Updating with Upholstery

Q:I collected my living-room furniture over time and it’s a mix of styles. I have a well-made sectional sofa that’s kind of boxy, a Victorian love seat, some club chairs, and a few occasional chairs. Can I pull everything together with upholstery? I’d like the look to be clean and timeless but not boring and old-fashioned. (By the way, it’s not as bad as it sounds.) — V. M. Russell, North Salem

A: “It doesn’t sound bad — just eclectic,” says Nicole Aversa Pushkal, an interior designer who is apparently given to kind remarks instead of urging you to throw the whole mess out and start fresh. Ah, but then her Tuckahoe company, Nicole Interior Designs, specializes in upholstery, which is why we asked her the question in the first place.

“You can definitely pull it all together with fabrics,” the enthusiastic Nicole says. “There are so many textures, colors, and styles — you just make the pieces relate to each other with color so it’s one whole, big ensemble.” There you go! Easy.

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But wait, there’s more. For the larger pieces, Nicole suggests sticking with transitional fabrics, which means materials and patterns situated somewhere between traditional and super-modern. “The big, boxy sofa would look good in a muted color — something quiet, tone-on-tone, or a textured fabric, so that it’s like a backdrop. Then you can add beautiful pillows with tassels or brush fringe to bring in the colors of everything else in the room, and give it some style, make it special,” she says, evidently picturing your sofa’s transformation in her mind’s eye.

For the club chairs, she’d go with “something more patterned than the sofa, maybe a dot or a diamond, or even a stripe. Something more traditional.” That Victorian love seat? “Maybe a damask. Not an old-fashioned one, but one that’s curvy and big, with an oversized pattern, so it’s a fresh slant on a classic. Then you can get funky on the occasional chairs, or an ottoman, if you’ve got one. Add a pop of color, or something outside the box, like a leopard or animal print. That would look great.”

You can use five patterns in a room if the colors relate, Nicole asserts. “Just choose textures that talk to each other.” As for materials, she favors woven cottons and cotton blends. “They’re the best, strongest fabrics. They hold up and the color is usually beautiful. Or the sofa could be lovely in a velvet strie, which looks a little more contemporary. Silk velvet marks badly, but cotton velvets hold up well.”

Imagine what she might come up with if she actually saw the room!

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