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Sofa Styling

One Sofa, Four Ways

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As a stylist your job is to give objects and spaces a personality – to create a context that highlights the piece and makes it, well, more interesting and beautiful. We’ve done this ‘1-object-4-ways’ before (One Bed Four Ways, One Bookshelf Four Ways, One Dresser Four Ways, One Credenza Four Ways) and for the book we shot ‘One Sofa Four Ways’.

Now, I typically wouldn’t leak such golden material out into the world but Redbook already did (thank you!) so I get to repost it. They only ran 3 of the ways because of their page space, but I’ll give you a sneak peek into the fourth now (and then obviously buy the book, too, won’t ya?).

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That’s me . . . showing you what the number four looks like with my hand. I didn’t plan on this shot so I wasn’t exactly wearing a cute outfit and hair and makeup wasn’t done, but we snapped the photo and now it’s in the book. Remember when I didn’t have an extra 30 pounds on the front of my body?

*Side-note: We’ve been teaching Charlie to say that he is 2 years old – figuring it would take a couple months to get that down. To illustrate the fact, he shows you the number 2 with his ‘two thumbs up’. It’s painfully cute.

The goal here is to show you how styling gives your furniture personality. That sofa doesn’t reference any sort of style (besides ‘contemporary’ maybe), and yet once it’s placed in these scenarios it’s transformed and feels like it belongs.

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“70’s Inspired Glam” – with an extremely girly bent and certainly has some Palm Springs dappled in. The key to this kind of flexibility (if you want that kind of flexibility) is to get a sofa that is really simple and streamlined. It’s way easier to layer ‘crazy, ‘ ‘fun’ and ‘vintage’ on top of simple, than to do the opposite.

Woven Stool: Target (no longer available) | Lucite Tables | Copper Lamp: Vintage | White Chair: Vintage | Abstract Painting | Sofa

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“Mid-Century Folk” – with a Pacific Northwest vibe. I love every single thing in this shot for different reasons. Notice how there are just a few tones – browns/blues and orange/yellows and they bounce around the room equally. It’s a collected assortment but combined it feels pulled together and cohesive.

MidCentury Side Table | Yellow Chair | Popsicle Stick Lamp | Grey Sofa

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“Casual Traditional” isn’t normally my jam, but I love everything here, too. When traditional is done in a pulled back, softer way I can really get behind it. Think washed linens and worn woods instead of fancier finishes.

*Sidenote: When we shot this we knew that the mirror was too small above the sofa so we intended to Photoshop it to be bigger – then we forgot. So, for the record, yes, that mirror is too small.

Trunk: Vintage | Rug: Vintage | Striped Pillow | Mirror: Vintage | Wood Side Table | Grey Wingback Chair | Mirror: Vintage |

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“Warm Contemporary”.  That word, “contemporary, ” gets a bad rap because it can often look generic, but if styled with some more interesting objects (the leather pouf, the trunk, the modern art and amazing chair) it can look pretty darn interesting and it can have a big audience.

Freeway Photographs | Coffee Table | Black Leather Sling Chair | Black and White Rug | Black Arc Lamp | Grey Sofa

When we shot this we decided that doing it all the same angle could look redundant, plus some of the furniture just looked better from a different angle, but of course now I wish that they were all the exact same angle so that it could be giffed out a little less chaotically. No matter, I’ll still gif it for you:

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Here is what the whole spread looked like in the magazine, below. The crediting is different, only because they wanted things to be more source-able, and more affordable.

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The real question: WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE???? Comment away, folks. And to see more of these styling tips grab the book, STYLED. 

*Check out how we styled 1 bookcase 4 ways, 1 bed 4 ways, 1 dresser 4 ways, 1 credenza 4 ways.

*Photography by the lovely David Tsay, styling by myself and Scott Horne.

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  1. I love the mid century folk. I would love to get a comfy basic couch like the one shown, operative word being comfy. Couch shopping is a challenge I find. Much online is not in stores to try out. All of them look great but the mid century speaks to me. Thanks for the great post.

  2. ooh tough choice! Prob in this order-contemporary, traditional, nw, 70s. But really they are very close because I love things about each one. I can’t wait till my book arrives!

  3. Warm contemporary is definitely my favorite! Close second would be casual traditional.

    Josh | The Kentucky Gent
    http://thekentuckygent.com

  4. ooh tough choice! Prob in this order-contemporary, traditional, nw, 70s. But really they are very close because I love things about each one. As a seattlite and a native portlander I should put NW first out of loyalty. 🙂 I can’t wait till my book arrives!

  5. Casual traditional but with the seascapes and side table from mid century folk. I love the pillows and throws in every photo!

  6. Casual traditional, but love the seascapes and natural wood table from mid-century folk.

  7. I am LOVING the palm springs vibe. I definitely oohh and ahh with appropriately used lucite (it can go real bad) and that art is spot on!!
    XO, Amanda @ lifeonlinton.com

  8. My problem when it comes to décor is that I like nearly EVERYTHING. Same story here – it’s hard to pick a favorite! I think I like the 70’s inspired glam look the most because of all the color included, but I much prefer the furniture from the warm contemporary look.

  9. Warm contemporary is my first pick. The Midcentury Folk yellow chair and the big abstract painting in 70’s Glam are my favorite individual items – I’d love to build a room around them!

  10. Casual Traditional is my jam.

  11. I think they are all beautiful, but my personal style is more casual traditional or warm contemporary.

  12. The first one is definitely my favorite but they’re all beautiful looks!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  13. Love the 70’s finish, then warm contemporary. Love the overpass shots, where are they from?

  14. It’s a toss-up between the mid-century folk and the casual traditional. I would probably combine the elements of both… But not the yellow chair that has really weird arm profile. Can’t decide if it looks like pointy boobs or not!:) haha
    ~Kim

  15. These are all great! I’m torn between the Warm Contemporary and the Mid-Century Folk – I’d take either one please.

    xo, Sarah
    http://www.everydaywithsarah.com

  16. I am loving the Warm Contemporary! Did that one not make it in the magazine!?

  17. Mid-Century Folk!!!!

  18. I want to know where that dress is from!

  19. Tough choice…but as first impression counts most I choose “Mid-Century Folk” !
    http://www.dorisleslieblau.com/blog/

  20. I’m not into plaid, so I’ll have to go with contemporary as my favourite. I just received your book! I took the style test and it came out a really high boho, and I thought this has to be wrong, so I did it again later in the afternoon, changing a few answers thinking I might have got it wrong, and it came out the same with one point difference! I’ve always been a bit of a gypsy, but I thought my style had changed to a more sophisticated one, seems not!

  21. I have to say the mid century folk is the one I like the most. ( minus the suitcases)

  22. I love the Pacific Northwest style. Here in Tacoma Washongton, the trees are turning beautiful Browns, golds, reds and oranges. That rooms feels like home to me!

  23. My fave is Casual Traditional.

    Thanks for the behind-the-scenes tidbits, I love reading about that kind of stuff. Like how you forgot to photoshop the mirror, and how the shot with you wasn’t planned but made it in. Feel free to share more book tidbits with us!

  24. My fave is warm contemporary. “Casual Traditional” is pretty snoozy, if you don’t mind my saying so. Plus the grey chair and the grey couch don’t match in that photo. I’m not a matchy-matchy person, but I wouldn’t wear warmish black pants with a coolish black shirt either.

  25. Hands down, mid-century folk for me, personally. But I can appreciate the style of them all! Well done – on the seemingly difficult decision of choosing a sofa!

  26. Love the 70s Glam!

  27. The link for the source on the wingback from the casual traditional look isn’t correct–the legs are very different. Do you have the source for the one from the picture?

  28. I like all of them because the sofa is from Mitchell Gold! I work for a GC and we just finished building all three Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams stores in the Boston area so I have a personal connection to the furniture. 🙂

  29. I kind of love the casual traditional maybe because I happen to love green. Just as I was commenting, the mailman dropped off your book – so excited. Gotta run, I’ve got some reading to do.

  30. The SWF in me would totally go for the 70’s Inspired Glam- I freaking love it! But the me that’s in a very committed relationship where compromise is highly regarded would go for the Warm Contemporary look- which I also love very much, maybe I would just throw a couple more pops of color or plants in there…the things we do for the people we love 😉

  31. I LOVE this post! 70’s Inspired Glam all the way!

  32. That’s a tough one….I’m stuck between the mid century folk and the casual traditional. They are both so lovely and cozy!
    Question for you! In the casual traditional, I noticed that the sofa and the chair are different greys. One looks more purple and the other looks more yellow. Did you choose that chair for convenience/style sake or did you choose that grey for a reason? I’m always scared to pair grey with grey because I can never get them to match and I’m always afraid it will look funny if they’re different greys. Thoughts? Advice?

  33. Its weird how that couch changed color in each photo.. I mean, its the same couch, totally weird. I love the post today.. I fully expected you to take a break this week, with the book and baby and all…but you killed it again.

    PS. the third one was my favorite but it was a really really hard choice.

    PPS. Your book is amazing, like crazy good. I’m still devouring it but, wow!!

  34. I love the PNW style. I live near Seattle, so the style, colors and texture immediately made my heart pound. To the point I put a blue plaid Pendleton throw, with blue, Browns and a Kilam pillow on my sofa. You are an inspiration! Thank you and blessings to you and your growing family. Gina T

  35. 1 and 3. For me. I think the others are a little too….heavy.. for me. It’s funny, In the past year, I am all about light and bright…which makes it difficult, because all my carpets (kilims,persians) and furniture are the exact opposite.

  36. I always go for color so ’70s glam is my first pick..except I’d never choose a gray couch, unless it was a rich, real velvet gray..I’ll take velvet any day in every single color.

  37. #1 is my favorite, because “pink” and “bright” are my jam. But I would probably have all those seascapes hanging in another room, because I am an Oregonian and I love the beach 🙂

  38. I usually prefer mid-century modern, but my favorite of these looks is the 70s inspired glam version!

  39. Your dress and flats are #amazing #iwantthem

  40. i like the warm comtemporary! Very nice colors!

  41. Mid-Century Folk with a dash of contemporary…and I ordered my book today! Can’t wait to get it! Moving into a new apartment with my boyfriend and need your style guidance!

  42. What a treat to see my painting in your book — and on the “Fun Yet Ladylike” page in Redbook. Bravo!

  43. Really this post is so much useful and has effective content. Thanks for share this info. with us.

  44. Definitely cottage-y and cool or casual traditional…I have lots of antique/vintage wood furniture I love to pair with creamy white walls and nature colors.

  45. Love almost everything about the Mid-Century Folk, except the chair (those arms are weird!) and the lamp. But I’d live with both for that gorgrous tone of blue, the plaid blanket and the art gallery. Sigh!

  46. Thanks for share a great post .

  47. Excellent work you done .Thanks for share this informative post.

  48. Really it’s so nice information shared .I really like this type of information . Thanks for share it.

  49. I have ordered your book Emily, my local store says it will arrive in 3 weeks. I am excited. My first design book, and it’s by Emily, woo-hoo!

    Oh, and on this article, I must say finding a right designed couch and comfortable and affordable is a challenge. 😡

  50. Excellent article .Thanks to share this informative post with us .

  51. Interesting Post it is . Thanks for share it with us .

    1. ooh tough choice! Prob in this order-contemporary, traditional, nw, 70s. But really they are very close because I love things about each one. As a seattlite and a native portlander I should put NW first out of loyalty. 🙂 I can’t wait till my book arrives!

  52. Definitely the first one – 70’s glam!!

  53. A-freakin-mazing!!!! Love all of them.

  54. i wanted to say again how much i appreciate the effort you and your staff put into providing daily quality content. so many of the popular blogs break the covenant with their readers and produce dreck (really, for craft projects nobody would touch with a 10 foot pole, or, if bitten by the daily production demon, posts on visits to the dental hygienist). i appreciate that you maintain our trust and our good faith reading eyeballs by providing well written words, charmingly spelled, and beautiful interesting photographs.
    thank you. you can name the new baby jeannette. safe voyage to both of you. xoxo

    1. p.s. that includes applying your high quality standards to the new book as well, with no blog content and using your own dough to hire the real editor. i appreciate this dedication to original content. it is honorable and also your forte. its message is, creativity and the good stuff is inexhaustible. thank you.

  55. Ohhh I think I love them all! But if I had to pick a favorite it would be mid-century folk with warm contemporary being a close second. Can’t wait to see the whole book!

  56. Really love the blasts of blue with that sofa in the Mid Century Folk — but the art! Yikes. I’m also loving the masculine vibe of Warm Contemporary which looks fab — so that’s my pick. Fun to see all four.

  57. 70’s glam and midcentury folk get my vote. If I could only have 1 of those, gotta go with the glam. ALSO, I apparently pre-ordered your book twice, so now I have two copies! Some lucky friend will be getting one as a present! 🙂

  58. Aaaahhhh!!! I love the mid century folk vignette! It has a very “wes anderson” vibe that I’m really digging…

  59. I love the 70s glam one! The huge artwork and white chair won me over.

  60. Warm contemporary! Although there are one or two elements I would change, like I’d swap out the glass table for a gorgeous Scandinavian vintage one, and I’d replace the busy B&W striped carpet for a vintage kilim or traditional Persian rug. Modern mid-century blends well with this option.

    Your book arrived yesterday and I’m loving every inch of it!!
    Uber thanks ~ heather x

  61. Gosh and I just love those lucite tables!! Know of a cheaper alternative?

  62. I love the leather pouf in the “Warm Contemporary” room and have searched everywhere online to find one like it, with no luck. Can you tell me where it is from? I didn’t see it in your list of sourced items. Thank you!!

    1. I love the mid century folk. I would love to get a comfy basic couch like the one shown, operative word being comfy. Couch shopping is a challenge I find. Much online is not in stores to try out. All of them look great but the mid century speaks to me. Thanks for the great post.

  63. The “warm contemporary” is awesome!

  64. This just made me stop and reread: “we intended to Photoshop it to be bigger – then we forgot. So, for the record, yes, that mirror is too small.”
    Doh, I feel so gullible for never realizing that the items could idealized…like Dorothy pulling back the curtain on the wizard./sigh/

    1. ooh tough choice! Prob in this order-contemporary, traditional, nw, 70s. But really they are very close because I love things about each one. As a seattlite and a native portlander I should put NW first out of loyalty. 🙂 I can’t wait till my book arrives!

  65. Such a wonderful blog. I will revisit again for more.

  66. I love the 70s glam one! The huge artwork and white chair won me over.

  67. The “warm contemporary” is awesome!

  68. Such a wonderful blog. I will revisit again for more.

  69. I love the mid century folk. I would love to get a comfy basic couch like the one shown, operative word being comfy. Couch shopping is a challenge I find. Much online is not in stores to try out. All of them look great but the mid century speaks to me. Thanks for the great post.

  70. They’re all beautiful . Check out sofas on https://www.swanns.com/