A black sofa may dominate a living room or disappear, depending on the decor that surrounds it. It's a large area of color -- or absence of color -- set against the wall, floor and curtain colors, all of which influence the impact of the sofa and lend it character. Consider the fabric and texture of curtains and couch, the contrast or concord of intense and subtle colors, the style of the room's decor and how the curtains can help to integrate the couch.
The contemporary black leather sofa in the living room is plain enough to take a back seat to your African art collection. Cover windows first with burnt or tortoise-finished rattan pull-up shades; then sweep long black-and-white zebra print curtains to the floor. The drapes will look best in a medium-weight matte material; hemp, lined linen or printed cotton are neat and natural. Silk dupioni, with its full body and slubbed texture, is about as semi-sheen as you want to go. Alternatively, if your apartment is on a high floor and privacy is not an issue, leave the windows uncurtained, and place a movable panel of polished wide bamboo stalks, glued together horizontally, a few feet in front of the window to cut the afternoon glare. Flank the window itself with live stands of slender green running bamboo in unglazed clay containers.
The shimmering, magical quality of ice-blue plays off black's fathomless depths in any season. For warmer months or climates, hang narrow columns of floor-length loosely woven linen drapes that gather into wide folds when pulled open. The light shines through the curtains, even when they are lined in thin white cotton, with all the delicacy of summer light falling through leaves. Swap the linen drapes for the same color in distressed and faded velvet for cool months. That's when the contrast between the pale blue of winter ice and the black chasm of the sofa most resembles a frozen pond. The subliminal associations lend a subtle layer of story -- and maybe some mystery -- to matter-of-fact decor.
When You're Hot
The little black couch changes moods like a chameleon, depending on how you accessorize it. Jazz up your living room with an overdyed carpet in hot pink and hot pink-, tangerine- and grape-striped curtains that barely begin to pool on the floor. Under the curtains, almost-sheers with widely spaced skinny hot pink stripes diffuse the light when the windows are revealed by day. The intense colors need the sedate backdrop of matte bleached putty or clamshell white walls behind the couch. When a warm palette is too hot to handle, cool things down with lilac raw silk curtains, plain white sheers, pale gray walls and a violet overdyed rug. The black brocade antique settee or sleek Italian modern couch looks equally comfortable in your sizzling or serene decor.
Shades of Symmetry
Your world is black and white, and so is your decor. In a colorless room, a matched pair of black love seats face each other over a black-and-white chevron patterned rug under a clear acrylic coffee table. The walls are crisp linen with white trim, and all windows are identically covered in white roman shades trimmed with a neat black border. When the spirit moves you, there's a gleaming ebony concert grand in the corner near a white frosted-plastic Noguchi-style angled column of light. A pair of Oaxacan black clay vases are the sole decoration on the white marble mantel of the decommissioned fireplace. The firebox is painted as matte black as the couch and holds a single white alabaster abstract sculpture.
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