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The best tips for choosing the right throw pillows for your sofa

Adding a few throw pillows onto your couch is the simplest way to bring your personal style to the room. But there is an art to choosing the right pillows for your living room. From color and pattern to texture and size, there are many different factors to consider when shopping. And your pillows don’t all have to match; in fact, it’ll look better if you experiment with different styles of cushions. Don’t get overwhelmed just yet. We made this guide to simplify your couch decor. Keep reading to learn how to choose throw pillows for a sofa like a true professional.

Three throw pillows on a sofa
Pedro Orlando / Eyeem

Choose your colors

When looking for throw pillows, the first thing you should consider is color. You’ll need to choose a palette of a few colors that go well together; this is your color story. We suggest using the rule of threes and sourcing your three colors from the room. Consider the hue of the couch, walls, rug, and decor for inspiration. Select colors that complement each other, as well as the rest of the room. Here are a few example color combinations suited for almost any neutral-colored couch:

  • Teal, blue, and violet
  • Yellow, violet, and fuchsia
  • Red, orange, and ballet pink
  • Monochromatic; choose three different shades of the same color
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Pick your patterns

Should throw pillows on a couch match? No, you can (and should) play around with patterns of different styles and scales. Your pillows should have at least one of the hues from the color story you created.

  • Start with your lead pattern first. This one should be the largest and boldest print and contain two or three of your main colors. For this pattern, consider a floral, chevron stripe, or another bold and ornate design.
  • The second pattern should contain one or two shades from the color story and a medium-size print. You could choose a geometric, striped, or small plaid pattern.
  • The third pillow should be the subtlest of all, with either a solid color, damask stripe, or small polka dots.
Textured throw pillows on a couch with books
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Think about texture and fill

You may also want to mix and match textures too. Consider the materials used to make the pillow cover and the interior filling. For the exterior, consider using a few contrasting textures, juxtaposing smooth and coarse, soft and rough. Consider materials like faux fur, knit wools, velvet, and decorative accents like tassels or pom-poms. If you plan to use a less conventional texture, balance it with simpler colors and patterns.

The fill also impacts the feel of the pillow and its appearance. Feather and down fills are softer and squishier but also more expensive. Synthetic and foam fills are usually more affordable but may look stiffer and less lavish.

Patterned and faux fur throw pillows on couch
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How many throw pillows should you use?

We’ve been talking about the rule of threes, but how many throw pillows should you actually have on your couch? The number of cushions should be directly related to the size of the sofa. Having too many pillows looks overpowering and impractical, but too few looks sparse and underwhelming. In general, we recommend two or three pillows for a small sofa and four or five for a large one. In design, odd numbers of objects appear more modern and artful, whereas even numbers look balanced and traditional. Keep this in mind when deciding how many throw pillows to purchase.

How big should throw pillows on a couch be?

Again, the size of the pillows will depend on the size of the couch itself. On an oversized couch, bigger pillows look better, and vice versa for a small sofa. You can also use a variety of sizes and shapes to add another degree of visual interest to the arrangement. For a larger couch, select 24-inch square pillows, with 22-inch square or circular pillows as accents. For smaller sofas, decorate with 20- or 22-inch square pillows in the back and smaller square, cube, or lumbar pillows in front.

Who knew there was so much to think about when picking out throw pillows? Sticking to the rule of threes makes the whole process so much easier. By selecting a limited number of colors, patterns, and textures, you can find tasteful throw pillows that’ll look amazing on your sofa. But remember, rules are made to be broken, especially when it comes to interior design. These tips are just guidelines to serve as a jumping-off point for your foray into design. Choose pillows you love, and the stylish, unique living room of your dreams will be right within reach.

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Shannon Cooper
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Shannon Cooper has written about everything from pet care and travel to finance and plumbing in her seven years as a writer…
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