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Design Dilemma: How to Decorate Around a Brown Leather Sofa

I was talking to a good friend yesterday and she was telling me about a decorating dilemma that she is facing. She and her husband are in the midst of a major home renovation where they are completely updating their historic Chicago home. My friend’s husband, while they were out furniture shopping, completely fell in love with a large chocolate-brown leather sectional sofa and purchased it for their new living room. This was not my friend’s first choice, but like all couples, we have to compromise when decorating, and sadly, we don’t always get our way!

It is a beautiful sofa however–the leather is sumptuous and the cushions are all down-filled. The good thing about leather furniture is that it is comfortable, easy to clean, hides stains, and is family friendly. Brown is also a neutral, so it works with just about any color.

My Advice—Go Light!

My friend is worried that her living room is going to look like a man-cave and she is wondering how she can avoid that look. My advice would be to go light with everything else in the room–light walls, light rug, light pillows and throw cushions, light-colored built-ins and window treatments.

I have pulled some images of rooms with brown sofas that employ this technique and the room does not feel so weighed down by the heavy sofa.

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In the photo above, the overall feel of the room is anything but heavy and dark. The walls are light, the built-ins are white, the rug is a light jute, the coffee table is white,the upholstered chair and pillows are soft and feminine.

Interior God

This is a very neutral room that feels light and feminine, despite the dark sectional.

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The white walls,light rug, and light upholstered chair really lighten up this space.

House Tweaking

In the room above, the fluffy white shag rug with the Moroccan design is a great contrast to the leather sofa. The white sheepskin rug and white throw blanket over the sofa adds texture, lightness, and layers—and obscures some of the leather. The black and white chevron patterned poufs help to draw attention away from the sofa.

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That great sunburst mirror above the sofa, and the striped rug help to distract the eye from the brown sofa. The pops of yellows and blues brighten and feminize the space.

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Home Polish

The blue and purple pillows break up all the dark leather in the above space.

Studio McGee

In the pretty photo above, the feel of the room is almost coastal. The white kitchen and light surroundings make the leather sofa recede into the space.

Williams Sonoma Home

I think metallics can add some contrast and interest against the brown leather. Above, the brass floor lamp and the gold coffee table provide a nice distraction and add elegance.

Jana Bek Design
Country Living
Country Living

In the photo above, a console table is placed behind the sofa which helps to hide it a bit.

Country Living

If the above rooms seem too light for you–you can embrace color instead. 

Blue walls works well with brown leather as you will see in the photos below.

Better Homes and Gardens

The painted blue hutch compliments the brown leather very nicely. The light rug and striped ottoman keep the room from being too dark.

Cory Connor Designs

In the library above, the blue painted bookshelves and window seat look beautiful with the brown leather and the pops of orange distract you from the sofa. The oversized metallic orb light fixture draws your eyes upward and away from the seating.

Dering Hall
West Elm
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West Elm

It can be a challenge to work with a large brown sofa but there are so many good options when decorating around it. I hope this gives my friend some ideas. I look forward to seeing what she does!

If you are facing a design dilemma in your own home that you would like me to try to help you with, please contact me and I will do my best to help!

header image from Freedom Furniture

12 thoughts on “Design Dilemma: How to Decorate Around a Brown Leather Sofa

  1. Great advice. I had a similar dilemma…I adopted a beautiful tufted leather camelback sofa that came with my husband when we got married. The style I loved; the color not so no much. I learned to embrace it instead of fight it. I went neutral decorating with ivory for the rest of the upholstered furniture in the room. It works! I love the space and really love the sofa. And I’m actually quite surprised at how many compliments the sofa!

    Jen- if your reading this…don’t give up hope!


  2. Great post! I’m having that dilemma now with my basement. We have 2 brown leather sofas and getting ready to paint the entire area, definitely going light especially because it’s in a basement and they tend to generally be dark and the floors are dark. Thanks again

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great advice! We have a second hand brown leather sofa and dark floorboards, dying to get a new light colour rug and lighten up the space with some other ‘lighter’ feeling furniture and decor.


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