You've chosen your colour palette, your furniture is just where you want it, but something's still missing – and it's often what to display on the living room walls that can leave us pondering. That's why we've come up with 10 tips for decorating the wall behind your sofa, so you can make sure that the big expanse of wall behind your seating is just as eye-catching as the rest of your living room ideas.
Whether you want to update your existing scheme or are looking to give the entire room a makeover, the behind-the-sofa spot is a great display space that you can really use to your advantage. From living room wallpaper ideas and paint effects to artwork and shelving, there are lots of ways to give this blank wall a bit of pizzazz – and we've found 10 of the best ways to transform your space.
10 Tips for decorating the wall behind the sofa
If you're finding yourself wondering what to hang or how high to hang it, then you've come to the right place, as we've got lots of inspiration and styling tips to ensure you don't make an expensive mistake.
To start, you'll want to weigh up the decor in the rest of your room – if you've got a particularly busy interior, then maybe a bit of breathing room is just what's needed? Alternatively, maybe you need some lighting in this spot, or a place for some plants or family photos?
It's also worth taking into account your living room layout – does your sofa sit flush against the wall or is there space behind for a sideboard or console? Once you've got an idea of what's needed, then you can get on with the fun part: choosing the decor and accessories.
1. Hang a gallery feature wall
Gallery walls have become hugely popular, with a mix of framed prints and other objects used to create eye-catching displays. What makes living room feature walls particularly ideal for the wall behind the sofa is that you can add as many or few items as you like, meaning you can tailor them to the amount of space you want to fill.
Like a neat, modern finish? Use a range of same-sized frames and hang them in a symmetrical fashion. Prefer a more eclectic look? Switch out frames for a collection of fans, woven baskets, plates or a mix of them all. To keep your gallery wall cohesive, use either similar colours or a consistent material. For example, opt for frames in different sizes and colours filled with black-and-white photos, or varying objects all with a 'natural' feel and neutral colours (think wood, twine, rope and leather).
Stylist's tip: Before hanging your display, lay your elements out on the floor in the pattern you’re thinking you want it arranged in and make sure they're large enough to add impact.
2. Build bespoke shelving
There's no hard and fast rule that says your sofa has to sit flush against a wall, so why not pull it out and build – or hang – shelving behind it? That way you can fill the shelves with decorative objects that become the stars of the show.
Having shelves behind your sofa also makes it easy to reach behind to grab a book or place the remote control, and as long as the shelves don't jut out at head height, you don't have to worry about knocking things off. Here, the shelves have been painted the same colour as the wall, door and door frame in a beautiful blue-grey colour, while the rose-coloured sofa adds a punchy contrast.
3. Prop up large artworks or canvases
Hanging artworks isn't the only way to display them… buy large enough designs and prop them on the floor behind your sofa or on a slim console table. It's ideal for rented properties or if you don't want to mark the walls. Alternatively, wallpaper or paint tall canvases or MDF panels, which are easy to switch out when you grow bored of them, without the need for redecorating.
4. Create a theme
Use the blank wall behind your sofa to bring your scheme to life and show off any theme you might have. Here, a floral design has been carried through to the artworks, with a small table used used to display fresh flowers in the same colours. The birdcage ties in with the birds in the artwork and on the cushions, too.
Stylist's tip: If you're using a table or console behind the sofa, make sure it reaches the top of the sofa so you can see the bottoms of any displayed objects clearly.
5. Create height with a shelf
If you don't have the luxury of high ceilings, one way to cheat it is to hang a shelf up high, as it draws the eye up and creates the illusion of height.
Here, instead of having varying shelves behind the sofa, which can make a small room feel even more enclosed, one long floating shelf runs across the top of the wall, creating a neat spot to display accessories in an orderly fashion
6. Practice the rule of three
Hanging objects in odd numbers is often key to creating an attractive display, especially when you're using a range of accessories in different sizes, like these mirrors. All circular in shape, the varying designs add interest, and they've been placed in a triangular shape on the wall for the best results.
Decide whether you want space in-between each object, or whether you want them butting up against each other to create the illusion of one giant mirror or artwork.
7. Experiment with texture
We've seen wall panelling ideas take the interiors world by storm and using a slim slatted design, like this one, makes a big impact with its beautifully textured finish. If you want to go for dramatic effect, then a dark colour like this charcoal black is ideal – or opt for a more natural wood finish to add warmth to your scheme or match to your furniture colour.
8. Use decorative lighting
We know you'll be looking at that statement half-and-half paint effect here, but it's actually the wall light we'd like to call your attention to. Gone are the days of half-moon designs that you'd rather hide than show off – now there are millions of style-led options that you can use to accessorise your wall, from sconces to picture lights, orb-shaped designs and more ornate lights in all manner of colours and materials.
By placing your living room wall light idea in the centre of panelling, as shown in the image above, it gives the light the attention it deserves and creates a frame-like effect around it. No panelling? Why not use a vintage frame instead – just make sure it's large enough that it doesn't crowd your wall light.
9. Play with pattern
Hanging a dramatic patterned wallpaper behind your sofa immediately makes the space interesting and despite it being a large wall, you can let the design do the talking with no need to hang anything else on it. Obviously there's a multitude of patterns available, so decide whether you want something that 'pops' against your sofa, or create a tone-on-tone scheme with the same colour in a darker or lighter shade.
Here, this green floral dog pattern wallpaper features beautiful Dobermann Pinschers facing each other with intensity as they are linked by chain and key. Wrap your entire room in it, or use purely for that sofa wall – either way, you'll be adding a focal point in your room that's anything but bland.
10. Clash colours on the same wall
Lastly, and perhaps the easiest way to decorate behind your sofa, we bring you paint. We're not just talking one colour here though… instead, have fun with it and choose a design, whether it's stripes or spots, a mural or geometric shapes, to create a backdrop that calls to you – as Crown Paints (opens in new tab) do expertly in this living room.
It's also a great way to incorporate extra colours into your scheme or refresh your wall without redecorating it in its entirety. Here, a vivid pink and electric yellow paint are set behind a soft blush pink velvet sofa, with the stripes on the wall made less harsh by the curves of the sofa.
What's the best way to create an impact on the wall behind your sofa?
The best way to create an impact on the wall behind your sofa is by going bold, says Ideal Home's Style Editor Nicky Phillips. She offers her expert styling advice; 'Make sure you choose a contrasting colour to your sofa, a pattern you love, an interesting texture or something that will create an impact when hung. Make sure the scale packs a punch too, go for a grid of 8 prints, instead of a row or three, and choose a large scale mural instead of a ditsy print floral if creating a feature wallpaper wall.'
Emma Deterding, creative director at Kelling Designs (opens in new tab), also recommends going bold. 'If you go down the feature wall route, then choosing a bold wallpaper or wall mural in a fun and quirky design that you truly love will make a real statement and allow your personality to shine,' she says. 'You could also play with painterly effects, such as polished plaster, use a textured wallcovering for a more subtle take or invest in wall panelling to create a timeless and classic aesthetic that can be modernised with a bold paint choice. Similarly, hanging artworks, prints, personal photos or even decorative wall hangings will create a feature of the wall behind the sofa. You can then use wall lighting to highlight key pieces of art or photos, or even just to add depth whilst creating a cosy atmosphere.'
What should I keep in mind when decorating the wall behind my sofa?
When decorating the wall behind your sofa, there are a few things you need to consider before you start. 'Identify where the focal point in the room is and consider if you have a fireplace or existing joinery built in as this will determine how much or how little you should do with the wall behind the sofa,' advises Samantha Wilson, founder of Collection Noir (opens in new tab). 'If there is a focal point (such as a fireplace) in the room already, then consider the positioning of this to the sofa wall. If it's adjacent, think about the continuity between your new decorated wall and the one opposite. Ideally, you want to create some type of symmetry between the two opposite walls to avoid the space feeling bitty. This can be achieved with either the same wallcovering or paint.'
'The next thing to consider is ceiling height,' Samantha continues. 'If you have high ceilings, then try to keep the eye-line between 1,500 and 1,800mm for any artwork or lighting you're looking to put up (this dimension should be the centre point). This will ensure everything stays within scale and at the right height, and that you don't have anything too high or low on the wall which will look jarring. The amount of natural light that comes into the room will also have an effect – if the room is naturally quite dark with low ceilings, then you don't want to put anything too heavy on the walls as it will make the room feel even smaller.'
Safety is another element to take into consideration. 'If you are going to hang a long shelf stacked with precious vases, or a large ornate mirror, or even numerous glass fronted picture frames, always make sure you have secure fittings and fastening,' says Ideal Home's Nicky Phillips. 'Maybe even think of replacing glass in frames for perspex.'
How do I plan a gallery wall behind the sofa?
'Firstly make sure your pictures and other elements are going to be large enough to make an impact,' advises Nicky. 'A rule of thumb is that they should cover roughly the same area as the width and height of your sofa. Start by laying out your pieces on the floor in front of your sofa, choosing a pattern you are happy with. This can be symmetrical or random in its design. When you are happy, measure and space carefully to replicate the pattern on the floor onto the wall above the sofa.'
Samantha Wilson, founder of Collection Noir (opens in new tab), recommends making sure you're consistent with the spacing between each frame, too. 'Create a border on the wall with masking tape to determine the boundaries and the space you want to fill,' she says. 'Start with your first piece in the centre of the wall at eyeline height and work your way outwards to fill the boundary you have set. Remember, don't be afraid to mix and match frame types and colours – the frames should be just as fun as the artwork in them!'
Laurie Davidson is a professional stylist, writer and content creator, who lives and breathes interiors. Having worked for some of the UK’s leading interior magazines, styled homes up and down the country and produced sets for TV shows, adverts and top brands, it’s safe to say Laurie has had a pretty exciting career. Find her on Instagram at @lifeofaninteriorstylist or over at lauriedavidson.co.uk
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