In my residential interior design business in
, I get to be around a lot of fabric and I get to sit on a lot of sofas. What I've learned over the years is that the best fabric for a sofa is a soft, neutral fabric in a fairly solid color with a little texture to it. Let me show you some swatches and you’ll see what I mean: Raleigh
most of these fabrics are from F. Schumacher
These are just a start. There are many gorgeous textured neutral options and most stores carry a large selection, including buttery soft aniline dyed leathers. But of course you want your sofa to be special and that's what welting and trim are all about. See this little snip of a pillow I just showed you above :
The trim on this is called welting, and this welting has been done in the same fabric as the body of the cushion (it's also called self welting). But you can ask for contrasting welting on your sofa--oh, the universe opens right up and starts singing at this point because now you're starting to express yourself. Here's a chair cushion (not neutral, but chairs don't have to be neutral):
Isn't this a fab look? It's done in a menswear suiting sort of fabric--houndstooth. Masculine yet inviting. This chair has contrast welting, which gives a crisp outline. And do you see the subtle mix of color and pattern achieved with the throw? This piece would be comfortable in any room, any style. But I digress.
Now I want to be sure you know that NEUTRAL does not mean BORING. Transitional design is never boring, because it's not a one-note kind of look. You will always be able to dress up a neutral sofa, regardless of how your taste may change or what colors you want to bring into a room--that's the point of neutral choices on big pieces. Pillows and throws are available to do your bidding and transform the look in seconds.
If you already have a sofa that you want to bring into the transitional world, consider the beloved slipcover. If you don't love slipcovers, I'm betting it's because you haven't seen them done right. Tight and fitted with zippers out of sight. Find yourself a seamstress who does a beautiful slipcover and treat her well. A few years ago I wanted to bring some red into a room with a camel toned sofa so I had my slipcover lady cover the seat cushions (just the seat cushions) with a vintage red chenille from Kravet. The welting on those new red cushions was done in the original camel fabric. The result was an updated look with a shot of color that can be whipped off whenever the mood strikes. Every piece on the sofa doesn't have to be the same, but the slipcover leaves you with options for down the road. Let me find a picture of that very sofa for you...
Here it is. I could make this sofa look more transitional with a leather accent pillow and a solid, nubby throw.
This is a stylish sofa for anyone who doesn't want just any old sofa. It's like a nest!
American Leather makes wonderful seating, now including fabric. But their leather pieces are still among my favorites. This one, called Carson, is a handsome hunk of man. I'm told it's a great sofa for people with back problems. Sit in it and see. Isn't that color divine? Neutral, but not boring.
Ethan Allen's Bryant. Imagine this with one of those fabrics that I've shown. Yum!
Ballard Design's Manchester. Clean lines, cushy back.