Design Inspo

How To Style Pillows on a Couch

Let’s learn how to style those throw pillows on the couch in a way that is functional but also sets the tone for your living room. 

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Looking for a quick and painless living room makeover? The answer is simple (but extremely effective) — change how you style the pillows on your couch. Really! These little squares of fluff and fabric are more than decorative; they’re a functional and artistic way to translate your sense of style to everyone who leans against them.

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What Look Are You Going For?

Deciding if you want a traditional sofa arrangement or something more free-spirited is your first order of business.

Place Pillows With Traditional Symmetry

If you are looking for something a tad more stately or traditional, arrange couch pillows on each side of your couch with the same symmetry as you’d place two wall sconces or mirrored armchairs placed by the fire. You can bring an inviting, steady feeling to your space with this timeless design method.

Use Eclectic Asymmetric Arrangements 

If you want something more dynamic or engaging, go for asymmetry and vary the number of pillows on each side of the couch, using an odd number of pillows or pillows stacked in a staggered, roughly triangular pattern. 

The seemingly random placement of throw pillows you often see in professional designs is not random at all. (That’s the power of good design!) It’s actually the intentional exercise of the interior design Rule of Threes. Borrow this principle by keeping pillow arrangements in groups of threes or, in the case of a large sectional, in three different groupings at each corner.

If one end of your sectional is an open chaise lounge, put pillows on the back end. Lastly, drape a throw blanket over the open end — this is your third visual element. 

Vary the Pillow Sizes

Different sizes of pillows create an interesting arrangement, but as you choose pillow sizes, consider the purpose they will serve. Can your largest pillows give extra support or be used as regular pillows to lay down on during cozy movie nights? Maybe you need a lumbar pillow for extended periods of binging that new Netflix series everyone’s talking about. 

Having a variety of the right size pillows for any occasion keeps your bases covered. Even those itty-bitty decorative throw pillows serve the purpose of making your space fun. And yes, we take fun very seriously… 

Balance the Couch Pillow Shapes

Since throw pillows come in all shapes, explore a variety for depth. Combine a rectangular lumbar pillow with square pillows or a circular embroidered cushion. You’re not only balancing the pillow shapes with each other but also with the overall shape of your couch — so TLDR: That circular couch may need some rectangular pillows for equilibrium. For sofas with dynamic or unique shapes, keep throw pillows to a minimum.

Decorative pillows are a low-risk way to jump on a design trend and see how you like it, but there’s no reason you can’t go bold with an oversized squiggle pillow that takes up half the couch or a giant pretzel knot pillow in cotton canvas.

Not sure what your space demands? Snag a photo of any pillow style and put it in your Spoak room visualization tool for a realistic mock-up of the completed project.

Design Tips To Mix Color and Pattern 

Mixing and matching throw pillows will add visual weight to an overall neutral room, supporting your home’s color palette. Make sure you vary the size of the pattern print for visual interest (like pairing wide stripes with a tiny dotted fabric.) 

Consider using a palette of at least three colors, allowing one contrasting pop of color to give visual weight to the living room in the form of fabric or colorful stitching. Spread the contrasting color or pattern out over the couch — you don’t want all the bold colors and busy stuff arranged at just one end of the sofa. 

Use Texture as Another Color / Pattern

Up your visual interest by working different textures into your pillow arrangements with hand-woven fibers, fluffy boucle cushions, or needlepoint pillow covers that appeal to your sense of touch and sight. 

For minimal and neutral living rooms, introducing more texture in a solid color, rather than lots of different patterns, satisfies your brain’s need for variety without straying into too many colors or prints. Even extremely tactile designs, like faux fur pillows or wool latch hook covers, can be subdued when chosen in solid colors or simple muted patterns. 

The Right Amount of Fluff

There’s no better greeting after a hard day than a couch littered with fluffy, plump pillows ready for you to dive in. Keep your pillows looking fresh and plush by fluffing them with the karate chop method (an interior styling pro-tip!), adding a crease to the top of the pillow with the side of your hand.

You can also try using pillow inserts that are a bit larger than the pillow cover for a lush, overstuffed look that wears well over time.

Style Throw Pillows: Put It All Together

Let’s apply the above tips to some family room design scenarios. 

A Fun Eclectic Sectional

An eclectic decor style (boho, grandmillennial, cottagecore) is the perfect scenario for mixing patterns without getting too hung up on whether or not it all “goes together” perfectly. For your boho sectional sofa, let pillow patterns stray from the typical but still look pleasing with your color scheme. 

  • Place a large cream throw pillow with tiny embroidered dots and fringe at one corner of the sofa and another of similar size with a cream and pink ombre dip-dye technique on the adjacent corner. 
  • Stagger a medium-sized woven diamond pattern pillow over the ombre pillow and a round rust-colored crochet pillow over that one.
  • The far end of the couch looks comfortable with the addition of a soft lambskin throw. 
  • Since perfect symmetry isn’t your goal, throw in a light blue and cream-checked lumbar pillow in the center of the sofa. 

Now you have color and a variety of pattern sizes at both ends of the couch and something over the third end for a dynamic arrangement of threes. 

A Traditional Loveseat

For a traditional look on a small blue sofa, you’ll want to pare down all the patterns and the number of pillows. 

  • Place two matching geometric gray and white pillows with blue velvet piping that matches the velvet of your loveseat. 
  • Lay each pillow against a sofa back cushion with a soft felted wool throw draped over the couch between them for classic, simple symmetry. 

A Minimal Three-Seater 

Your minimal dream couch styling will be more about texture and dynamic pillow placement than pattern or pillow color. 

  • Begin with textiles in different shades of the same color, like two large burlap-covered pillows on each side of the taupe couch. 
  • Layer a medium cream-colored corduroy pillow next to one and a fluffy cream mohair pillow over the other. 
  • Drape a large, cream-colored knit blanket over one arm of the couch and balance it out with a brown suede leather pillow with button details on the other side.

Voila! You’ve now achieved a stylish couch design that has interesting groupings of three on each side and tons of texture while staying within a neutral color palette of cream and tan.

What Style Will Your Couch Be?

Now that you have an idea what the right pillows for your couch are, experiment with a traditional sofa styling that beckons visitors to relax with you or mix up lots of textiles, patterns, and shapes for a funky look that’s all your own. Spoak can help bring your wildest interior thoughts to your interior spaces, from couch to ceiling. 

Photo Credit: (Left) CLO Studio


What Is a Grandmillennial - Granny Chic Design Explained | House Beautiful

Ten Best Ways to Arrange Pillows on a Couch | Family Handyman

It’s not your grandmother’s needlepoint | The Washington Post

Lumbar Pillows for Low Back Pain Relief | Health Central

How to Mix and Match Throw Pillows Like a Pro | The Spruce

Breathe new life into your living room decor — or interior design career — when you join Spoak

Date Posted
June 9, 2023



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