The 2-Minute Trick to “Reupholstering” Your Sofa

updated May 3, 2019
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Like color, pattern can be one of those anxiety-provoking design elements for the novice decorator. You think: “How can I tell if these prints go together?” “What if I’m using too many patterns?” “What if I get sick of them a month from now?” To help ease our pattern-phobic thoughts, we asked Rebecca Atwood, author of the new book Living with Pattern and the Brooklyn-based designer behind these swoon-worthy textiles, for her low-risk, high-reward approach to decorating with prints. What we got was so much better than expected: A two-minute trick for using a patterned throw, quilt or rug to “reupholster” a couch. It’s pretty, inexpensive—and completely reversible.

4 Ways to Work a Patterned Throw

Start with a large patterned throw blanket, a quilt or a thin woven rug, then use the guide below from Living With Pattern to ease your way into the wonderful world of prints. Begin your journey with the gateway draped-over-the-arm technique, and soon you might find yourself tucking your entire couch into a makeshift slipcover. “This is a great way to get the look of an upholstered patterned piece without the commitment or expense,” Rebecca says. Say hello to your brand-new couch.

The Over-the-Arm Drape

If you just want to dip your toes into the pool of pattern, try draping a printed throw blanket over the arm of your sofa. This is one of the most common ways to style a throw, and while it adds a pop of pattern, it doesn’t threaten to overwhelm the room.

The Bottom-Cushion Wrap-Up

Covering the seat cushions of a sofa is a subtle way to introduce print—not to mention, hide an old couch’s signs of age. To keep the throw in place, wrap it all the way around the cushion, folding the fabric under at both ends, and tucking any excess into the back of the couch.

The Top-Cushion Tuck

Similar to wrapping the bottom cushions, but with slightly more visual impact, enveloping the top portion of your sofa in a patterned throw can be surprisingly transformative.

The Insta-Slipcover Method

Combine options 2 and 3 for the most transformative effect yet. Wrap one large blanket around both the top and bottom cushions. Or choose two textiles, one for the top and one for the bottom, which lets you mix and match patterns (check out the first image to see how its done). Rebecca’s advice: “Keep the size and style of your sofa in mind. A tailored sofa will be easiest to style as you can tuck the throw cleanly.”

Have fun with it

Go ahead, pair a classic arm-drape with a top-cushion-tuck. Then, pile on the printed pillows.

Don’t want the pattern party to end? Grab a copy of Rebecca’s Living with Pattern (Clarkson Potter) for more unexpected ways to bring prints home.