DIY Home

A Tip for Getting More Color and Complexity in a Small Living Space

November 13, 2015

Cate Caruso is an interior designer, so it's hardly a shock that her Manhattan apartment feels like a showroom—pillows just so, bar carts in seemingly every corner, really good light. I was visiting to hear her ideas for throwing a very last-minute dinner party (though you'll have to wait to hear all about that), and got distracted by something amazing: her pink couch.

Yes, I sat on it while she wasn't looking.

Okay, so as you can tell it isn't completely pink: It has pink cushions on a gray frame. "Did you buy this couch with pink cushions?" I asked, a little incredulous since the gray fabric appeared to be a different material altogether.

And of course she didn't—she made it that way.

The idea is simple. If you have a couch that's getting a little too well loved (mine at home, for example, sinks a little in the middle), or if you simply want to incorporate more texture, nuance, and color into your small space, head to the nearest upholsterer.

"Before, this couch was an uncomfortable tan fabric that felt like burlap. It had a cushion-less back, meant to have just a bunch of different pillows piled on it, and there was a really thin base cushion to sit on," Cate explains. She had one large comfy cushion made to fit the whole length of the couch, "like a mattress, so overnight guests could sleep on it," and two smaller ones to split the difference of its length.

While the color combo is unexpectedly chic, it's the material variation that's actually most surprising: Cate's original couch was all gray linen, and this pink fabric is velvet. "When you mix velvet and linen, you're creating a relaxed, refined vibe," she explains.

"Linen, particularly one like this blend of silk and wool, is great to upholster with, soft to the touch and generally wears nicely. Velvet, while sumptuous, luxe, and cozy, can be trickier. If you like velvet on a sofa, you have to be comfortable with wear and marks (the type of velvet is also a factor in terms of wear), but if you're a perfectionist you could do the reverse and have the velvet on the frame where it will stay more pristine."

A couch made much comfier.

The idea of having a velvet couch, especially a well-worn, slightly crushed velvet couch, was enough to make me deeply envious (true velvet can be woven from silk, so it doesn't come free). But the idea itself is adaptable to all styles and budgets. "I wanted to bring more nuance to a small space that wouldn't otherwise have a lot of variety," says Cate, who suggests that you could choose to keep the fabrics consistent and just change the color.

"We also made the cushions large enough that they're just taller than the back of the sofa—so you can see the pink color from the back.

Cate Caruso, an interior designer, founded Studio C in 2014 and received her design degree at Parsons School of Design.

Would you dare change your couch cushions to a different color? If so, what pair of colors would you choose? Share your ideas in the comments.


Dianne W. April 12, 2016
I have a cherry red chintz couch with a huge floral pattern. Love the chintz! It could have a teal huge cushion, or even the darkest red which is in the pattern. Yellow walls. very traditional eclectic furniture. Large wing chairs with a deep red plaid. Sounds good to me! Thanks for the idea! Dianne
Nancy April 12, 2016
I have a black and white patterned chair that I dearly love and the material on the seat wore out so I had the seat recovered in black velour. It is all about color, pattern and texture for me. How something feels is just as important as how it looks and I ponder for a long time before I buy something. Then I keep it for a long time.
mari D. February 27, 2016
I have a love seat that I've planned to do indigo and teal. going to dye the bench seat and re upholster the frame.
Leigh H. February 27, 2016
I have an eggplant color couch in herringbone texture.. would definitely go for an olive or charcoal set of cushions
Haley P. November 13, 2015
Love love love and am deeply envious! Glad to see Amanda agrees ;)