Throw pillows have two important qualities that make them well suited for home decorating: affordability and versatility. Everyone can find throw pillows in colors and styles they like, and it’s easy to put them to use in bedrooms, living rooms, entryways, or even home offices.

Professional interior designers and home stylists know how to use throw pillows to express any number of moods—cozy, chic, elegant, casual. The good news is, you can too! By paying attention to a few details and applying just a handful of techniques, you can give your home an expert style upgrade with minimal effort.

How to Find the Right Throw Pillows for You

Kobe Chairs by American Leather, Espen Sectional by American Leather

Start by getting an idea of the amount of furniture space you want to decorate with pillows. Knowing this will help you decide which sizes and shapes of pillows you want, as well as how you’ll want to use the pillows (for example, if you plan to use them purely for decoration, or if you want to use any for lower back support or napping).

When you’re looking for pillows for your living room, your sofa style can also help guide your selection. Most people start with at least one 20-inch square pillow. But if you have a more modern sofa with a lower back, 18-inch or 16-inch square pillows will feel more appropriately sized.

Once you have your fuller sized pillows picked out, check out smaller square pillows to use as accents. The key to styling throw pillows is in layering, so you want to make sure you have at least a few pillows. You may also like longer rectangular pillows, which are handy on wider sofas and can be used for extra lower back support.

How Many Throw Pillows to Have

April Bed by Cisco Home, One-of-a-kind Pillows by Cisco Home

Professionals recommend placing an odd number of pillows on any given piece of furniture, whether it’s a sofa, bed, or bench. Narrower pieces need fewer pillows—loveseats, for example, look great with three pillows—while a larger sectional might have as many as seven pillows. Generally though, you can start with five. This will give you enough pillows for a standard sized sofa or queen or king sized bed.

If you want a more modern look, you can try an even number of pillows. And if you’re really worried about overwhelming your space, try a fewer number of pillows in larger sizes. Having two larger pillows on a single couch with one in each corner will look rather chic.

How to Find the Right Style Throw Pillows

Ethnicraft Accent Pillow Collection

While square is definitely the norm for throw pillows, you can find some real gems if you play around with different shapes. Spherical pillows make for strong statement pieces—that are also nice to snuggle up with—while more modern shapes can bring a refreshing sense of play and whimsy.

For both beds and sofas, your furniture will be your best guide for choosing pillow colors. It really depends on what kind of effect you want the pillows to have on your space. Use solid, muted colors that complement your furniture’s color to create a modern aesthetic, or go for patterns and brighter hues to establish an eclectic look.

Finally, remember that texture matters. Flat fabrics will always be in vogue, but embrace the opportunity to try plushy, velvety, fuzzy, chunky, or any number of fabrics. Even if your style is understated, pillow coverings made with materials like soft corduroy, patterned velour, or rustic wool can subtly accent your furniture to feel more fully decorated.

How to Style Your Throw Pillows

Ethnicraft Accent Pillow Collection

You can take several different routes—or a combination of them—to create a look you love. They all boil down to choosing different details to focus on, then grouping your pillows by those details. Here are the most common ways professional stylists group throw pillows.

By Prints

If you want to group based on prints, plan on using similar-looking prints within a given area. That doesn’t mean every pillow on your couch needs to have the exact same pattern, but they should be within the same general print family (e.g. stripes with stripes, checkers with checkers, etc.). Placing pillows with drastically different prints next to each other can feel discordant.

Also, make sure your patterned pillows all share a dominant color. This will typically be whichever anchor color you’ve established for the decor on your couch. You can also reinforce the color scheme by placing a solid color throw pillow behind any patterned pillows.

By Shapes

If you want to group by shape, begin with a foundation of square pillows and sprinkle in different shapes from there. Round and spherical pillows can help your furniture feel more lively and inviting than a setup with strictly square pillows.

The best part of decorating with throw pillows is that nothing is permanent. If you later decide to take some pillows intended for your sofa and try them out in another space, go for it! Rotating your pillows is a good way to keep your decor feeling fresh, and it may inspire you to see new possibilities to keep your home fun and fulfilling for you.

By Styles

If your space already has a distinct look, you can also style your pillows to align with the room’s aesthetic. Many people instinctively find themselves planning in this way when they first start shopping for pillows.

If you have a modern look to support, search for solid neutral colors and high-grade fabrics like leather. If the look you’re going for is something more like vintage or farmhouse, think rustic prints like argyle and gingham. For a popular look like Scandi minimalism, choose light-colored pillows in natural fabrics, and if you have a lot of plants in your home, they’ll always look great next to pastel hues, tropical prints, or more floral prints.

And if you’re not sure, try pillows in classic prints like chevron and quatrefoil; they work with any style.

Remember the Seasons

Amber Lewis x Loloi Collection

Having the option to rotate or swap out pillows is something you should really take advantage of, especially as seasons change. A new season is the best opportunity to try one new pillow or an entirely new pillow palette.

Reds, oranges, yellows, and browns are always welcome in fall, while blues look great in summer. Spring is a good time to check out floral prints, and winter is the perfect time to add chunky knit fabrics to the mix.

The Art of Pillow Placement

O'Hara Bed by Cisco Home, One-of-a-kind Pillows by Cisco Home

Once you have all your pillows, the final step is to put them in place. Thankfully, this isn’t complicated. But there are a few guidelines worth keeping in mind.

Firstly, always think in groups. For a sofa, this means putting pillows in small groups either at the ends or in the corners. For a bed, this means grouping pillows either in front of or between your sleeping pillows. Each group needs at least two pillows, then your odd numbered pillow can go either in one of the groups or in the center between the groups (for a sofa), or just within the group (for a bed).

Secondly, you may feel the need to make everything symmetrical, but it’s not necessary. Especially on a sofa, having one group slightly larger than the other creates a surprising harmony.

Thirdly, for a real expert touch, give a few of your pillows a gentle karate chop on top. Seriously! This makes the two top corners stick out with undeniable elegance; it’s maybe the most cost-effective decorating technique that exists. And even better, styling pillows this way can distract from or deemphasize any stains or wear and tear, making it ideal for family rooms.

Hayden Sofa by Cisco Home, One-of-a-kind Pillows by Cisco Home

That’s it, you’re ready to make the most of your throw pillows! Browse our pillow selection and get inspired to elevate your decor. With pillows in a wide variety of fabrics, colors, patterns, shapes, and sizes, you may be surprised—and delighted—by what you find. 

September 28, 2022 — Urban Natural Team