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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

How to style a sofa: Top interior styling tips

Updated: Dec 1, 2023


cream sofa in neutral interior living-room

Is there anything more inviting than a well-styled sofa? Done right, they make you want to jump right in and snuggle up. In previous posts, we’ve looked at 8 ways to refresh a tired sofa, discovered how to upcycle your sofa with a creative reeded DIY project and reviewed whether Dusk sofas are a good investment. Today, I thought it’d be useful to run through some sofa styling tips - how to style a sofa to the best effect, as, let’s face it, sofas are often the largest piece of furniture in your room and can bring the whole vibe down if they aren’t looking their best.


Top tips for how to style a sofa

  • Asymmetrical cushions and throws are often more interesting to look at, and if it's too fixed and symmetrical, it can look a bit staid.

  • Don’t crowd the sofa with cushions, and I say this as someone who was previously a serial offender! As a guest, there’s nothing worse than sizing up the sofa to sit down and realising there isn't any room for your derriere so you have to perch uncomfortably on the edge in a thigh-burningly uncomfortable manner! The other option is to chuck some cushions off to sit down, which looks messy and who wants cushions all over the floor.

  • Layer up throws and cushions - this adds texture, can make the sofa more appealing to sit on and can hide any unattractive material or even stains.

Styling techniques to disguise an undesirable sofa

As mentioned, sofas can be a big financial investment, so you often have to live with a less-than-desirable settee in your living room. Don’t panic- this doesn’t mean your room's aesthetics are ruined. There are lots of simple but effective home decor hacks for how to style a sofa to hide the negatives and distract the eye with far more appealing sights!

How to style a sofa that's too large for the room.

  • A good way to balance a bulky sofa is with side/coffee tables styled with accessories to draw the eye. This is another opportunity to add colour from your chosen scheme. I recently wrote about dark green wall paint and dark green living room ideas if you need some colour palette inspo.

  • Consider painting the wall behind the same colour as the sofa to give a 'colour drench' effect and make the sofa stand out less. It's a great painting technique to add drama to a room.

How to style a sofa that is stained.

a person vacuuming their sofa

  • Depending on where the stains are, you could buy some larger cushions to hide the offending areas.

  • Another option is to invest in or hire an upholstery cleaner to remove stains from your sofa fabric if the covers are not removable.

  • If the sofa material is badly stained or needs more than a strategically placed cushion, then use stretchy slipcovers that fit over the whole sofa, and you tuck them in to appear like a new cover, like these…

How to style a sofa that is ugly.

dark room with brown velvet sofa

As we know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if your sofa has become an eyesore for you, there are lots of ways to improve the situation by emphasising other elements of your room.

  • Distract with large art above the sofa, you could go big and bold to draw the eye away from your problem sofa. Add a picture light above the art to further make it a focal point, distracting away from the sofa.

  • Add plants and flowers to catch the eye they add colour and fragrance and lift your mood as well as distract from a less-than-perfect sofa. There's a whole module on styling with flowers and foliage in my online course.

  • Place accessories on a coffee table in front of the sofa to help the distraction you could use a tray with pretty ornaments/ vases / large books etc)

  • Throws can come in a variety of styles. If you prefer maximalism, you can choose bright and colourful throws, while calming and understated throws in neutral shades can also be a good option. If you opt for neutrals, adding some texture can prevent them from appearing too washed out or bland.


A word about cushions


a chair with a round cushion in front of panelled interior wall

Who can resist a good cushion?! Although I may be biased, I believe cushions can elevate a room with their injection of colour, pattern, or texture. I love styling with linen cushions and have seen some amazing striped cushions and ones with a stripe lately that have tempted me.


Cushions come in various sizes and shapes, and you don't need to spend a lot. I've seen a lot of interesting-shaped cushions lately, many spherical ones and knotted round ones that look like a ball of wool. Homesense and TK Maxx have a great collection of cushions in-store, starting at around ten pounds. Don't forget, you can cycle cushions around from chair to chair and room to room to mix things up a bit, aka shopping your home as this home decor hack is guaranteed to save you money.

modern neutral sofa with rustic wooden stool and urn

This week, I had a chance to take advantage of some recent purchases from Facebook Marketplace, a beautiful urn vase and a lovely rustic wooden stool. These preloved items were really cost-effective and add so much character to the room. You can see how I styled them in the picture. The plinth that the urn sits on was a DIY project that I need to document as. it was so easy and used up offcuts of wood, but worked a treat.


I recommend mixing it up and plumping (excuse the pun!) for a variety of textures and patterns within the same tonal colour range to make for an interesting look rather than a show-home look.


Where next?


Click the underlined words to go straight to the relevant page!


Shopping Page - Curated shopping guides and shoppable mood boards.


DIY tutorials - Step-by-step tutorials on DIY projects for your home


Seasonal Styling - Interior styling tips and tricks to get your home looking its best, whatever the season.


Online Courses - Self-paced, affordable online courses on DIY, Home styling, upcycling and styling with flowers and foliage


Foraging - Guides to help you save money by foraging for flowers and foliage to style your home


IKEA hacks - transform basic IKEA flatpacks into bespoke-looking furniture to elevate your interiors


DIY Kitchen makeover on a budget - money-saving DIY and styling ideas


Real home tours - take a tour of a beautiful home and get inspired by reading the owner's story.


Home organisation - tips and tricks for organising your home with minimum fuss & maximum impact.


DIY tips and tricks - Advice to save you time and money and reduce the chance of mistakes on your DIY projects.


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