Real Life Solutions: Making a Sectional More Stylish

I've always thought of sectionals as the minivan of the living room— something you resign yourself to for convenience and comfort's sake, not because you've fallen for the striking design. However, I've heard it said that, as with its wheeled counterpart, once you go sectional, you never go back. But how do you do it in style?

Sectionals can be described as a lot of things— comfortable, plush, accommodating— but "easy to work with" is usually not on the list. Last year I experienced this first hand after hauling home a mammoth craigslist sectional. Friends, there are some wonderfully sleek and stylish models on the market today, but this dreamily lounge-able beast was not one of them.

Frankly, it was pretty depressing to look at, as you can see:

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However, a little styling went a long way. I described the $50 room makeover in my Before & After: Den Makeover On an Extreme Budget post, but what I didn't mention was the influence the mammoth sectional had on the design decisions. I learned a few helpful tips along the way....

First off, I decided to take a little of my own advice: "don't ignore the elephant in the room." I think a lot of us try to block out the ugly spots rather than try to tie them in. I see it all the time in my design work with clients, and I fall victim to it in my own imperfect home more often than I like to admit. If a huge garage is the first thing you see from the street, don't pretend it's not there. Give it some curb appeal, plant some bushes and flowers around it to tie it in to the rest of your home, but don't just ignore it. When it came to my sectional, I tried to do this first of all by creating contrast. It's a neutral sofa, but even so, it's so big that it was never going to simply recede into the background. Plus, a big beige sofa in a beige room with beige wall to wall carpet is just about the worst kind of blah. So, I used left over paint to create a two tone wall, setting the beige upholstery off with a dark navy blue.

Next, I accessorized. Throw pillows, texture, art, and area rugs will solve about 99% of all design dilemmas. Navy blue and white printed pillows tied the sofa into the wall colors, but it was still not enough to make the room feel comfortable. It looked a little contrived, so I sought to bring in a little texture.

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Textural variety is important, especially when dealing with something like a microfiber giant. Microfiber can look cheesy and run down pretty easily. Since I wanted to retain a comfortable and casual vibe in the room without it looking totally formless, I chose a few chunky knit throws which gave the whole sofa the vibe that I was going for. I also added some pillows in a rougher, nubby linen. Then, to give the room a little more form, I added in a few black accents collected from around our house. The DIY block print rug was the final factor. Rugs are great anchors, and one with a bold pattern will do wonders in tying together disparate furnishings and shifting the focus away from an especially bulky piece of furniture. I am still working on the art and window treatment parts of the room, but the extra textiles worked wonders in making the big sofa feel like a integral part of the room rather than an alarming intruder.

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What tricks have you found helpful in tying your big sectional into the room?

Images: Leah Moss

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