The Accent Chair Trap

Design decisions can really screw with you, especially if you think you have made a bad decision in the past.  This happens more often than not accent chair – you know those upholstered chair with the fun bright pattern you see in design catalogs, showrooms and magazines.

Falling for this trap happened recently to a wonderful family I know. When Rachel and her family moved into their new home she purchased an accent chair to add a pop of color to their living-room decor.  Loving the color red, she poured over color swatches and finally decided on her choice.  Excited about the purchase, she couldn’t wait for it to be delivered.  When it finally arrived they hated it!

Now, this is not a horrible chair, it happens to be quite lovely; however, I do feel Rachel’s pain.  I have been in her shoes – standing in one of those monster furniture stores trying to pick out a swatch from thousands, all the time hoping I made the right decision.  Then you take your collection of little swatches of fabric home to make your final decision – biting the bullet, you put in your order and wait weeks for delivery.  Your chair is delivered – you realize your worst thoughts came true and it is all wrong.  That pattern you loved on that little swatch is now blown up and is plastered all over a chair sitting in your living room.  It is now a mocking chair, smirking at you daily – a constant reminder of your EXPENSIVE mistake.  This was my mistake.

I thought it was great when I was picking it out.  A chair and a half with a fun contemporary pattern that had lots of color so it could grow with me long term and my changing tastes long term.  Ha!!!  That is what I thought.  I quickly grew out of the pattern and even though I had a lot of colors to choose from it was all earth tones.  Not the look I was at all wanting in my apartment when I moved.  It was also a big piece and didn’t exactly fit well in my smaller living room.  It now sits in my parents’ living room, as it works for them.  Not a waste, no, but not exactly the long term investment I was hoping for.

This past weekend, Rachel and I poured over fabric sample books for a replacement chair.  We both had spells of design anxiety while thumbing through the books.  What if we make the wrong decision again.  What if I lead her down a path she hates.  Ah, the pressure, the pressure.  

In the end, I feel we made a great decision – we are both excited and best of all, her husband loves it as well (he really dislikes the red flower chair).  

Afraid of falling into the accent trap?  Here are some tips I have learned that might help you avoid the pitfalls Rachel and I have been through.

  • Avoid trendy colors and patterns when purchasing expensive investment pieces of furniture.  Focus on creating a neutral base with pieces that are timeless and focus on texture to add contrast and interest.
  • Purchase a yard of the fabric you are going to have a non-refundable custom piece upholstered in.  It is worth the few extra dollars to have that large piece of fabric live with you for a bit to make sure it doesn’t become your very own mocking chair.
  • Keep trendy patterns and colors to soft goods like pillows, rugs, curtains and accessories.
  • Know your budget pain point.  How much are you ok with spending and then walking away from – $100, $300, $1000? Shop for accent chairs that are below your pain point. That way if you don’t like it, you will be ok to let it go – hello Craigs’ List.  Some great resources for finding inexpensive accent pieces are HomeGoods, Target, Ikea, Pier One, World Market and


                           PIER ONE


                          WORLD MARKET

  • Slipcovers – they are a wonderful thing and cover many mistakes.

Have you ever had a decorating mistake?  What have you regretted purchasing?

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