Throw pillows might sound like an afterthought, but they really go a long way to pull a room together and make it feel complete. Yet with the unending possibilities of patterns, colors, materials, and textures, how do you pick? Further, how do you make them feel like an intentional part of the design and not like something you know you should include, but have no idea how to make them “go” in the room?
Striking a balance between well-planned and a haphazard mess on your sofa can be achieved! And you can do it without having a meltdown in the pillow aisle of HomeGoods. With a vision for how you want your room to feel, plus a few simple, designer-approved tips, you can easily mix and match your throw pillows like a pro who’s done this a thousand times!
Pick A Color Story for Your Pillows
The first thing you have to do when planning your throw pillow selection is to select a color story. By selecting colors from around the room, your pillows will feel like they belong on that couch or bed even if they’re all different.
It’s always a good idea to select three colors that go well together and build your throw pillow color palette from there. For instance, you can select your wall color, a color in the rug, and a piece of art hanging on the wall to make up your color story. If you’re adding throw pillows into a bedroom design, be sure one of those colors comes from the bedding you’ve already selected!
If you notice that your color story is leaning toward light and breezy neutral tones, consider adding in a pop of color. Picture white pillows of varying sizes and textures, with one or two bright green pillows/ thrown in. Makes a statement, right?
Just make sure the statement you make with your accent pillow is the one you want to make! I have a whole series dedicated to color psychology that may help you choose what you want your room to “say” and select a color to help you say it!
Choose Up to 3 Patterns…
It’s important to strike the right balance when selecting patterns for your throw pillows. If you choose too many patterns, no amount of color cohesion will make the pillows seem like they “go” with one another. Remember, “decorating with throw pillows” doesn’t mean you threw them together; too many patterns will ensure you trend in the haphazard direction! I always suggest choosing up to 3 different patterns.
Typically, patterns are categorized as geometric or organic. Geometric patterns are things like stripes, plaids, or anything else with shapes (like you learned in geometry class as a kid!). Organic patterns are botanical, abstract, or floral.
If you’re having trouble figuring out how your patterns will go together, take it one step at a time. Choose one pattern you really love that incorporates multiple colors from your color story, then add in another pattern if you feel like you need more dimension. One classic formula that’s easy to follow is to select a stripe (geometric), a floral (organic), and a solid.
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… And Select 3 Pattern Sizes
As you’re selecting patterns, be sure to keep in mind the size of the pattern as well as the style. Three large patterns will clash with each other rather than complement each other. Choose patterns of contrasting scale. That way, each pillow is supporting the others, not competing.
If your first pattern is a large organic botanical, like a palm leaf, make the next pillow you add is a medium-patterned geometric one, like a stripe or a simple diamond. Finally, your third pattern can be geometric or organic, but make it small. This assures that the patterns will not compete.
I should note: You may have one pattern that is the star of the show, so it’s perfectly okay to have only that one pattern while the rest of the pillows are solids, or to have one pattern that you use a few times in different colors or scales. The point is, don’t feel like you need to add in patterns just to add in patterns! The point is just used this for the throw pillows to work together, not fight for center stage.
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Don’t Forget Texture!
Let me be blunt: a collection of printed pillows is boring. Even with interesting patterns, pillows with all the same texture can look very “bed in a bag,” not personally curated by you for your space. I always say that your home should reflect who you are and details like this are just as important as your large statement pieces. As you’re mixing and matching throw pillows, make sure you’re also mixing and matching the textures you use.
Texture can be anything: a soft velvet, a cable knit, or thick embroidery. They each make a statement for the eyes and are inviting when you curl into them as well. Imagine selecting a traditional southwestern pattern as your geometric pillow. Instead of just a printed-on pattern, select a pillow that has the colors woven together. The pillow will look more inviting and the texture will add some visual interest too.
Group Pillows Based on the Aesthetic of the Room
As you’re gathering your throw pillows, keep the feel of the room in mind. If your room is modern or has a more natural feel, use an odd number of pillows, like three or five. Grouping things in odd numbers gives the room a dynamic yet relaxed feel.
Grouping items in even numbers, like two or four, is more traditional. If you’d like your room to feel welcoming, but still clean and orderly, group your pillows in an even-numbered pairing. Two pillows on each side of the couch, or four pillows on the bed, leads to a symmetric, balanced look.
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Now, what if your room has a mix of sofas and chairs? The rule of thumb is generally as follows… One pillow on a chair. Three pillows on a small sofa or loveseat. Five pillows on a larger sofa. This will give you an inviting, sink-into-the-cushions look no matter the aesthetic of your room.
Mix it Up with Shapes & Sizes
Can you imagine sitting on a sofa with five 24” pillows? Neither can I – there would be no place to sit! You have to think about the sizes of your throw pillows and not just for practicality’s sake. Five pillows of all the same size will look visually boring!
You don’t have to choose all square pillows, either. Pillows come in all shapes! A nice lumbar pillow, or a circular one, can have a great effect on your pillow groupings. But don’t go too overboard – just like patterns or colors, having too many shapes will look messy and unplanned.
Remember that rule of thumb I mentioned about having one pillow on a chair? Vary the shape of said pillow and you’ve got an interesting look! I mean, a square pillow on a boxy chair…not very original. But a circular pillow on a chair, especially one with straight lines, will break up the lines and add an organic feel to your design.
Have Some Matching Throw Pillows
If you’ve selected four pillows and really can’t figure out what to do about a fifth, let me let you in on a little secret: It’s okay to have some matching pillows! It’s the matching part of mix and match! In fact, having a few throw pillows with matching patterns, colors, or sizes will make your design feel cohesive. You can absolutely have two pillows that are the same, just don’t put them right next to each other.
For example: if you’re selecting pillows for the sofa in your family room, put one of each matching pillow on either side of the sofa as an anchor point. Then, fill in around each pillow. This tip will help give your sofa some symmetry without one side being a mirror image of the other.
Similarly, you can tie in all the seating in your sitting area by having the pillows on your chairs match an element of the pillows on your couch. For example, if you find a pattern or color you like in a few sizes or shapes, you can place a few on the couch and one on the chairs to coordinating without totally matching.
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As you can see, throw pillows have a lot to say when it comes to completing the design of your room. Putting some intentional thought behind your selection will ensure your traditional room is balanced yet interesting and that your modern living space is unique but not haphazard. And, as a bonus, you can change them with the seasons or as the color story of your room changes! So go wild mixing and matching!