Whether a sofa or sectional, your couch is the centre of your living. It is where family and friends gather to chat, watch movies and play board games. Your sofa might also be where you read at night and work during the day.
Chances are, you spent the most time choosing this piece of furniture than any other in your living room. As such, styling your couch deserves special attention to detail.
In this blog, we outline 6 steps to styling cushions on your sofa or sectional. From picking a statement pillow to mixing colours and textures, follow below to learn exactly how to style your sofa like an interior designer.
1. First Consider the Style, Size and Colour of Your Sofa
Before picking out your cushions, be sure to consider the style, size and colour of your sofa. You want your cushions to tastefully contrast with your sofa’s fabric, colour and style without competing with the cohesiveness of your living room’s aesthetic.
For example, decorative cushions should not be so large that they visually overwhelm the couch or make it impossible to use.
Considering the size and shape of your couch will help you determine the number of pillows you need and the proper scale for each.
Patterns should not fight each other – nor should textures. However, all patterns, textures and tones should not be the same from cushion to couch.
2. Pick a Colour Palette for Your Cushions
Next, curate a colour palette for your cushions. Do so by drawing inspiration from the sofa itself and from other pieces of furniture, art and decor around the room.
Houzz Australia writer Georgia Madden and interior designer Sarah Muir explain in “Throw Pillow Master Class: How to Choose and Style Like a Pro.”
Muir tells Madden that “bold colour and pattern look great in a space when they pair with artwork, rugs or occasional chairs.” However, couch cushions “can look out of place if they don’t link with another item in a room.” T
o craft your colour palette, Muir recommends first finding “a focal colour in a piece of art or furniture." Then, you can introduce "say, a solid velvet pillow in the same colour.”
3. Follow the 60-30-10 Rule When Picking Colourful Cushions
To ensure your colour palette remains cohesive, Tara Mastroeni suggests following the 60-30-10 rule. She explains in the article “These Are The 4 Color Rules That Every Interior Design Fan Needs To Know” for MyMove.
According to Mastroeni, “the 60-30-10 rule is any interior design fan’s best friend.” This is because it helps you “make sure that your colour palette stays balanced.”
Essentially, this rule recommends you choose three colours, using one dominant shade 60% of the time. Mastroeni notes that this dominant shade is usually neutral, but it certainly does not need to be! It just needs to be a colour you enjoy that “can take up a lot of space without feeling overwhelming.”
Your secondary colour is usually more intense – a bright pop of colour, perhaps – and is used 30% of the time.
Lastly, you will choose an accent colour to feature 10% of the time. Tara Mastroeni notes that the accent colour is often the “boldest shade.”
By following the 60-30-10 rule, you avoid going colour crazy while still creating an engaging and exciting space. However, keep in mind that you need not stick to a single hue of each colour. Embrace a variety of shades to keep the arrangement interesting! As you see in the mood board above, we picked three main colours -- natural, navy and red. Natural is dominant, navy is secondary and red is our accent.
3. Mix Different Colours, Textures, Patterns, Shapes and Sizes
After you have chosen a colour palette, think about which textures, patterns, shapes and sizes will work well for your couch cushions. You must embrace contrast in order to create a dynamic design.
In her article “How to style your sofa (beyond cushions & throws)” for House Beautiful, Olivia Heath explains. Quoting the magazine’s Style Director Sarah Keady, Heath writes that “‘layering in new cushions [is] the ultimate easy update.’” However, you must “‘mix different textures and fabrics together with accessories to add interest…and keep it all super tactile.”
Both Lauren Meichtry and Eneia White echo this in an interview with The Zoe Report’s Aura Lajiness Kaupke. Speaking with Kaupke, White notes that “‘the pillow scene is embracing pattern mixing.’”
White has recently noticed “‘stripes paired with floral prints, combined with fun textures and wild patterns.’” As long as you establish a theme early on, your design should remain cohesive even if you mix and match a wide variety of textures and patterns.
You can see in the mood board below that we used a variety of patterns -- from check to floral -- and textures while maintaining a cohesive design.
4. Start With the Largest Cushion
Now, it is time to begin arranging your cushions. Designers typically recommend starting with your largest pillow, as this will anchor the arrangement. The Studio McGee guide “How To Style Pillows on a Sectional” explains. If you are arranging cushions on a couch, start at either end – placing the largest pillow against an armrest.
If placing cushions on a sectional, the Studio McGee design team suggests “starting with the back corner…and putting your biggest pillow there.”
Use your judgement when picking the largest pillow, but keep in mind that “you don’t want it to get covered by the layered pillows in the front!”
Continue to layer in smaller pillows, creating a cascading effect that feels natural and inviting.
When arranging cushions on a bed, the rules remain the same. Place the largest pillows in the back while layering smaller pillows in front. See an example in our mood board below!
5. Arrange Cushions in Groups of Odd Numbers
As you fill in your sectional or sofa with cushions, be sure to arrange them in groups of odd-numbers.
Interior designers often recommend creating groups of three or five because an odd number encourages the eye to move around. This makes for a more dynamic and intriguing display than one achieves with even numbered groups.
However, if you prefer a more curated, traditional aesthetic, even-numbered groups might be best for you. In her article “Learn How to Mix and Match Throw Pillows” for The Spruce, Valerie Ott explains. Ott notes that “odd numbers look modern” and often “more artful.”
To create “a balanced look that features symmetry,” Ott does recommend “an even number of similar pillows, such as two or four” because it “looks clean and orderly.” The same is true when decorating a bed. See below for our symmetrical sofa arrangements.
Left image - Green Paisley, Green linen, Green Southampton.
Right image - Blue bird, Blue Velvet and Blue/grey flower
6. Add a Single Statement Cushion
Our sixth step to styling cushions on your sofa, armchair or sectional is to add a single statement pillow. In her article “No-Fail Recipes for Artfully Arranging Your Sofa Pillows” for Apartment Therapy, Eleanor Busing explains that a statement pillow acts as a conversation starter. For your statement cushion, Busin recommends something in a bright colour, a bold floral or maybe a textured cushion in faux fur or sequins.
Final Thoughts on Styling Throw Cushions Like an Interior Designer
Curating a collection of cushions for your couch is a fun and easy way to redecorate without overspending. It allows you to show off your personality, change with the seasons or simply try something new!
Have a look at our range of gorgeous new cushions below.