living room


I'm Erika Ward

Over a decade ago, I exchanged my corporate life in building construction for an opportunity to enhance your personal home via decoration and renovation.  My mission? To help busy professionals make their homes their sanctuaries.

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Currently, I’m working on two living/family rooms that include two or more pieces of dark leather furniture. I have nothing against brown leather, but I prefer it when it is broken up with upholstered pieces whether in a neutral shade or a brighter hue. An abundance of dark leather tends to make a room feel more like a cave than a family room, unless of course ‘cave’ is the look you are going for. Most times it isn’t. Clients tend to describe these rooms as dark, dull, boring, flat, lackluster, the list goes on. There are easy cures for this design dilemma. Take note of these examples below and see how you can lighten your furniture load.

Living Room Design by Sean Michael Design

Why this room works: The visual weight of this leather sectional is instantly balanced with the presence of a cream colored rug and patterned accent pillows in lighter hues. The bean bags provide a casual feel to the room, while the commissioned artwork and mirrored trunk maintain the room’s sophistication. What I love most:The sconces. Get the look…

Living Room Design by Melissa Lenox Design Why this room works: The presence of bold, arresting color grabs hold of you the moment you walk into this room. The vibrant peacock hue not only makes a great color statement, it also helps to delineate the living area from the kitchen. Accent pillows bring a kaleidoscope of colors to the leather sofa and pulls the wall color onto the furnishings. The leather sofa creates a hallway of sorts when backed by the console table and grounds the entire space. A pair of handsome, modern wing back chairs balance the presence of the sofa and provides a nice graphic contrast against the wall color. What I love most:The modern wing chairs, paint color, and accent pillows. Get the look…

Why this room works: Though this sofa is espresso velvet, not leather, the advice given for leather furnishings still applies. The sofa anchors this otherwise light and airy space. Organic shapes and forms are the true highlights of this space from the geometric wall divider to the hide rug and vintage coffee table. Pairing light and dark doesn’t not always equal a stark, modern space. If it’s warmth you desire, pair your dark sofa with lighter accessories with textural interest. What I love most: The play on texture using accessories. Get the Look…

Why this room works: The various shades of brown found in this room create an atmosphere that reads cozy, not cramped. The geometric zig zag pillows add a surprise element and provides a dose of youth to the space. What I love most: The accent rug provides an array of color options should the homeowner decide to switch out the neutral pillows for something more lively. —————————– These examples illustrate the most common recommendation I give to my clients; break up the set! Initially, I’m met with resistance because as a deal, they bought the leather sofa, loveseat, and sometimes the chair from their favorite furniture store. It isn’t until I share with them images like these that they understand how to reach their room’s fullest potential. The next question is usually, “What do I do with the chairs?” Move them to another space and pair them with furniture in a lighter hue. Get the idea? What has been your experience with leather furniture? Do you feel any of these examples will make a difference in your home’s decor?

image courtesy: Sean Michael Design/ Melissa Lenox Design / Angie Hranowsky / DecorPad / DecorPad


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  1. LaTonya says:

    Erika. I am so very thankful for this post. My husband and I have been having this conversation (arguement) about his dark grey leather furniture set for years. The set includes sofa, love seat, chair, ottoman, with a large, dark, espresso, rectangular glass top coffee table and two matching end tables. Right now we are in an apartment so his funiture is currently sitting in his mother’s living room, but when we eventually get a house, he wants a place for his “great Italian leather funiture set” that I think is so dark, dull, and too modern for the more elegant and brighter rooms I have imagined. Also, leather tends to be colder to the touch than fabric so I always find I have to be wrapped in a blanket while sitting on it. I will definitely be saving this post for our future “converations” about this. Have you suggested reuphostering some of the pieces or using slip covers? Would I be wrong to sell his set while he’s out of town one weekend and pretend we got robbed? Haha! Thanks!

    • Erika Ward says:

      Ha! I would never advise you to sell his furniture behind his back, though I did laugh out loud when I read your response. Perhaps he’d be more open to adding lighter rugs and pillows to break up some of the heaviness of the furniture. Hey, it’s all about compromise, right?

  2. Jae says:

    I learned this lesson the hard way, but I learned it! We have a dark brown leather sofa in a room with alot of wood tones. It all worked much better when I balanced the dark with a large, light (cream) colored rug along with little bits of color.

  3. caprice says:

    WOW!!! I love this post!!! I have a set of cognac, over stuffed leather couches that I got a long time ago that are too big for our living area space (all bad design moves on my part), but now with kids I love the leather for easy wiping. But the room is boring boring boring and very mono color. I love the blue walls and am now thinking of doing something like this. Thank you for posting and for the inspiration! I also love how you broke up the set but I am afraid to do this on my own since my space is so designed-challenged!

  4. Missy says:

    Hi Erica,
    I think you wrote this post just for me. I too am faced with the challenge of dark leather furniture(brick red), to bexactsofa,loveseat, oversize chair w/ottoman and dark wood tables. I have a two story family room with very high ceilings and windows. This room is the first room you see when you enter my house. I would like to do something to make it “pop”, it is very boring right now.

  5. We bought a brown leather sectional sofa for our family room so that the dogs can sit up on the sofa with us and we don’t have to worry about hair & dirt šŸ™‚ The walls are a light green/blue/grey and there’s a cream shag rug on the floor. The room has a coastal vibe that I love – the sectional doesn’t feel dark or heavy at all šŸ™‚

  6. dayka says:

    Loved this post! Dark leather seating is an option so many people buy because it’s neutral, then tend to get suck somewhere in the design process. I love how you picked out your favorite pieces AND gave ideas and sources to get the look.

  7. Nikki White says:

    Great post with some great solutions and sourcing options. I gotta say I choked on my Redbull from LaTonya’s comment re: selling her husband’s items and pretending they were robbed! whoa and whoa. The extremes we will go through. Definitely an LMAO moment there.

  8. Jake Jason says:

    You have done great job. You share here very nice information about leather furniture. I like your work on this post. And also share very nice and eye catch photos.

  9. I love the look of leather furniture, but I worry about it looking too “heavy.” The examples you provide here perfectly show how you can balance leather furniture by incorporating other fabrics and textures. It helps to give the room both a masculine and feminine feel. Also, I love that not everything is matchy-matchy. I’m so glad that I happened upon your blog!

  10. Katherine G says:

    These are some great tips!! All your rooms in your pics look beautiful!!

  11. Tom Oak says:

    Great post, Erika! Such a beautiful picture, I really like the colour of the oak!

    Thanks for the eye opener šŸ™‚

  12. […] subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on this topic. Remember when I wrote this post, “Lighten Up: Living with Dark Leather Furniture?” At the time I was working on this living room for a bachelor. He had recently moved into […]

  13. […] you can go to add life to a room with dark leather furniture. I’ve written about it here if you need more […]

  14. Cynthia says:

    Love the article. I too want to ditch the leather sofa/loveseat, but the husband is attached. Leather IS wonderful when you have little kids/cats. Do you know where the art work came from in the very first picture? I’ve seen those big mosaic(?) pieces in various other pictures found on Pinterest, but I have no idea where to buy them. Thanks!

  15. Susan says:

    Iā€™m definitely following this advice with off white window coverings, light neutral area rug and pillows. I have African inspired decor in natural wood tones so Iā€™m thinking of white washing some and adding more plants and mossy green accents. I have a large wood fireplace with a dark green marble fireplace surround. Should I paint the wood parts of the fireplace the same as the walla?


Hi, I'm Erika.
Your Design + Happy Healthy Home Advocate.

Over a decade ago, I exchanged my corporate life in building construction for an opportunity to enhance your personal home via decoration and renovation. My mission? To help busy professionals make their homes their sanctuaries.

Learn more