Your couch forms an integral part of your living room and as it’s such a large piece of furniture, it’s going to draw the eye to it. As well as being a focal point, sofas are also one of the most expensive pieces of furniture in a living room, but it’s not always possible to invest in a higher-end piece.
But having a cheaper or budget couch doesn’t have to mean that you can’t make it look more luxurious. Or maybe the couch you invested in a decade ago just needs some TLC in order to lift the overall look of your living room. With some simple tips, your sofa can look far more expensive and considered, so we asked interior designers for their advice on breathing new life into a dated couch.
How to make a couch look more expensive
You may be deciding how much to spend on a new sofa and wanting to make sure you choose a piece that looks as luxurious as possible, or you may want some tips on how to perk up your existing couch. Our tips from interior designers will give you lots of ideas to work with and ensure your couch is looking at it's most expensive.
‘Accessories like throw blankets and pillows go a long way in dressing up a basic sofa,’ says Ksenya Malina, founder of Time & Place Interiors. Updating your accessories is a trick that never fails to make your couch look better. ‘A well-styled sofa will instantly look more expensive,’ explains Cherie Lee, director of Cherie Lee Interiors. ‘Quality cushions will draw the eye and instantly make a sofa seem more sumptuous and inviting.’
David Harris, design director at Andrew Martin agrees, ‘Cushions are the obvious go to embellishment. Choice is not a problem, they come in hundreds of shapes, sizes, and colors with different fills and plumpness. To trim or not to trim, that’s also a very important question. On top of this, there are a multitude of throws, blankets, and sheepskins to throw into the mix. Whatever you decide upon, these extra touches will add masses of, interest, luxury, and romance to a must-have piece of furniture.’
Ksenya Malina is the founder of Time & Place Interiors, a New York-based interior design studio focusing on mixing vintage + modern for homeowners seeking to elevate their space.
Pippa Jameson, creative director, author, and interiors stylist at Pippa Jameson Interiors explains how to arrange your cushions, ‘Enhancing the appearance of a sofa to look more expensive involves a combination of design finesse and strategically placed accessories.'
'Start by incorporating statement throws and cushions that inject an air of sophistication and style. These not only add comfort but create an inviting, luxe atmosphere. Consider the color palette – opt for rich tones like forest green or berry for an opulent touch. Invest in high-quality cushions, placing large squares in corners and slightly smaller ones upfront for a layered effect.’
Cushions and throws can add a touch of luxury to a sofa, but only if you get the texture and fabrics right to start with. ‘A few decorative pillows in luxurious textures like velvet, faux fur, or European line, plus a cozy cashmere throw blanket, is just about all you need to elevate the look of your sofa and make it look really upscale,’ says designer Kathy Kuo.
Amy Youngblood, founder of Amy Youngblood Interiors agrees, ‘The best way to make a sofa/couch look more expensive is to choose luxurious upholstery fabrics that have texture and softness such as a velvet or a boucle.’
And this is a chance to stamp some personal style on your sofa, as Dara Huang, founder of Dara Maison explains, ‘To elevate the look of your couch, consider investing in high-quality, luxurious fabrics and textures. Opt for rich materials like velvet or premium leather. It's also about the details; think about adding decorative pillows with depth and dimension. Do not be afraid to mix and match, adding your personality to the space.’
Kathy Kuo is a celebrated interior designer and international guru within the home and lifestyle space. She has 20+ years of experience in the design industry.
3. Style around your sofa
Sprucing up the area surrounding your sofa can enhance your sofa without you even touching it. ‘Introduce stylish items around the sofa, such as a living room rug or contemporary side table that fit the scheme; these additions will elevate the overall visual appeal,’ says Pippa Jameson. ‘And don't underestimate the impact of living room lighting. A well-placed, stylish floor lamp can accentuate the couch, casting a warm glow that emphasizes its sophistication.’
Interior designer Artem Kropovinsky, founder of Arsight suggests focusing on the walls around your sofa, ‘Paint the walls on either side of the couch in white and match the design on it with a bold, colored statement wall or fine art.’
Founder of NYC-based interior design firm, Arsight, Artem Kropovinsky has a decade of extensive global design experience, connecting a cohesive, collaborative team of passionate professionals, who work on interior projects in the U.S. and worldwide.
4. Pull it away from the wall
Designer Joanna Hauptman recommends placing your sofa away from walls, ‘If you have a space that allows, we advise positioning your sofa away from the wall. This helps to frame the design, displaying it as an ornate aesthetic object rather than a purely functional one.’
Even if space is tight in a small living room giving your couch some room to breathe makes it more of a focal point of the room. Overcrowding the area around the sofa will be too visually busy and it can bring down the look of the room. More often than not it's negative space that makes any room look more expensive.
5. Create contrast
Making small changes to an existing couch can lift the piece, making your couch seem luxurious and bespoke. ‘The addition of a contrast welt to a sofa creates a visually striking detail that can make the piece look more expensive,’ explains Martha Lord, interior designer, and co-founder of Boland Lord Design.
‘The contrasting piping or welt highlights the sofa’s silhouette, showcasing craftsmanship and attention to design, often associated with higher-end furniture. This small detail can elevate the overall aesthetic, giving the impression of a carefully curated and luxurious piece.’ Artem Kropovinsky agrees, ‘Some tuft details or even nail head trims can give a couch a classy outlook.’
6. Layer up textures
Although this can mean that your sofa will date more quickly, covering it in bold patterns or textures can update a couch you already have. Sophie Roswell, founder of Côte de Folk explains, ‘Our client’s sofa was originally covered in plain navy linen. The sofa shape and size were perfect for the space, so we updated it by covering it in a bright textured fabric. We added large oversized, over squishy cushions in the same fabric to create a more expensive looking sofa, rather than sending it to landfill.’
Not quite ready to be that bold? ‘Draping a bold textile over a sofa is also a low-stakes way to experiment with adding colors or patterns,’ points out Ksenya Malina.
How can you pick a couch that looks expensive?
Biting the bullet and buying a new sofa? Cherie Lee has these words of advice, ‘The fabric your sofa is covered in will also affect how expensive the sofa looks, dark colors and velvets always tend to look expensive so long as they haven't worn or become stained as velvet can be partial to do. While we do love linen sofas for the relaxed look they provide, they can stain easily, and the fabric can become loose which doesn't offer the most high-end aesthetic.'
'We recommend avoiding linens or cottons with a low rub count, or martingale scores as they will quickly lose shape, begin to sag or wear in high-traffic areas. For domestic use aim for a score of about 25, 000 or higher if it's a sofa that you intend to use regularly. Also, consider some form of fabric protection such as Scotchgard which will help avoid stains that quickly cheapen the look of a sofa.’
And Juliette Byrne adds this advice on shape, ‘If you are looking for a new couch then using a shape that compliments the room is essential. Current sofa trends are to have a curved back which creates an organic shape and a welcome feel to the room. L shape can also work well with the addition of a chaise at one end.’
How long does a couch last?
With all these tips in mind, it’s important to think about how long a sofa will last and whether trying to upscale your existing one is worth it. On average, people buy new sofas every eight to 12 years so you need to choose a couch you will be happy to live with. Pay more for your sofa and the frame should last you for far longer – you may just need to get it reupholstered or refilled to give it a new lease of life. This can be particularly useful if you’ve already got a couch that fits perfectly into your living space.
Sign up to the Homes & Gardens newsletter
Decor Ideas. Project Inspiration. Expert Advice. Delivered to your inbox.
Jo Plumridge is a freelance writer and photographer with over 20 years of experience writing for a variety of magazines, websites and books. She writes, perhaps unsurprisingly, about photography, but also on all things interior design and sleep-related, alongside reviews of home and tech products. Jo loves exploring the latest design trends, although she’s yet to find a carpet that doesn’t show up the cat hair from the cats she and her husband foster.
How to create a Japandi kitchen – 6 design ideas to nail this simple-yet-soothing look
Lean into the functional, cozy, and undeniably fashionable design principles of Japandi
By Charlotte Olby Published
Lenny Kravitz's wooden cabinets master a design trend that brings an 'organic ambiance' to his kitchen
All-wood detailing makes for a calm and trendy space – with roots in the natural world
By Hannah Ziegler Published