If you have an unadorned gap between your sofa and the ceiling, then you might well be wondering how to fill this space. Decorating above a sofa is a wonderful way to fill the space with an attractive feature, rather than just letting it sit bare.
Whether you prefer a classic look with lots of detailing or something more modern, these ways to decorate above a sofa will provide you with the inspiration you need to create a scheme that fits your home's period, your decorating style, and the room's proportions.
Decorating above a sofa
We asked the experts for their top decorating above a sofa. Adding them to your list of must-have living room sofa ideas will ensure a more charming space, and needn't drive up your budget, but will create a unique room you, and your guests will want to spend time in.
1. Hang a gallery wall
Gallery walls are popular in design schemes, but some are taking compositions a step further and including interesting brackets for further interest. ‘Being a small space, this room needed a sense of intimacy,’ says interior designer and antique dealer Max Rollitt.
‘Wall paneling adds architectural texture and creates shadow and depth to a room. There’s no need to be frightened of hanging on paneling; the geometry of it will tempt you to center where you place things on each panel, but don’t be afraid to span a panel or style – or, indeed, cover up large areas. It’s only architecture. Likewise, brackets are an architectural element, but they can make for an interesting way to display things.'
‘When buying art there are two really effective ways to make a statement with art in a living space,’ notes Camilla Clarke, creative director at Albion Nord. ‘The first is to play with scale. Make the most of the wall space and choose a large-scale artwork that spans the full height of the wall. It will feel bold and impactful. Another interesting way to make a statement is to create an art wall. Play with a mixture of work in different sizes, colors, and genres.’
AP8 Guy Bourdin framed print | $1,865 at Net-A-Porter
Dramatize the space above your sofa with a piece of art that provides a striking design statement.
2. Mix art with bespoke joinery
If you wish to make a living room look expensive, then beautiful bespoke joinery coupled with well-chosen art is an excellent choice for the space above a sofa. Bespoke joinery will result in a home that's ordered and calm but also one that's beautiful.
‘Placing artwork within joinery is a lovely way to hero a painting,’ says Samantha Todhunter, who decorated this library-meets-TV room. ‘Here, dark wood, textured grasscloth on the wall, and a warm, luxurious color scheme perfectly complement an abstract painting.'
3. Use large-scale art to anchor the space above a sofa
With plenty of wall space on offer, the area above a sofa is an ideal place to layer up your favorite artwork.
People often assume they should buy small-scale art for your small living room ideas, but that actually makes a space feel smaller,' advises Sheena Murphy, partner, Nune. 'Don’t be afraid to fill the room – invest in an oversized piece of art that fully fills the wall, and don’t skimp on the frame either. Not only will buying larger scale art look better, but it will also make your living room look so much more interesting: win-win!’
For this home, designed by Margaret Ash of Margaret Ash Design, the color from the art dictated the accent color used elsewhere in this serene scheme. The result is a carefully-curated space that sings and harmonizes with its surroundings.
Margaret Ash Design is a contemporary interior design firm specializing in full-scale residential and commercial projects. Margaret and her team specialize in designs that reflect diverse influences, modern interiors, and tailored color palettes.
4. Let the view do the talking
Storytelling within interior design is vital. Beautiful objects alone are not enough. Your story is one of the most important design ingredients and your life should have a pivotal resonance in your interiors, so if you are lucky enough to have glorious views, then we recommend situating your sofa in front of the window.
It is worth noting that art comes in many forms – not just paintings to be hung on a living room wall. For a truly unique collection of favorite things, it’s worth going that much further to find a special way to show them off.
Jessica started her creative journey at Utah State University. Her studies there led to her work in an ad agency as an art director but building her home brought back her earliest passion: interior design.
In 2008, Jessica opened the doors to Alice Lane Home Collection, their first retail store, which has gone from strength to strength.
5. Frame your sofa with built-ins
This beautiful wall of bespoke joinery painted in a moody hue is hugely characterful and provides plenty of open and closed storage. The finishing touch was the lighting. Without the right lighting, it could end up looking almost black during the evenings, so a blend of wall and overhead lighting was needed to create the right balance of atmosphere and practicality.
‘We used a deep smoky colour on the walls and joinery of this north-facing space’ says Emma Sims-Hilditch, founder and creative director for Sims Hilditch. ‘The aim was to embrace the darkness of this space, transforming it into a moody and cosy haven. Soft wall and overhead lighting add to the ambience.’
6. Line up a symmetrical display
Symmetry is an interior design trick used to create smart-looking rooms – and it's perfect for decorating above a sofa with art and photography.
There’s something pleasing about the symmetry of hanging paintings in a grid pattern, as this design by Salvesen Graham shows. It’s an approach that works easily with sets of artwork. The key is to create continuity by having each one in the same type of frame.
Get symmetry right and you can create harmony in every room in your house – and make your small living room look bigger and tidier.
7. Fill a wall with shelves
Shelves can act as art installations in their own right, without parting with thousands of pounds in the process. Displaying objects of the same kind creates a meaningful and significant statement, but the items don’t need to be high art – the act of putting them together on display using a strong color scheme to create a coherent thread will have the required visual impact.
Here, a series of pots of the same size have been used to support each of the shelves above with great effect. It’s a classic approach of Kit Kemp, founder and creative director of Firmdale Hotels and Kit Kemp Design Studio. ‘Combining color, vintage fabrics and a geometric rug was a fabulous way to refresh this living room,’ says Kit.
Kit Kemp MBE is the Founder and Creative Director of Firmdale Hotels and the Kit Kemp Design Studio but also as a successful textiles, fragrance and homewares designer, author and a highly-respected champion of British art, craft and sculpture.
Should you hang art behind a couch?
Designers tend to agree that artwork completes a room, especially when placed behind a couch.
Scaled-up art is having its moment in the interior design spotlight this year, so go big, big, big. Another favorite is placing pieces in front of shelves already packed with colorful books. ‘A thick frame helps to define the art and create a separation from the business of the shelves.’
How do you arrange art above a sofa?
‘You have so much choice when it comes to playing with scale when hanging art,’ says Georgia Spray, founder of Partnership Editions. ‘One large statement piece can offer instant impact, brightening a space and making a room feel truly special. The other route is to create a gallery wall, allowing you to curate your collection in an interesting way and liven up a room with personality.
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Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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