Pro Tips: How to Arrange Throw Pillows on a Sectional Sofa

How to Arrange Throw Pillows on a Sectional Sofa
From style to extra support, throw pillows are an essential finishing touch.

Just like an ice cream sundae without the cherry or a salad without dressing, decorative pillows are a must when styling your sectional. Besides offering back support, throw pillows serve as a point of connection between your sectional and the rest of your living room. When done correctly, the color and pattern offered by throw pillows can tie together elements of the sofa with your home decor, creating a unified look.

But, how exactly do you style throw pillows on a sectional sofa? We asked our team of experts for step-by-step advice and design tips.

How Do You Arrange Throw Pillows On A Sectional Couch?

Sectional Throw Pillows
Pillows on a sectional sofa (credit: Julia Dempster)

1. Choose Your Color Palette

While it can be tempting to place individual throw pillows that you like together, it’s important to create a cohesive look by choosing pillows that complement your color palette. This doesn’t mean you have to choose multiples of the same pillow for your sofa, but it does require playing with different patterns and textures in the same color.

Designer Anna Franklin suggests keeping balance in mind when choosing a pillow combination that works with your color scheme. “Don’t have one color on one side of the sofa and not the other,” suggests Franklin. “Instead, create balance by ensuring that the same color is represented on each side of your sectional.”

To take color even further, consider the rest of the room. Do you have a patterned area rug? If so, try to match colors from the pattern to your pillow covers.

2. Co-ordinate Your Sizes

Once you’ve established a color palette, consider pillow sizing. When creating a pillowscape, Erin Banta likes to start with two 22” sofa pillows as a base. Then, she layers in different sizes depending on how cozy she wants the couch to be.

“For a classic look, layer in two more 22” pillows in a complementary pattern,” says Banta. “For those that love a pillow-loaded sofa, add in an 18” square or lumbar pillow for an extra layer of pattern.”

Many choose to use square pillows on the edges of the sofa, and a lumbar pillow in the center. The rectangular shape of lumbar pillows usually mean that only one is needed, while square pillows are easier to use multiples of.

3. Vary Different Patterns

As mentioned above, choosing a color scheme doesn’t have to mean sticking with the exact same color or pattern. Pair patterned pillows together by choosing pillows that have the same color or texture.

Pillows of the same color with linear patterns often work well together. Many choose to combine patterned pillows with solid pillows of the same color, as this often creates the feeling that the two are a “set.”

4. Keep your higher goal in mind

While we think throw pillows are a must have in every situation, many have a specific goal in mind that they think throw pillows can help achieve. Goals can range from using pillows to create a continuous look to adding seasonal cheer to your home.

Whatever your goal may be, make sure to keep it in mind throughout your selection and styling process.

Different Ways To Arrange Throw Pillows On A Sectional Couch

Layering

Many choose to create pillowscapes by layering pillows. To do this, Anna Franklin recommends creating visual interest by layering multiple sizes together.

Layering pillows

“Start with the back corner of your sectional, and place the largest pillow you have there,” says Anna Franklin. “Next, layer in the second largest pillow– you will want this one to be smaller than the first pillow placed in the corner. After layering in the corner, add two more 22” pillows on each end of the sectional, and smaller pillows throughout.”

Mix and Match

Christine Kobervig Munger's favorite way to style a sofa is to mix and match pillow sizes and shapes. “I find that a sectional is usually large enough to accommodate five to six pillows,” says Munger. “I like to start with a pair of 22” square pillows and mix in a combination of 18” and 20” squares, and one or two lumbar shapes.”

Mix and match pillows

Additionally, Munger says that “because a sectional isn’t symmetrical, don’t feel the need to go with a symmetrical couch pillow arrangement… create balance with size and quantity instead.”

When mixing and matching, Yoselin Castro recommends “having fun with upholstery materials… pairing different textures such as boucle and leather, or faux fur and velvet, can add dimension to the overall look.” Don’t be afraid to mix in solid colors with patterns, as this variety can tone down the energy brought to your space through a loud pattern.

Go Symmetrical

While styling throw pillows asymmetrically is certainly its own strategy, many suggest going symmetrical when trying to achieve a formal or traditional look.

Christine Kobervig Munger adds, “for an extra formal, decorative flair, set the pillows up straight and give them a good karate chop.”

On the sofa below, Julia Dempster selected pillows from the same family of colors and alternated between solid and patterned pillows. She arranged the pillows by size to achieve a symmetrical, more formal, look.

Symmetrical Pillow arrangment
Symmetrical throw pillow arrangement (credit: Julia Dempster)

Largest Pillow(s) at the Back

It just makes sense to style the largest pillows towards the back of the sofa. This ensures that the smaller pillows placed up front are seen.

Yoselin Castro adds, “In order to make the sofa feel balanced, add the largest pillow to the back middle corner, and arrange the smaller pillows around it.”

Throw pillows sectional

Many choose to replace stock pillow inserts with inserts that are a size up, as this gives the pillow a plump, full appearance, in comparison to the oft-slouchy look of stock inserts.

How Many Pillows Should Be On A Sectional?

When it comes to how many pillows to use on your sectional, there’s a variety of opinions. Julia Dempster suggests choosing an odd number of pillows above all else, as this ensures that there’s one left over to place in the center.

However, while throw pillows are a great addition to any sectional, going overboard can get in the way of seating.

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What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make When Styling A Sectional?

From styling successes to failures, our team of experts has done it all. Below are common mistakes made when styling a sectional– and recommendations for how to correct them.

Wash pillows before use

As many have learned from wearing dark wash blue jeans out in the world before washing them, color transfer is certainly real. To avoid color transfer from your new dark-colored pillows— especially if you have a white sofa, wash them before styling.

Christine Kobervig Munger says, “if you suspect your pillow might transfer color, dampen a light-colored cloth and rub it against the pillow for 15 seconds. If the cloth comes away clean, you can feel confident you won’t have any issues as you live with and use your pillows.”

Prioritize seating over style

According to Yoselin Castro, “there are no wrong answers when it comes to accessorizing sectionals with pillows, but avoid adding too many to the point that there’s almost no space to sit!”

At the end of the day, pillows are seating enhancers meant to provide extra support and style. Make sure the main functionality of the seating area is considered first.

Forgetting to consider pillow comfort

It’s easy to get swept up in pillow styling and forget what they’re truly there for: additional comfort. Julia Dempster recommends choosing feature pillows, as “they’re just softer and more comfortable” than other materials.

Arranging on the diagonal

According to Julia Dempster, arranging pillows on the diagonal is a big no-no, as “it looks too contrived.” For a more casual look, keep your pillows horizontal.

Avoid patterns with the same scale

For Erin Banta, it’s a mistake to pair patterns together that are on the same scale. Instead, “pair a smaller pattern with a larger one,” says Banta. “Anchor your color palette with one pattern, and then choose a color within that palette for the second pattern.”

What Are The Best Types Of Throw Pillows For A Sectional?

While a few different types of pillows work when styling a sectional, placement is key. Yoselin Castro recommends using a 24” square in the back, and going down in size from there.

“I also like to bring in a lumbar or irregular shaped pillow for size variation,” says Castro. “But whatever you do, try keeping it to three to four pillows max for that middle section.”

For the end corners of sectionals, Castro keeps it simple with two pillows that vary in size— from 18” squares to 24” squares.

Meet the experts

At Living Cozy, we produce our content alongside interior design and home decor experts. In this guide, you’ll advice from:

Written by
Sasha Weilbaker
Sasha Weilbaker is a freelance writer with bylines in Thrillist, Business Insider, and The Vegetarian Times. She's particularly interested in the intersection of sustainability and materials. In the wild, she can be found cycling around New England, scouting coffee shops, or obsessing over new podcasts.
Sasha Weilbaker
Written by
Sasha Weilbaker
Sasha Weilbaker is a freelance writer with bylines in Thrillist, Business Insider, and The Vegetarian Times. She's particularly interested in the intersection of sustainability and materials. In the wild, she can be found cycling around New England, scouting coffee shops, or obsessing over new podcasts.
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