Recently I had two different friends come to me in search of a new sofa. They needed just the right sofa for a ‘grown-up’ space that would look stylish and stand the test of time. In both cases, however, they had not yet chosen a rug. Bare floor, and nothing to indicate style, or colour. No wonder they were stuck and needed help! They weren’t starting from the beginning. Picking a sofa and fabric for my clients is definitely not the starting point when I create a space, but having a comfortable place to sit lurks high on most people’s wish list.  It is understandable to want to buy the sofa first, but I’m here to tell you it is a mistake! 

New beginnings are exciting but designing a room with nothing to go on can be daunting. I see many homeowners in a showroom looking like deer in the headlights stunned by the myriad of choices and not knowing where to look first.

Many just retreat to a familiar look or a ‘safe’ selection and end up with an uninspired result.

I have great news for you. Selecting furniture is not as difficult as it seems once you have a plan, but you have to know where to look (more on that in a coming post so stay tuned). With so many options available and so many decisions to make, you really need to have a plan or a have settled on a vision. 

There are several ways we approach an empty room so let’s look at each of those.

Three options:

  1. Be inspired (use an inspiration image). We often start this way with our clients but diverge from the image once we get a strong feel for what look we are going for. The inspiration image just gives us clues to what the homeowner’s style and taste is. It gives direction about style and colour and can really help launch the process.
  2. Start with an area rug. If you have absolutely nothing to go on, picking a rug will set the whole thing in motion. The rug will dictate style, and introduce a colour palette and from there you can select everything else to work with that.
  3. Start with artwork. A piece of art or a gallery wall can tell us everything we need to know about the homeowner’s preferred style and colour palette. A wall of sparse gestural line drawings, for example, would set us off on a design journey very different than an oversized piece of modern art.

Option 1: Use an Inspiration Image

A photo like this tells the whole story. If a homeowner were to show us an image like this we would see that they prefer an up-to-the minute aesthetic. Solid colours hitting warm and cool notes balance clean simple lines giving a youthful and hip look. Fresh is the order of the day. If this is your ideal look, then we may suggest a modern sofa with character like this one. 

Inspiration Source

If you were starting with a photo like this (see below) then a complex and collected room would be the result. We would look through your collected treasures (both art and furniture pieces) to provide direction on style and colour palette. Antique markets, and flea market finds can add a great note of eclecticism while saving the budget. Then for a sofa, we would recommend something that is classic with a soft leather and warm toned colour. 

Inspiration Source

Or maybe you love a layered and collected look. There is a sofa for that…

Inspiration Source

…or modern glamour and elegance

design advice interior decor help inspiring homes

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design advice interior decor help inspiring homes

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If you’re looking at these spaces and thinking Yes, this is what I love, then we would recommend sofas like the ones below. Now, keep in mind, we would show you many sofa options. See how both these sofas perfectly suit a modern, elegant space but are completely different?

I would have to say that if you prefer neutrals, solid colours, or monochromatic rooms, collecting inspiration images will be your best bet. You will begin to see shapes and furniture styles that will help understand and define your style. All this will demystify the sofa selection process because your collected inspiration will be your guide. 

design advice interior decor help inspiring homes

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Here’s another example of a neutral room that is defined by the architecture of the room and reinforced by the furniture and furnishings. If this look suits you then images are going to really help guide you.

design advice interior decor help inspiring homes

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design advice interior decor help inspiring homes

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So, to sum up, look at the images you collect to help you decide what you like – and what you don’t like. Many people don’t know what decorating styles they like. By looking at images online, or in your favourite magazine, you can start to see what the rooms have in common. The furniture pieces may be more traditional in style, or modern. Look for common things like colours, furniture styles, patterns that appeal to you. Try to decipher if the rooms are layered and luxurious, or spare and minimal. All of these are clues to what your style is.

If you are really struggling, a consultation with a designer can be a great investment and help you hone in on some repeating features and a style you like. 

Stay tuned for my next post where I dive into Option 2: Area Rugs!

P.S. I’m on Pinterest and created a board special for this series. To see all these images and more, click below: