If you know me, it goes without saying: the only thing I love more than a good collection of throw pillow covers is my family (and maybe a good cup of coffee).
If you’re looking for a simple way to change your space without breaking the bank, learning to style throw pillows is the perfect place to begin. First things first: invest in a few good inserts. Once you have your shapes and sizes defined, you can grab a range of pillow covers to swap out as the seasons change – or honestly, anytime the mood strikes. But before you hit “add to cart,” let’s go over some throw pillow basics that will give your couch an elevated, but not overly decorated, look.
Insert Your Style Upgrade Here
Before you select colors and patterns for your throw pillow covers, it’s important to choose the right inserts.
How many throw pillows do you need?
Well, that depends. What style is your couch or bed, and what’s the vibe of your room as a whole? Even numbers of throw pillows fit best in traditional spaces. They offer symmetry and balance on couches, and they give a clean and orderly look to beds. However, in most situations, I opt for an odd number of pillows, which brings a more artful, modern look to any space.
Something to keep in mind: a few larger pillows look more refined and fresh than a lot of smaller pillows piled together. In this case, less is actually more. For a standard sized sofa, I’d recommend 5-7 pillows. A smaller loveseat only needs 3. For beds, I recommend 3 (since you’ll also have your regular bed pillows/shams). My go-to sofa combo is asymmetrical and relaxed: on one side, I pair a 24” pillow and a 20” one – on the opposite side, I spice up that same pairing with a lumbar pillow, or any shape that adds depth and a different texture.
What pillow inserts should you choose?
Honestly, there’s no right answer to this question – but the wrong answer is definitely choosing pillows all in the same size. Mixing and matching pillow covers gives a laid-back look that’s cozy and desirable.
I usually recommend choosing three different pillow sizes and two different pillow shapes – just like my earlier example of two square pillows (24” and 20”) and a lumbar pillow for a standard sofa. Purchasing a 24” pillow insert is a great place to begin! That size is a great backdrop for a pillow mix-and-match. In front of your 24” pillows, you can layer 20”-22” squares, lumbar supports, circular pillows, or any other smaller shape that adds dimension.
When it comes to materials, consider the fill of your inserts – they’ll definitely affect the final look of your couch or bed! Feather or down fill will give that slouchy, squishy look, while foam or synthetic fill offers more structure. This might seem counterintuitive, but often, the slouchy pillows look most luxurious! Decide how you want your couch to look (and feel!) and select your inserts accordingly.
Cover the Basics with Your Throw Pillow Combinations
Now that you’ve chosen your inserts, you can bring your color sensibility to the table and find covers that finish the look.
Use a color scheme.
Check out your current space and decide on a color scheme – the room itself will usually provide that with a quick glance! Throw pillows covers are a great way to introduce color into a neutral space, or vice versa – calm down a room that already has enough bright colors. Pillow covers are also a fantastic way to draw attention to the accent colors you already love from other pieces in the room, like artwork or rugs. In my own home, I used my rug as the color inspiration for our family room pillows, and in the sunroom, I used neutrals and blues that mimicked the room’s overall color palette.
Two-3 colors is a complete color scheme when it comes to pillows! No need to find 5 colors that work – keep it simple to keep the room from becoming cluttered or visually overwhelming. If your room is neutral or you can’t find an obvious color palette to pull from, that’s okay! Just select your favorite color or a pillow cover you already love and build from there. If you have a patterned pillow you’ll be keeping, pull your solid colors from there!
When in doubt, start with a print.
Floral patterns and organic prints make a great foundation to build your pillow scheme upon. Florals are my personal favorite – they can be the most difficult to pair, but they also add the most visual interest to a piece of furniture. It’s best practice to pick the most “difficult” or unique pillow to pair first, then build solid tones or muted patterns around it.
If florals aren’t your thing, organic prints are a fantastic alternative. What is an organic print? Think about patterns inspired by nature – curved lines or ripples that mimic water, texture that imitates rock, or anything with movement.
After your floral or organic print is selected, move on to geometric shapes and prints that bring balance and symmetry to your design. Stripes and plaids are full of y lines, grids, and repetition, so they counterbalance the asymmetrical movement of florals and organics. Mixing patterns in this way builds interest, but it also creates some much needed dimension in the room.
For this secondary pattern, I recommend keeping your colors neutral – or if not, choosing a color that carefully matches your floral print to keep your pillows from looking cluttered, mismatched, or busy. My foolproof combo? Floral, solid, stripe. You can never go wrong with that trio!
Vary your scale.
As you’re selecting your pillows, get creative by playing with scale. Don’t pick patterns that are alike in scale – like tiny flowers and small polka dots, or large organic lines and thick, bold stripes. Instead, mixing a large scale pattern with something more delicate will create contrast that gives a curated feel to the look.
Add solids and textures.
I love a great patterned throw pillow, but I always make sure to incorporate 1-3 solid color selections into my palette for couches and beds. Our eyes need places to rest so that patterns don’t make a space feel busy or overwhelming, and solid colors offer that brief break or pause as we scan a room. Solid pillow covers are a great way to incorporate texture into your design, too! Chunky wool knits, mottled leather, smooth silk, fresh linen, or tasseled accents all add warmth and dimension that elevate your final look.
Where to Buy Pillow Covers
With these tips in the back of your mind, you’re ready to create countless combos with your throw pillows that’ll wow everyone who steps in your space. You can shop this list for some of my personal favorite pillows, or check these retailers for great options galore.
Etsy is a great place to find a range of styles in one place. Plus, you can often score pillows made from designer fabric at great prices if you do some digging.
The Vintage Rug Shop specializes in vintage textiles and unique furnishings, making it the perfect spot to source 0ne-of-a-kind pillows.
You’ve likely seen Susan Connor NY pillows grace the Instagram or magazine pages featuring your favorite designers, and for good reason.
Rejuvenation offers luxe materials like linen and velvet, as well as, stunning high-end fabrics. I especially love their William Morris collection,
It’s no surprise that Shoppe Amber Interiors has curated a beautiful selection of indoor and outdoor pillows. They’re know for their use of beautiful (& often vintage) textiles.