Couch colors to avoid – and what designers are recommending instead

Interior designers are leaning away from these tones, towards rich colors inspired by Mother Earth

green sofa in living room with patterned curtains
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Since the couch is arguably the most important piece of furniture in the home, it's essential to consider which fabric, height, depth, legs, and, of course, color will suit your space best. Your couch really will set the tone for the rest of your living room, taking up a large surface area and often forming the focal point. 

Choosing the best couch is one of the most fun parts of planning a space. And while color is very personal, (our dream sofa, beige bouclé, might be entirely impractical for the next person), some tones do carry specific connotations that make them look incongruous in a living room.

Others couch colors may also be harder to work with when creating an entire living room scheme that hangs together. Here is what interior designers say are the couch colors to avoid.

Couch colors to avoid – and what designers suggest instead

living room with mauve gallery wall and pale grey sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC / Jon Day)

Some interiors experts are saying dark gray is one of the main couch colors to avoid. For instance, interior designers Jenna and Mariana at Interior Fox warn against using it in your home. 'For residential spaces, this may be a shock but we never recommend medium or dark gray sofas,' they begin. 

'Many people choose gray thinking it's a safe color but actually we find it really cold and it can make a home feel "techie".' Likewise, Kate Keyser, Co-Owner of Ivy Lane home staging company says that they are seeing 'an exit' of the charcoal gray sofa right now.

'Warm tones are in and they are here to stay,' enthuses Kate. 'We expect to see a massive resurgence of the mid-century modern trend in 2023. Think wood paneling, rich warm tones, and clean lines nearly everywhere. That said, we are big fans of investing in statement pieces that can also stand the test of time.'

living room with biege rug, midcentury coffee table, blue sofa and wooden panelling

(Image credit: Interior Fox)

If you love gray, Jenna and Mariana recommend choosing a gray from the paler end of the color palette if you want to play it safe. Alternatively, a blue-grey strikes a nice balance between neutral and nature-inspired, bringing a coastal aesthetic. Paler grays are sure to create a more soothing, warm, and inviting look in keeping with a space where all we want to do is kick off our shoes and relax. 

Depending on the quality of the material, large swathes of medium or dark gray might be harder to work with when designing a living room. Gray does, for many of us, have associations with more utilitarian spaces, although there are lots of ways of styling a gray sofa that will soften the look, such as bringing out the gray's undertones through accessories.

If you prefer your space to look pared-back and minimalist, and you tend to steer away from daring designs, Jenna and Mariana recommend off-white and light beige as they work so well with other colors. The Interior Fox designers also predict that saturated jewel tones will soon be making way for rich muted colors found in woodlands, such as lichen, moss and browns.

pink living area with patterned wallpaper and sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC / Davide Lovatti)

We love the idea of muted, mossy tones as a way to create a calming, nature-inspired living space. Jenna and Mariana also anticipate that muted purples and other warm tones will dominate our interiors, as well as a big trend for a couch that matches the wall color behind it, which works beautifully above.

So perhaps next year we'll be seeing a leaning away from neutrals towards sofas in naturally occurring tones like terracotta, whether or not they're muted or bright and bold. This speaks to some of the colors of the year 2023, such as Pantone's Viva Magenta and Benjamin Moore's Raspberry Blush.

Grace Baena, Interior Designer of Kaiyo certainly thinks so. 'Although neutrals have been popular as couch colors for years, I think it’s worthwhile to mix up the colors we use for our couches in the new year and try out something that’s more of a statement,' says Grace.

pink living room with beige couch and patterned throw pillows

(Image credit: Future PLC)

'Instead of neutrals, you can try something in a green or blue. These bolder colors have been gaining popularity in 2022, and I think they’ll continue to trend in 2023,' Grace adds.

Aside from dark and medium grays, brightly colored couches in red, yellow and pink can make it harder to create a cohesive scheme, according to Raquel Kehler, an interior designer and house flipper at Room Crush. 'While we’re seeing a resurgence of bright wall colors for 2023, this trend should definitely be avoided when it comes to your sofa,' she tells us. 

red velvet sofa in living room with table lamp and oval coffee table

(Image credit: Future PLC / John Day)

Raquel says that although highly saturated colors like fuchsia, sunflower yellow, and bright red bring energy to a space, they’re almost impossible to match to other furniture, forcing you to keep the rest of your décor and walls strictly neutral. Instead, she recommends tan brown or soft shades of sage green. 

This will give you more freedom to tinker with your other furniture and decor should you decide to change it. Incorporate vibrant color via a piece of statement art or throw pillows, not the sofa, she says.

What couch color goes with everything?

'Personally, I love white boucle sofas, as they add texture while giving a timeless look that matches both modern and vintage-inspired interior design styles,' comments Raquel Kehler. She recommends a curved sectional in a neutral or soft color like white, tan, or sage green.

Millie Hurst
Section Editor

Millie Hurst is a freelance lifestyle writer with over six years of experience in digital journalism. Having previously worked as Solved Section Editor at Homes & Gardens and Senior SEO Editor at News UK in London and New York, Millie has written for an array of homes brands including Livingetc and Real Homes and was formerly Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She has written and edited countless features on home organization, decluttering and interior design and always hopes to inspire readers with new ways to enjoy their homes. She lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and loves to weave nature-inspired decor and nods to time spent in Italy into her own home.