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Help creating modern living room using Queen Anne couches

December 6, 2018

Need a little bit of design help please! We recently purchased and moved into a fairly large house and "inherited" a couch and loveseat (along with coffee and two side tables) from my in-laws for our living room. While I'm grateful that I don't have to immediately spend the money to buy new couches on top of all of the other "new home" expenses, traditional Queen Ann is REALLY not my style. I'm trying to work around the couches and "update" the look to something more transitional/art deco/modern/contemporary using new coffee/side tables, lamps, etc I might even be willing to put new cushions on the couch (though re-upholstery is totally out of the question). Here are the couches in question (that is NOT the coffee table I inherited though, and our living room was just painted to BM Majestic Mauve):

I was looking at something like this for the side tables:

and something like this for a coffee table:

The goal is to try to "lighten up" the dark and heavy couches... thoughts? Suggestions?

Comments (33)
  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    Not going to happen with those asofas as they are . Sometimes it is best to wait and just say no thnaks to hand me downs.By the time you try to make these work you could have saved the money and time and got what you love.

  • Allison0704

    Agree, not with those sofas. I would either say no to the free items, or just start buying the end/coffee tables you want and be prepared to replace the sofas in the not too distant future. Sell the inherited pieces (alone or together) and use that money towards the new sofa.

  • PRO

    The problem with 'gifts' from in laws is that once you take them, how do you ever get rid of them without hurting someone's feelings. Honestly, I'd get IKEA off Craigslist before I put myself in that bind.

  • Storybook Home
    To echo the other replies, that is trying to fit a long square peg into a very short very round hole that’s already been filled in and stuccoed over. Just not feasible. You’ll never really be happy with them. They say never design around a mistake, since it just leads to buying more not quite right stuff. It’s not a gift if it becomes resentment/a burden. Kindly decline or accept and sell later once you can buy something new. Depends on your relationship with the in-laws. “Accidents” happen. Things get ‘stained’ or ‘ripped’ or ‘stolen’. “So let me get this straight, the burglars ignored the tv and only took the sofas!?” “Gee yeah it’s the darndest thing...” *whistles innocently*
  • ninigret

    i'd cover them with sheets the color you want your new couches to be, go on from there. when you can afford the right couches, these couches get returned to the inlaws with a bouquet of flowers and a sincere thank you for the loan.

  • Lil S

    You already know what I'm going to say. There's no way to disguise what they are. Save your money. Buy what you want. Thank your in-laws profusely and offer to return them.

  • Irena

    I mean, I'm not expecting perfection here, just an improvement over the current situation. I don't necessarily mind the couches so much as the whole "set" (the coffee table is a rectangular monstrosity in dark wood with heavy drawers, the side tables are the same, and it all came with a lovely set of tarnished brass lamps...) , I was just hoping for some suggestions on how to use just the couches in a more "transitional" setting, and if there was any way of "lightening" them up. I was hoping that the collective creativity on here would see something I may have been overlooking; I guess not?

    Thanks anyway guys (and also thank you for the laughs... :))!

    Edited to add: I don't foresee being able to change these out in the next 2-3 years, so was REALLY hoping to figure something out to make them a little less of an eye sore!

  • justwantapool

    I guess you could try painting them, the wood and the fabric. I've never personally tried it but I have seen it on blogs and I believe a couple people here on Houzz have tried it.

    I think you can add fabric medium to regular latex paint, or you may look into fabric paint.

    they aren't a style you could use slipcovers with really and I don't see many other options that aren't costly (ie: recovering).

  • Allison0704

    Then don't use (or bring home) her tables or lamps. You've posted tables you want to purchase, so start with those. 2-3 years will fly by.

  • elunia

    Yours is a true dilemma! I’m just not sure if it’s completely design based. Are you unable to say “no, thank you” to your in-laws or are you just not willing to live with an unfurnished room for a while? Take the money you would have spent on coffee/end tables, lamps, cushions, etc and...wait...for a sale, IKEA, something other than an “inheritance“ of furniture you dont really like or want. Polish up your diplomatic skills!

  • junco East Georgia zone 8a

    Maybe you could try a flat weave rug such as a Dhurrie and pillows in a more contemporary pattern. The tables you show are just too much of a contrast. What color scheme did you have in mind with the wall color? Are the couches a caramel color? It's hard to tell from the picture.

  • lizziesma

    Is there another child/cousin/relative of some sort who is in dire need of furnishings? Every room doesn't need to be filled immediately.

  • marymd7

    I'm generally in agreement with the save the effort crowd above,, but if you really have to live with them for a bit, a couple of suggestions. First, break up the set. Use the couch, put the loveseat elsewhere. Same with the end tables. If you use them at all, use 1 not the whole set. Shop for used furniture that makes for a more eclectic mix for the time being. Consider painting the wood and getting really colorful pillows, rugs, etc., to break up the brown.

  • mcoledesign


    i understand why you need to work with the sofas, try something like this.

    modern art, colors, take the focus off the sofa

    the entire picture didn't come through, all items in the picture can be bought on houzz.

  • PRO

    Creative slipcovers.

    Once I had a large dining table I didn't like the finish of and I wrapped the table in black faux leather and used leather strips on the legs to add an artistic element.

    See the boots below with lacings added. That's how the table looked.

    Or maybe you could create a deconstructed slipcover like you see below from muslin, drop cloths or old doilies. You could mix that with your new tables.

  • emmarene9

    If you are sure you want to take them then I suggest you aim towards what some call Hollywood Regency style. That way you could begin to gather pieces that fit into your future scheme.

    I just hope your MIL is not going to try to decorate your home for you.

  • ptreckel
    I understand your dilemma but I would discourage you from investing one cent in anything, and I mean ANYTHING, that you don’t like just to make something you dislike look better. Unless you live it and want it forever, don’t buy it. If your in-laws ask why you haven’t done anything to enhance their furniture, tell them it is a temporary solution and that you are saving for the furniture of YOUR dreams. Otherwise you will be stuck with a room full of stuff that you don’t like! Good luck!
  • H202

    Doing any kind of slipcover or similar is going to cost MORE money than just buying cheap new couches. And yes, cheap new couches are not ideal. But i would assume those cheap new couches will be as good or better quality than *used*, hand me down, queen ann style couches -- which in my experience, are almost always super low end or 40 years old. Because no expensive furniture manufacturers make queen ann sofas anymore. They are solely the providence of cheap stores like Rooms To Go and Macys where people think if they buy something similar to what a queen used to use 250 years ago, that it will make their house look fancier. Point is, you can buy two cheap new couches for $1000 total. Or spend more than than that and be stuck with two couches that you don't like that probably aren't good quality.

    PS I expect you will respond that "no no, these are actually really good quality sofas. My in-laws saw they spent a lot of money on them." In my experience, 60-year old in-laws who bought queen ann style couches 20+ years ago have very little relative concept of what "a lot of money" is for a couch, and almost always over estimate the quality/fanciness of their purchases.

  • pennydesign

    I hope Irena comes back because this is the kind of challenge that a few of us can really get behind!

  • leelee

    Save your money and when the time comes donate Queen Ann and get what you really want. You're wasting time and money to try to "fix" these pieces.

    And don't forget in-laws didn't want it either. That's how you ended up with it.

  • leelee

    Majestic Mauve ?

  • celerygirl

    I would get solid no pattern throw pillows and drapes.

  • Susan

    I will bite, although as a non-professional many may disagree. If you do not mind the style but want to mix it up, look for tables that are distinctly different. Think something like an ottoman instead of a coffee table, a drum table or an acrylic coffee table. A leggy modern table will clash with a leggy traditional couch. Then add some color in the way of pillows and accents that will contrast the brown. An area rug is another place to bring in pattern or color.

    susanbbw's Ideas · More Info

    Mixing Modern and Traditional Furniture Styles in Every Room · More Info

  • Dolly

    I am the odd one out as I actually love those sofas. I think they would be fun to decorate around.

  • lindsey (still misses Sophie)

    DC Condo Living · More Info

    Use a light coloured rug and a glass coffee table.

    Add pillows in a transitional print that incorporates an accent colour, then add that accent colour in other areas of the room.

    Arrange the furniture in a less-formal layout.

    Then ignore the sofa and loveseat for 2-3 years. They will pass very quickly.

  • celerygirl

    Here is

    5 Resurrected Old-World Interior Design Trends

    by designer Emily Henderson.

    I hope this could help.

    I love how old world sofa looks now. To achieve this look you need slipcover.

  • celerygirl

    Here is color trends that work with your walls. Bring it in accents.

    Photo © Sherwin-Williams

  • tartanmeup

    Eclectic. The sofa is white though.

  • Irena

    Thanks guys. To give this a little bit more context, my in-laws bought a new house at the same time as we bought our new house and due to various shenanigans, they had to store their stuff in our house for a week. After their house became available, they moved all the furniture they thought they wanted and left whatever they didn't because "You have 3300sqft to furnish" (#firstworldproblems). I have absolutely no qualms about getting rid of any of this stuff, but it is nice to have the extra furniture, especially when we host (which is fairly often). I was just a little bummed about this being literally one of the first rooms you see when you walk into the house and it being so far from my aesthetic and was hoping for a "quick fix" to have it looking a little better by Christmas (once again, hosting! :)).

    Anyway, I am going to start with putting some artwork on the walls, getting a neutral rug in there (currently trying to convince my better half that area rugs are good, even if they do cover up our very nice, freshly re-done hardwood floors...), and getting new table lamps (seriously, I cannot overstate how truly awful those 30+ year old tarnished brass lamps are...); will try to take it from there. :) Will post pictures as they become available!

    PS. Yes, BM Majestic Mauve... I know that it's an "unusual" choice but that color works really well in almost all of the rooms of our first floor and because of the lighting in the house, it most often looks like grey or taupe with purple undertones and not like the picture above...

  • Irena

    Also, to H2O2's point, the "set" was not inexpensive, but I wouldn't call it "expensive" or quality made" - I'm pretty sure my in-laws seriously overpaid (I was around when they bought them and told my husband (boyfriend at the time) as much,..!).

  • leelee

    The rugs don't cover the hardwood floors, they protect your investment. Or that's what you tell hubby.

  • hollybar

    First,I'd figure out how many and which of those pillow have to be on the couches for comfort. Then I'd go to etsy and find inexpensive covers for them. https://www.etsy.com/shop/motion52?ref=l2-shopheader-name&section_id=20385208 Something fresh & informal. I'd have to see a pic of the couches in the room to be more specific. Neutral and natural fiber rug. Add a Christmas tree and some rumballs and it will all be fabulous!

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