Colour Helps Play Down Or Show Off a Disparate Item in a Room

Hey Sam, Is it weird to paint a wall the same colour as a couch? You posted a pic on Instagram of a console that was painted the same colour as the wall and said this is a good idea for small spaces because it makes [the cabinet] recede into the wall. I've inherited a navy blue sofa which feels a wee bit too big for my place. As comfortable as it is, I'd like it to do a disappearing act. If I paint the walls blue, will the couch work better? Seems like a bold move, but I think I'd actually like navy walls.

Any suggestions of furniture to work with the navy are welcome.

Thanks! Sari Dear Sari, Yep! The painting trick works the same way a chameleon will disappear on a cactus.

In my early styling days I learned that if you want a piece of furniture to appear smaller, paint it the same colour as the walls. In fact, when I was on still photography or television shoots, if a piece had too much presence, I would paint it the same colour as the walls, cabinets or furniture.

This works because you unify all the elements in the room. Oh, and when I say "a piece" I could be talking about anything from walls and side tables, to odd cabinets and chair legs.

I've painted hundreds of wood and ceramic lamps of different heights and shapes black to make them look like a pair; or white, to make them camouflage into the wall. Most recently, I spray painted the lid of a red cookie jar in grey because it was standing out too much. Sounds bananas, but it works.

The theory also works in reverse, if you want something to stand out, then paint or upholster it in a brighter and bolder colour or pattern. For example, if you have a dark brown fauxleather ottoman that feels too small next to your sofa, upholster it in a big blue and white stripe and it will instantly have more presence.

As for your sofa, as soon as I saw the photo (at left) from West Elm, I thought of you. It shows you that by painting the wall and sofa in the same colour, you create harmony in a room. And, though it doesn't look like it, this is a super small space. Let me break it down for you (with prices, cos you'll want to know!). Though this mid-century inspired sofa has small-scale proportions - thin arms and dainty legs that make the sofa appear to float - if the walls were white, the sofa would stand out. Don't get me wrong, there are times when you want a piece to make a statement.

The marble-topped pedestal coffee table is small and round, making it easy to maneouvre around, and is a nice counterpoint to the sofa's square lines. The narrow wood industrial console table offers storage and a spot to display pretty things. Instead of a floor lamp, to save on floor space the designers used a gooseneck sconce. And, the generously used turquoise is the only vibrant colour in the room. The console, coffee table, sofa legs and leather swivel chair are neutral tones of gold and brown. No one piece stands out.

When pulling together your living room, think of your furniture and accessories as making statements of equal strength. If your sofa really is too large, however, upholstering it in a lighter colour or painting the walls isn't going to make a difference and you'll need a new sofa. However, if the issue is just the colour, then paint away (and steal all the tips and tricks in this photo) to make your feel balanced and proportioned.

Happy decorating!

Sam Send your small-space question to

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