It's crucial to coordinate the curtains with the sofa to anchor any living room; both are large blocks of color in the space, even when the colors are neutral. When they match -- and that doesn't mean "exact match" -- your decor looks balanced and intentional. And you can get away with a streak of exoticism or circus-like exuberance while safeguarding your excellent rep for impeccable style.
Any dominant color or pattern will have its undertones, even red. Make sure the walls are painted ivory and not stark white, and hunt for solid red velvet drapery fabric in the exact color and tone of the sofa. A more yellow orange-red won't cut it. Neither will a softer, pinker tint of cherry. Hold out for muted red, and then line those floor-length drapes in ivory. Now you've nailed it, and you can get on with decorating the rest of the room.
Beige & Gray Color Schemes
Your serene living room is so Zen it's practically a monastery. You don't have to match the sofa and curtains in this no-color space. Just keep it all neutral and let the textures add interest to the whites, off-whites, taupes and smokes.
The sofa is beige linen with toast cushions, and the drapes pool on the floor in a fall of natural canvas. They both look fabulous against the ebony wood planks.
A pale gray suede sofa is softly echoed in faded smoky gray velvet curtains with a faint aura of lilac glimmering in the weave.
Shake things up with a lilac raw silk decorative pillow or two on the couch. Or throw a lilac or lavender silk shawl, figured delicately in a silver-gray pattern, over the back of the sofa. Still serene, but intriguing now -- and you can add that faux zebra carpet or just leave the waxed floor bare without a qualm.
Brown & Black
The dark tobacco or rich cocoa sofa is a stand-out in the parlor, but the room is small and matching drapes will asphyxiate you and your guests. Give yourself some breathing room by mixing and matching hues to link the sofa and curtains without going all matchy-matchy -- nobody gets compliments for living-room-in-a-box.
Hang black velvet drapes with that rusty tobacco-brown sofa, but edge them in vertical borders the same color as the sofa. Then decorate the rest of the room in lighter shades with accents to pick up the black -- in picture frames, lampshades or a black-and-cream print on an upholstered wing chair.
Chocolate is tempting on a dessert table or as upholstery on the new sofa, but a chocolate-on-chocolate room will make you feel as if you've fallen into a vat of mousse. Lighten up with a lower-calorie approach. Hang floor-length drapes in vertical stripes of cream, caramel and cocoa against cream-painted walls, to mirror the tempting brown velvet of the sofa. Serve champagne in this confectionery space, the same sunny golden tone as the curtains.
Balance Patterns, Solids & Brights
Play with color like a painter in a living room, with a boxy lagoon-blue sofa against a bougainvillea-flame accent wall, flanked by brass lamps with navy-blue shades. Curtain the windows in Greek key-patterned teal-and-white fabric, and toss a paisley rug in white, teal, lagoon and navy on the floor.
Complements and color families are additional options for decor matches. Got a paisley sofa? You're in luck. Pick your favorite color from the pattern and whip up a pair of solid color curtains to coordinate with the couch. Problem solved, and you get extra punch from more of the color that drew you to the sofa in the first place. Solid curtains are a simple strategy for taming any patterned sofa that otherwise might look too busy in the room.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .