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Sunday, December 4, 2022
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Sunday, December 4, 2022
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    Sofa so good

    Jura Koncius

    THE WASHINGTON POST – Tired of the two matching pillows anchoring the corners of my flax-coloured sofa, I decided I needed a crash course in Pillows 101. I’d seen enough enticing Instagram posts from tastemakers to convince me that it was time to change up my very traditional look.

    Deploying a variety of pillow shapes, sizes and textures is the best way to elevate and personalise one of the largest pieces of furniture in your home, according to design professionals, who have no shortage of opinions on pillow choice and placement.

    “Pillows show your personality in a funny way, sort of like art and decorative objects and textiles,” said textile designer John Robshaw, known for his indigo, hand-blocked and ikat print pillows.

    “A sofa with a pillow on each corner is really boring. Get your personality out there and add in some different styles, colours and sizes.”

    Beth Diana Smith, a New Jersey designer, agreed.

    “The worst is a matchy-matchy look, like a green sofa with green pillows,” she said. “It makes it feel lazy and unimaginative and creates a very boring look. The goal is for your pillows to feel curated.”

    Your room will look more polished with groupings of decorative pillows (sometimes called “throw” or “toss” pillows to differentiate from bed pillows) in the middle of a sofa or at either end.

    “The right and left side of the sofa do not have to match,” says Nicole Fisher of BNR Interiors in New York. “It’s an easy way to introduce a little bit of pattern without a big commitment.”

    And remember: Designers often say groups of odd numbers are best, so go with three, five or seven pillows, depending on whether you have a petite love seat or an oversize sectional.

    If you’re not comfortable mixing and matching on your own, some makers, including Robshaw, offer pillow bundles: an assortment of pieces (often three to five) that a professional has chosen because they work well together.

    As for where to find them, pillows are available at many retailers and from Etsy makers.

    You can also buy fabrics and sew them yourself or have them made by a local professional.


    A cream or grey sofa is the perfect neutral for assembling pillows that express your style.

    If you like a calming natural palette, stick with the tone of your upholstery, adding interest with pillows of various shapes and in different textures, weaves, tweeds and tone-on-tone prints.

    If you’re not afraid to go bold, pick a colour, then experiment with multiple shades of that colour. Or mix several colours that pick up hues of other objects in the room. “The most important thing is to make sure there is one cohesive colour throughout all of your pillows,” Fisher said.


    If the sofa is for relaxing and watching TV, make sure you have comfortable pillows with washable covers in cotton or linen.

    Keep pets and children in mind, too; a chunky knit or faux fur is not ideal for anyone with cats, for example, and silk or velvet is not a good choice if you have kids who eat on the sofa.


    On sofas, people often err on smaller-size pillows.

    Scaling up your pillows on a sofa makes it fun and dramatic. It’s more comfortable to have a big cushion behind you. If you have a long sofa, vary the shapes.

    A rectangle or kidney-shaped pillow allows you to “have a change of scale and make it visually exciting,” Robshaw said.

    One statement shape that has been popping up on Instagram recently is a ball.


    A green velvet sofa with green velvet pillows is not a good look; neither is a black leather sofa with black leather pillows.

    Furniture retailers promote that matchy-matchy look, because many still include two matching pillows in the same fabric and colour with the purchase of a sofa.

    More thoughtful about your choices and seek different materials, colours or patterns.

    For a leather sofa, velvet pillows will soften the look. On velvet sofas, focus on cottons and woven materials for contrast.


    Arranging pillows is sort of like creating a gallery wall. You put different sizes together and decide what looks dinky next to what or what colour looks good next to the other. It’s a process.

    You could make the process fun and get other opinions by having a pillow party: Buy a bunch of pillows you like, whether they are related by colour or theme, and invite a friend or two over for a showing, trying different combinations on for size.

    Anything that doesn’t work, return. It’s important to test the pillow combos you come up with, especially if you are mixing prints, which can be tricky.

    Make sure the size of the patterns vary. They can’t all be big prints; you have to mix up small, medium and large ones. It’s even hard for a designer to visualise how pillows will work together without trying it. You need to see it with the sofa.

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