Q: My boyfriend’s parents gave us their old (but nice) couch, chairs and throw pillows. The upholstery is a light beige/gray canvaslike material for the couch and matching leather for the chairs — with a few stains. The couch is actually very comfortable and good quality, but we want to make all this look like it’s ours, not like his parents'. What are some ideas?
A: This furniture set sounds like a great addition to your home, and the price is amazing! As you probably know, with a little care, neutral colors and durable upholstery, including leather, can look great and last for years. And it’s reasonable to want to make it feel like it fits in your home. Even if you bought this collection new from a store, working to suit your own style will help you be happy with this furniture for a while.
Cleaning is a good idea for used furniture, and is a great first step to making this furniture your own. Do you know what type of fabric is on the sofa? See if you can find a manufacturer’s tag, often under the cushions. Sometimes there are cleaning instructions listed. Or, ask where it was purchased in the first place; that store may have more advice for you. If you still can’t find information, it would be worthwhile talking to a professional upholstery cleaning service in your area. Trying to clean the sofa using the wrong method could set the stains and make the upholstery look worse.
If you do know what the fabric is, Better Homes & Gardens has a very helpful article: “Clean Upholstered Furniture Like a Pro.” It’s worth a look for more helpful DIY upholstery cleaning tips than would ever fit in this column. And, of course, once the sofa is clean, vacuum it regularly and address new stains quickly, as they happen.
Customize the look of any furniture, new-to-you or not, by treating yourself to accessory throws, pillows, and blankets that truly express your style and add color. It’s an age-old decor trick but it still works. Faux fur and classic striped throws in neutral colors and natural fibers including wool, cotton and linen, especially with fringe details and tassels, are very trendy now, and will instantly update your sofa. Shameless plug: Check out these throws on my website.
Lastly, if you have storage space, it’s always fun to have an assortment of pillows and throws to mix and match as your mood or the seasons change. Snuggly, warm blankets are nice during the cold months, but change those out with lightweight cotton and linen for summertime. You can even use large throws as slipcovers over furniture to hide less attractive upholstery. Have fun with this, and let me know what you end up doing.