Many first-time homeowners receive pieces of furniture from friends and relatives, and sometimes the relative's gift is more formal than the new homeowner wants the room to be.
Casual furniture is often soft, comfortable, horizontal and oversized. Formal sofas are more dignified than they are comfortable. They generally have tight upholstery with a shiny fabric like silk or glazed cotton. It might have buttons, fringes or pleats.
To make formal pieces more casual, find a simple slipcover in a comfortable fabric like cotton, linen or wool. Look for slipcovers in neutral colors, like tan or beige, or in soft pastels. For a durable, easy to clean solution, try covering chair cushions with towels. The material is soft and textured and adds a funky yet functional look to a space.
Pillows also help add to the casual feel, as well as add to your color options. Mix and match pillow patterns with sofa and chair patterns to draw the pieces together.
A table made from dark wood, with thin legs and intricately carved accents gives a formal feel. Soften this up by either painting it a lighter color, or by covering it with a tablecloth.