neutral couch. Switching pillow collections for different seasons is a clever device to ward off staleness in a well-used conversation space. Include a bit of soft texture with a colorful throw to produce a warm, inviting atmosphere.

Create a Different Setting

If your couch is large and dark, control its dominating effect by dealing with the surroundings. Choose chairs in a style that is not bulky yet complements the couch and cover them in light-colored fabrics. Paint the walls a rich medium tone, such as gray or tan, to cut down on the contrast between walls and couch. In place of a wood coffee table, pick fabric-covered ottomans in a light color or use a glass-topped coffee table with a light accent rug beneath it to balance the deeper tone of the couch. Throw pillows in light, colorful patterns or solids enliven a dark couch and moderate the effect of its dark tone. Repeat the couch color in art or photography on the wall or in other small accessories to help relate it to rest of the space.

About the Author

Melanie Aves has more than 30 years writing experience. Aves coauthored four interior design color books, authored a book on Newport Beach, California, wrote newspaper features and currently writes monthly magazine features. She holds a Master of Arts degree, a certificate in interior design, and completed post-graduate studies in journalism.