Q: My daughter is an artist, and shows regularly in the local galleries. She recently gave me a large work on canvas, which I love, but the colors don't match anything in my living room. Is that OK, or should I reupholster the sofa to match?
A: This is certainly a topic that can start an argument. Some people think everything should match perfectly, and others are less concerned. There have been plenty of times I've put things together in my house that I love, or in clients' houses that they love, and they don't always match exactly. It makes for an interesting and lived-in look.
Hopefully, the main colors in your living room are neutral, including the sofa, the chairs, and the carpet if you have it. This will help create a backdrop for the painting, just like a frame.
Choose one of your favorite colors in the painting, and buy or make accessories in similar colors to help tie everything together. If you choose an orange, for example, accessories in warm yellows and orange-ish reds will coordinate nicely without your having to work really hard to match that exact orange.
Cooler colors also have undertones that you can work with. Greenish blues coordinate with greens and teal, of course, and reddish blues coordinate with purple tones.
You probably know that throw pillows and blankets are the logical place to start, but continue with fun lamps, decorative objects such as vases or bowls, candles, books and other art objects, and an area rug. Bring the colors in at the floor level with an area rug, eye level and higher with the painting, and draperies.
The accent colors should appear all the way around the room, creating a ribbon of color. This will create a cohesive look between the painting and the rest of the room.
I don't necessarily recommend painting the walls or redoing the sofa in a color to match the painting. That looks a little too matchy-matchy. When you surround yourself with things you love, they'll automatically go together.