Ever feel like most sofas look the same? You’re not alone. In fact, while fabric and leather are still among the top upholstery choices for a sofa, there’s an unexpected third contender that’s been popular in recent years: velvet. Now, velvet of yesteryear was notoriously fussy – certainly not something you’d want to lounge or (gasp) snack on. But modern velvet upholstery is a viable option for a busy household – and a velvet sofa might just be the much-needed shot of style your living room is lacking.
It’s age-old advice (and advice I’ve given plenty of times myself): when you’re shopping for big-ticket items like a sofa, you should stick with a neutral color. The logic here is sound: you want your big purchases to last through a few remodels; certainly longer than it takes you to decide you want to repaint. But the drawback is that many sofas are, consequently, quite bland and boring to look at. The good news? Even in neutral colors, velvet sofas are a bit more eye catching, with a lovely sheen and texture that a plain polyester simply won’t offer.
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That said, where velvet sofas really shine is in the rainbow of colors you have to choose from. Choosing a colorful sofa is a break from convention to be sure, but that’s what people like about it. After years of stark white, gray, or greige interiors, an intense pop of color is just what most decorators are longing for. From vivid sapphire blues to dusky rose tones, velvet sofas are a great way to shake up the look and feel of your living room in a major way. Just be aware that this swap means your sofa will no longer be a canvas for other elements (like your throw pillows), but the star of the show – which may mean you need to take a little more care decorating around it.
I think we tend to think of velvet as being old fashioned – royal or even gothic; something opulent that’s necessarily also ornate. But the truth is, velvet sofas come in a huge range of styles, from the ornate antiques you’re probably imagining all the way up to sleek, streamlined, contemporary pieces that won’t feel out of place with a more minimal modern decor. In fact, you can even find some pretty funky, avant-garde designs, too – with asymmetrical backs or distinctive shapes that stand out starkly from the crowd of typical transitional beige sofas.
Colorful velvet sofas are meant to be distinctive and eye-catching, so it’s no surprise that many of them draw from iconic midcentury designs. Shapely chaises with simple but distinctive detailing (like pillow armrests, patterned seams, or midcentury legs) are the most common. I’m a particular fan of this look; if you’re doing a big midcentury remodel anyway, a velvet sofa makes a perfect anchor for the style. Real midcentury living rooms were often pretty heavy on the woodwork (and could be quite dark and oppressive as a result), but contemporary takes on the style are much lighter, brighter, and more concentrated in color – which means a good sofa can serve as the base for your broader color scheme.
Like a more traditional look? Velvet sofas have you covered on that front, too. Many sport traditional features like button tufting, nailhead finishing, and decorative feet, which evoke that lush, antique style. Better still, they come in a range of colors from muted charcoal and cream to vivid emerald. You can use these pieces either to play it straight with a very formal, sophisticated, traditional look – or to put a twist on a more contemporary style. Personally? I love using antiques to infuse a modern look with a little chic, elegant touch. The beauty of these sofas is that they can really skew either way, depending on how you dress them up.
Care and Cleaning
Now, aren’t velvet sofas WAY more trouble to care for? The answer is, not as much as you think. Even the best velvet will “crush” or rumple with heavy use, but not in a way that permanently ruins the fabric. You’ll need to treat your sofa cushions a bit more like pillows and fluff, flip, and rotate them on a semi-regular basis. Other than that, care is pretty much the same as other fabrics: vacuuming, steaming, and spot-cleaning will keep your sofa looking good for longer. The real main concern with velvet is that it’s more prone to fading – a problem when the bright color is part of their appeal. Try to keep your cushions out of direct daylight. If only part of your sofa gets a lot of light, make sure to rotate cushions so they get even exposure, to keep them looking bright (equally) for longer.
If you’re gearing up for a big living room remodel but are finding yourself yawning at most of the sofa options out there, take a peek at some velvet-upholstered options. A daring centerpiece is sure to breathe new life into your space.