How to Style Couch Pillows

pillow styling

Susan Knof

Picking throw pillows for your sofa should be an enjoyable activity, but with so many types of pillows on the market (not to mention an expansive array of patterns, colors, and materials), it can be a bit of an overwhelming process, too. To help you determine how to best style pillows on your sofa once and for all, we turned to the pros. Here, interior designers share their tips!

Consider the Purpose of a Room

This is a critical first step to take before making any purchases, according to designer Amy May. "Formal spaces and sofas command more structure and detailing, such as firmly filled pillows to provide seating support and finishing with piping and clean edges," she explains. Family rooms, on the other hand, are more laid back, May adds. "Think bolsters for neck support and pliable pillows for sinking in comfortably while watching a movie or enjoying a cozy conversation with a friend."

Mix Solids and Patterns

Designer Maggie Griffin enjoys mixing and matching patterned and solid pieces on the sofa. "We love five pillows on a long sofa—a pair per corner, and a lumbar up front," she says. Don't be afraid to incorporate a few different patterns at a time, either. "Try a solid with tape in the corners, then a pair of a punchy pattern like a floral or chinois toile, with an animal print in the middle," Griffin suggests.

It can be fun to think outside the box when it comes to pillow patterns because the surface area is so much smaller than that of a standard furniture piece. "Explore using a texture or a pattern on a pillow that you wouldn’t necessarily use on a large-scale piece," designer Annie Kersey of Purple Cherry Architects explains. And in doing so, make sure to incorporate some contrast. "Be aware of the couch fabric material and don’t select materials for the pillows that are too similar," Kersey adds.

pillow styling

Desiree Burns

And keep in mind that a little bit of color never hurt anyone. "If your overall space is fairly neutral yet you want some committal burst of bold, pillows are the perfect place to play," designer Susan Knof says. "If you are using a loud color, you may want to stick to one color here and rely on repetition by using it in multiples."

Know What to Place Where

Kersey most often layers a 20- or 22-inch square pillow behind an 18- or 20-inch pillow. "I usually like the back pillow to be a smaller scale pattern or a more solid pop of color in order to offer a slightly more subtle impact," she comments. "The front pillow should be more of a statement piece."

pillow styling

Kelly Hurliman

Have Fun With Texture

Pattern is just one element to consider when styling a sofa; texture is ultra key, too, Kersey says. "Pillows are a great place to add texture and offer a great opportunity to have fun," she comments. Not sure where to begin? Kersey offers a few fabric suggestions. "Don’t be afraid to use a multilevel fabric like a velvet stipe, a fringe or tasseled fabric, or roping."

Thinking about the textures present throughout the rest of the room is important as well. "Coordinating the texture or color of your pillows with a statement piece in the space is the perfect way to tie it all together," designer Nichole Samuel says.

Don't Worry About Even Numbers

An odd number of pillows looks best on the sofa, designer Dawn Ianno says, especially in the case of a sectional.

pillow styling

Interior Impressions

Try This Designer-Approved Shopping Secret

Having trouble sourcing pillows that appeal to your aesthetic but are a bit off the beaten path? Check out Etsy, designer Kelly Hurliman urges. "It is a great place to find to the trade only patterns in a variety of custom sizes," she adds. "This is a great resource when you just need a single pillow and need under a yard of fabric."

Change Things Up

If you're someone who is hesitant to make lasting design decisions, note that pillows come without any of that stress. "Pillows are items that can easily be moved around or changed with seasons so all the more reason to use this opportunity to mix colors and patterns," Knof comments. Hurliman agrees, adding, "A few mohair pillows in the winter or a fresh pattern for spring can change the whole vibe of the room!"