The Life of One Sofa
Always buy that piece of furniture that speaks to your heart, no matter how unusual it seems.
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I'm a proponent of going with your gut feeling. This works with decorating as well as other areas of life. I think too often we make decorating difficult because we just can't make a decision about something — a patterned sofa, a wallpaper or a bedspread — because we don't immediately know what is going to go with it.
For instance, my partner Matt Fox and I have been shuffling this one particular sofa around for years, and I've come to discover that it looks marvelous in all sorts of rooms.
It all started about 10 years ago when Matt and I found this beautiful floral sofa in a specialty interior design shop in our area. It was one of those things that you just fall in love with because it's dramatic and colorful, something you would never expect to like, but it just catches your attention, and you can't walk away.
If this happens to you ... buy, buy, buy! Well, we paid much more than we wanted to (isn't that always the case?), but it looked great in this apartment we decorated with warm beige walls and sprayed-on gold stars. We used the gold as accents around the room in brass light fixtures and brass bookends, and we pulled some of the unusual teal and salmon tones out of the fabric for side-chair slipcovers and accessory pillows. The entire look was fabulous, and the sofa worked in that room for about three years.
Then the people moved. This time we decorated around that beautiful sofa with a more masculine, men's-club feeling for the backgrounds, and that sofa stood proudly against the crackly, ash-colored walls we added. Its floral pattern became the one soft element in the room; it was surrounded by a leather train-station bench and antique sports equipment.
You know, that sofa ended up being the perfect size for ready-made slipcovers, and we purchased a creamy-colored one to make over the room for spring. By simply lightening the draperies, adding that slipcover and bringing in spring-patterned pillows, the entire room was transformed. Yet, the comfy sofa we so loved was still there in the room. Then, I guess it was about six years later, in an effort to change the function of the room, the sofa was replaced with two comfortable reading chairs and a desk and bookcases. At that time, the sofa was given to a friend.
It now sits across from a stone fireplace in a cathedral-ceilinged room with antler chandeliers. A moose head stares down at it and a leather chair is its companion. The walls are even darker than in the last room, and "our" sofa stands out beautifully against them. The pillows are now brown velvet, but the area rug boasts the softer salmon and teal used in years gone by.
What have we learned? Well, I learned to always buy that piece that speaks to your heart, no matter how unusual it seems. If it makes you smile to look at it, and be around it, isn't that all that matters?
Through the years I've learned that if you love it enough, you can make it work anywhere. I've also learned to buy quality. That sofa is on its second family and I think it might even be handed down to a third. It was worth every penny spent.
So, that's just a little story about a sofa that taught me a lot about decision-making. When it comes to decorating, let your heart decide. On all other decisions ... I have no comment!
Shari Hiller writes this column with Matt Fox. They also co-host the Home & Garden Television show Room by Room.
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