How to Decorate With a Striped Couch

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Let there be stripes in your living room -- and not just on the rug or the curtains. Striped couch upholstery updates a tired old piece that still has years of use in it and can change a room's vibe from monotonous to modern in a heartbeat. Try out your wild ideas with some sample fabric, though, draping it across the couch to see how it plays with the rest of the decor.

Zebra Style

A black-and-white striped couch is anything but stark in the living room. It's a centerpiece, and finding balance in the decor means coordinating more patterns and spare, neutral surroundings at the same time. When the couch is an antique and the upholstery is shiny silk brocade, try the eclecticism of minimalist style, mixed with more rich stripes more subtle than the standout couch. Match the wall and trim paint to the white stripes -- white is never one color and the exact tint of the upholstery is what you want for the walls. Hang black-and-white art on the walls -- plainly framed photographs in white mats bordered by thin black enamel are striking. A few pieces of furniture with simple lines are all you need; consider placing them on almost-white berber carpet or a flat-pile gray-and-black area rug over hardwood floors. Look for secondhand zebrawood chairs and tables, a subtle way to underline the sofa stripes. Buying used exotic hardwood is kind to vanishing forests and rain forests, as well as your budget.

Crazy Couches

An eclectic bent in living room decor melds a bit of Bohemian with mixed, reclaimed period pieces and a patchwork of upholstery fabrics. Cover a pair of sofas in a grab bag of solids and stripes in colors to make your heart sing. The sofa styles don't have to match when you pair them with the same fabric approach. Try lime, navy and teal striped brocade on sofa sides, with chartreuse distressed velvet seat cushions, peony-pink suede cloth back cushions and teal velvet throw cushions. Decorate the facing sofa with burgundy, rose and cream striped velvet on the rolled arms, a cream-and-peony striped velvet seat cushion, teal and turquoise tiny-checked back cushions and accent pillows in lime and peony-pink. Pick up a few of the cushion shades in solid-color furnishings, but keep this room very open and uncluttered to let those couches breathe.

Size, and Other Stuff, Matters

Stripe savvy will ensure your couch pulls the whole room together. Remember that stripes are directional and your eye will follow their line. Wide stripes draw attention to what's flanking the sofa; vertical stripes pull the eye up to check out the drapes or the art hanging on the wall. Big, bold stripes are dramatic; multicolored stripes are playful; thin stripes are conservative and conventional. Stripes will counter too-girly energy in a room that's overly floral but still retain the lively feel from all those swirling and curved designs. A navy-and-white striped linen summer slipcover transforms your solid-color sofa, then folds away for a more formal winter look. Dare chevron stripes in analogous or neutral colors on a love seat, but beware of insistent stripes like diagonals or chevrons on a larger sofa or sectional. Those could be more vertigo-inducing than indicative of vivacious style.

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