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How to decorate the empty space above a sofa

Aug 18, 2023Aug 18, 2023

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Styling ideas for empty walls

A sofa is usually one of the first pieces you choose when decorating a living room, but the adornments that sit above it are much further down the list of priorities. You will most likely be faced with a blank wall at some point in the design process, and whilst you never want to fill a space for the sake of it, it's a great spot for clever decorating.

Here, we look to interior designers, stylists and homeowners for clever ways to decorate above a sofa.

A gallery wall is typically filled with a mix of pictures, photographs, maps and prints. You can be fairly adventurous with your selection without worrying too much about coordinating everything – it should be a bit of a wonderful mismatch.

A good idea with gallery walls is to intersperse objects amongst your art – hang plates, small tapestries, round mirrors, colourful fans – anything with rounded edges to interrupt all the straight lines.

If you value a level of symmetry and neatness in your design scheme, or if you don't want to try your hand at a gallery wall, a triptych looks wonderful above a sofa and are usually tall enough to fill a lot of vertical space, too.

Whilst high ceilings are generally a gift in a home, they can make your walls look a bit empty. Mounting shelves around the perimeter of your living room is really useful in this instance because you are lowering the line of vision without compromising all that wonderful space. It's a nice decorative device that can used in the absence of high ceilings too.

A note on styling here; don't be afraid to leave parts of your shelves empty, otherwise it'll just become an exercise in overfilling for the sake of it. Decorate sparingly and prioritise a mix of round pieces.

A solution that does away with the need for any fiddly decoration. You can use a simple freestanding bookcase that ideally reaches your ceiling so as to maximise every inch of space. We've seen a number of interior designers fix wall art to the front of a bookcase (see this great styling video from Jason Saft of Staged to Sell,) which makes an extra feature of it.

Another alternative is to have something bespoke that wraps around your sofa like a lovely built-in cocoon. This example from Elizabeth Hay is so striking and provides ample opportunity to display treasures and trinkets. The wall lights are a great addition too, and in fact this could work without the wrap around unit to provide soft task lighting for reading.

This is a good one if you like the relaxed look of low-slung furniture. Having sink-in sofas, low units and drawing the eye downward with patterned or colourful rugs makes a room feel casual with a design nod to the 1970s. Building decoration up the wall above your sofa is a little counterintuitive in this instance.

Instead, make the most of your low units – ideally one that sits flush to the top of your sofa – to display artwork or objects that just peek over your cushions.

A living room mirror is often reserved for the space above a fireplace, or abandoned totally. Yet a mirror is the single most impactful piece you can use to make your room feel brighter and more spacious, so it's worthwhile finding the space.

This is a nice idea from Robert Kime; hanging a picture rail the length of the wall to accommodate a mixture of prints next to your mirror.

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