Our goal in styling pillows is always to show off our clients' personality while creating a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing space, and that's what we want for you! Pillows are an opportunity to bring in lots of interest with relatively small, interchangeable pieces, so have fun with it and show off what makes you happy. You are not a boring person, so why let your space be!!
Pillows are like the spices in a recipe. The finishing touch that seems small in regards to the full home (or main dish) but makes a huge difference in the final outcome. Our design team has rounded up their top tips for curating the perfect (or perfectly imperfect) pillow combinations for your spaces. Let the pillow party begin!
1. MIX + MATCH
The key to a unique design is mixing styles, colors, patterns and textures in unexpected ways. The counter part to this is repeating some elements to match and therefore calm the space with familiarity. It's no different with pillows so we're breaking it down by furniture piece where to mix and where to match to create that ideal balance.
ON A SOFA OR SECTIONAL - MOSTLY MIX, CAN MATCH
Sofas and sectionals provide a large canvas of typically one solid color so it's the perfect clean foundation to mix up your pillows with lots of interest. To get started, gather pillows in a variety of colors, prints, and types of fabric that relate to your space or convey the feelings that you want to bring into the room. Then arrange these in small groups spreading out like colors, patterns and textures. Our rule of thumb would be that each neighboring pillow should not be the same shade, print or type of fabric as the one next to it. We'll go into more detail on this in tips 2, 3 and 4, so hang in there and keep reading!
Matching pillows can be sprinkled in to balance the overall design. Use like pillows near opposite ends of a sofa to connect the arrangements and bring the design full circle. When styling a pair of sofas or sectionals, you can definitely repeat pillows on each piece to give them related looks (but they don't have to be identical twins!).
ON OCCASIONAL CHAIRS (or other matching sets of furniture) - MATCH
When the chairs match, it's a great place for the pillows to match – #twinning. This mellow balance allows for freedom to mix it up elsewhere.
ON A BED - MIX + MATCH
We style our bed pillows in rows parallel to the headboard. Each row is a different fabric than the next (MIX), but within each row the pillows are generally the same (MATCH). This combination of mixing and matching provides symmetry that is soothing to the eye while showing off personality and interest with the varied fabrics. A bed is meant for relaxing so we want to prepare it that way, but it can still energize us with inspiration!
ON A BENCH - MIX OR MATCH
You’ve got free range with bench pillows! Our styling is split between pairing two different pillows together on a bench or two identical pillows together. Depending on the size of the bench, you may limit it to one pillow (leaving room for a small bench to still function as a seat) or you may throw on several! Keep in mind how the bench functions and how too many pillows or a lack of pillows can affect the use.
MAXIMIZED MIX + MATCH
WHY MIX: Like we’ve mentioned above, the more you mix, the more unique your design becomes. Mixing styles pulls your home out of the pigeonhole of a specific title and broadens it to reflect the complex personality we each have.
WHY MATCH: Subconsciously, we all feel most comfortable in familiar and expected environments. Repeating like pieces in a home makes it easy for our eyes to understand what’s around us and why it’s there. Matching creates a soothing space, a uniform look and an understood connection across a room.
2. WELCOME COLOR
Since pillows can be changed out more easily than most of the furniture or surface materials in your home, we hope that you feel the freedom to make bolder choices with them! Bring the large, neutral furniture pieces to life with colorful pillows in a scheme of your choosing. Whether you mix colors from around the color wheel or play up various shades of a single tone, colorful pillows instantly bring warmth to a cold, plain sofa and brighten up an entire room.
Going for a neutral palette? Try bringing in some darker and lighter neutral tones to add more depth to the design without drawing too much attention to a “color.”
3. LAYER TEXTURE
Texture is truly what gives designs the depth to look and FEEL unique. Varying the type of fabric your pillows are made of is a simple way to add depth to your space. From smooth cottons and fresh linens to plush furs (and faux furs) to all the velvets, leathers, mud cloths, and embroidered details in between, there are so many stunning weaves to choose from.
We try to make all pillows in a combination a different texture, unless it's a pair of the same fabric. Like we mentioned above with the non-matching neighboring pillows, it is ideal for at least the touching pillows to vary in texture – otherwise it can start to read flat and we don’t want that!
Incorporating texture is also a great way to add interest to a minimal color palette. So if you’re feeling new to this whole mixing thing and find comfort in matching, try gathering similar shades of pillows that vary in the texture of fabric.
Our favorite texture to throw in is a "nubby knit" – think sweater weather for your sofa!
4. VARY THE SIZE + STYLE OF PRINTS
Just like color and texture, prints add lots of interest to design. Let your personality shine through your selection of prints – polka dots, stripes, florals, block prints, geometric shapes, abstract designs, you name it – whatever speaks to you!
When mixing prints, the scale and repeat of each design should vary. Arrange pillows with larger prints next to smaller prints that won’t compete. Use solids and stripes to break up the designs and spread the love (prints).
Scale: The size of a pattern in relation to a fixed amount of fabric.
Repeat: The distance from one end of a pattern to the place where it begins again (repeats).
In this case, think of the fixed amount as a 22" square pillow face and notice how some patterns cover more space with a unique design (large scale) while other patterns are duplicated several times to fill the space (small scale). Where that unique pattern duplicates is the repeat.
SIZE OF PRINTS
SMALL SCALE - LARGE SCALE - MEDIUM SCALE
STYLE OF PRINTS
PLAID - DIAMOND / DECORATIVE - SCRAMBLED
5. DETERMINE THE FORMALITY + FUNCTION
Formal living rooms can be home to elevated pillow styles, but high-traffic family rooms call for high-performance threads. In general, fabrics with more shine, delicate details and luxurious feels belong in rooms with a more sophisticated style and thoughtful use. Pillows that have a better chance of being laid on, squeezed, stepped on, and thrown (we’re looking at the kids, not you…) are best to be made of durable fabrics. For these family-friendly spaces, look for fabrics that are thick, textured and colorful to hide the inevitable stains.
FORMAL + SOPHISTICATED
PLAYFUL + CASUAL
6. GROUP ‘EM UP + FLUFF ‘EM OUT
A simple way to freshen up your pillows is simply to group them in different combinations. Creating these small groups across a sofa or sectional instantly perks up a drab seating arrangement. Instead of spreading pillows out to evenly cover the length of a sofa, try grouping a few together in the corners – they’ll look more intentional when they’re sitting proudly with a buddy or two.
While you’re at it – give those pillows a nice fluff! Shift the inside fill around so that it reaches the ends and corners of the cover (especially that top half since gravity naturally pulls it down). Then gently squeeze the sides to lift the pillow so it stands up tall. Finish off with a little (or big) karate chop to the top middle of the pillow for a nice plush belly and perky ears.
These grouped and fluffed pillows will stand their ground better than when they're flat and slouchy so you might not need to add more pillows to the mix – work with what you've got first!
7. SHUFFLE THE PATTERNS
Alternating colors might work for a theme-y space, but in general home design we try to disguise any hint of a noticeable pattern. Spreading out like colors, prints and textures is all about balance, not perfect symmetry or patterns. So instead of going red-white-blue-red-white-blue on a sofa pillow layout, try grouping them in imperfect clusters to mix it up and therefore elevate the design. Groups like this could work: (red-white) (blue-white-red) (blue).
Instead of matching the same pattern of fabrics on each side of a sofa, mix the pillows to evenly spread out amounts of light/dark, bright/neutral, print/solid, and textured/smooth.
ON A SINGLE SOFA OR SECTIONAL
ON A PAIR OF SOFAS OR SECTIONALS
8. SIZE YOUR SEAT
Give thought to the sizes of pillows you are placing. Pillows that are too small will look dinky and misplaced on a large piece of furniture, and pillows that are too big may interfere with people’s lounge space. Use all the same size for a more uniform look, or use varying sizes for a more eclectic style.
A 22” square is our most commonly used pillow size and our base for almost all pillow styling. Where we use the same size pillows we bring in our eclectic style through varying colors and textures. Here’s where you’ll typically find our pillow sizes:
ON A SOFA OR SECTIONAL – 22” pillows, occasional lumbar pillow
ON OCCASIONAL CHAIRS – 22” pillows or lumbar pillows
ON A BED – 26” pillows in the back (Euro shams), 22-24” pillows in the middle, 18-22” pillow or lumbar in front
ON A BENCH – 22” pillows, occasional lumbar pillow
SOFAS / SECTIONALS / OCCASIONAL CHAIRS
BEDS / BENCHES
9. FIND THE FILL THAT FITS YOU
Our standard inserts are 90% White Goose Feather and 10% White Goose Down. These pillows are plush and keep the shape they’re formed to (when you chop it, it stays chopped).
Poly fills on the other hand are still plush but bounce back to their original form after squeezing. For everyday use, these don’t typically look as natural and effortless compared to the down, but we do recommend them for outdoor use! The Polyurthane inserts are treated to prevent the growth of mold when they’re sitting out in the weather – thank goodness for these!
INDOOR - DOWN
OUTDOOR - POLY
10. “MUDDY IT UP”
In the words of Wendy Blackband (Blackband Design’s principle designer and co-owner with her husband Greg), you’ve got to “muddy up” the pillow combination with fabrics you wouldn’t expect to be included. Take a chance, do something different, and make sure it makes you smile!
BONUS TIP: CHOP IT!
We mentioned this briefly in tip #6, but it's a big one that can't be missed! Give that pillow a CHOP!! Get in karate chop position and use the side of your hand to create a crease in the top middle of the pillow. We like to give a little nudge to the sides too so it sits nice and plump and not too perfect.
BEFORE THE CHOP
AFTER THE CHOP
Now you are more ready than ever to play around with the pillows in your home and create new arrangements like a pro. Give it a try and let us know how it goes – we would love to see some success stories!
Tag your Instagram photos @blackbanddesign or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to share your pillow praise.
Have more questions about styling your pillows? Let us know in the comments below.
CREDITS: BLACKBAND DESIGN // GRAYSTONE CUSTOM BUILDERS // TEALE ARCHITECTURE // RYAN GARVIN PHOTOGRAPHY // LIDO HOUSE HOTEL // RDO DEVELOPMENT // MATT WHITE CUSTOM HOMES // SINCLAIR ASSOCIATES ARCHITECTS // PATTERSON CUSTOM HOMES // CHAD MELLON PHOTOGRAPHY // CJ LIGHT ASSOCIATES // TM GRADY BUILDERS // BRANDON ARCHITECTS // MIKEN CONSTRUCTION // WOLF DESIGN STUDIO // CORR CONTEMPORARY HOMES // TESSA NEUSTADT PHOTOGRAPHY // AMY BARTLAM INTERIOR PHOTOGRAPHY // SC HOMES INC // STAND ARCHITECTS // RS MYERS COMPANY