Mixing and Matching Sofa Pillows with Expert Secrets

Mix and Match Pillows on a Sofa
Throw pillows can go a long way in giving your family room a happy, comfortable, and welcoming vibe.

The purpose of pillows on a sofa is to provide comfort while lounging on the couch, but also to introduce color, texture, and different fabrics. With so many different pillow combinations available, it can feel challenging to know how to match throw pillows on your sofa.

You can use your pillow combination to brighten up the room by introducing pops of color to compliment your existing color scheme. But, how do you mix and match throw pillows on your couches?

In this article, we share some of our expert tips on how to create the perfect pillow combo on your sofas without causing clashes of colors, textures, sizes, and patterns.

Why Are Your Pillow Choices Important?

Throw pillows may seem like a small addition to your living room, but your pillow choices are actually very important. Despite adding an extra layer of comfort to your couch, the color, pattern, size, and fabric choices when it comes to your pillow covers can change the entire feel of the room.

You, therefore, have to carefully consider which pillows cases and sizes you go for, as well as how many pillows you decide to place on your sofa. Pillows give you the opportunity to express your creative side, so get ready to mix and match throw pillows and bring out your inner interior design expert.

Ways to Mix And Match Pillows on a Sofa

Matching pillows does not have to be difficult - once you have an understanding of how to combine colors, patterns, and textures, you will be able to create the perfect pillow combinations to bring your family room to life.

So, how to mix and match pillows on a sofa?

Mix and Match by Pillow Size

One of the simplest ways to mix and match throw pillows is by size. "In order to mix and match pillows on a sofa, you should consider the size and placement of them should be determined by this," explains Heather Mastrangeli, founder of Innovatus Design. "For example, the largest pillow should be placed at the back, the medium in the middle, and the smallest at the front. This is a good rule of thumb for creating a well-put-together look." 

Throw pillows arranged by size
Size is one of the he ways to arrange throw pillows (credit: Heather Mastrangeli)

Mastrangeli also advises that the fullness of the pillows is also important, and it’s always worth considering the type of filling in them. "Feather or down filling is usually best as they provide long-lasting comfort, however, they are more expensive. Polyester is a standard filling that is more cost-effective while providing good support," she adds.

Mix and Match by Pillow Color

Throw pillows on a couch
Try to contrast your throw pillows with your sofa (credit: Madison Modern Home)

The first step to mixing and matching pillows is to look at the existing color scheme in your living room. The existing colors can be your guide in deciding on pillow colors. But Robin DeCapua notes you should "be sure to contrast with your sofa color, never blend in."

The easiest way to mix by color is to select one neutral base color (usually for the center pillow), then select a secondary color that's related to your base color. You can then pick a third color that is more vibrant and slightly contrasts the other two pillows.

"The first step is to consider the color scheme and choose pillows that complement those tones. If your sofa is a neutral color, try adding bold or bright pillows to add some pop; I recommend bringing in color in small doses if you're insecure about the right amount of color," says Karen Rohr.

You can get your color inspiration from the drapes, rugs, wall colors, or even furniture colors, but always keep the Rule of Three in mind, meaning, don't combine more than three colors.

Some great color combinations include:

  • Gold, dark green, and magenta.
  • Dark red, olive green, and orange.
  • Deep red, dark blue, and bright pink.
  • Salmon, peach, and beige.
  • White, light beige, and blush pink.

Mix and Match by Pillow Pattern

Sofa pillows with different patterns

It can be fun to play with patterned pillow covers, but you probably need to have a vague idea of what you are doing - and we are here to help.

Patterns are fun and can work well in the living room as long as you take your inspiration from existing patterns and lines in the room. For example, if your room has plenty of sleek lines, then a pattern with lines will work best. If your room's geometry includes arches, then organic patterns like circles and arcs will look best on your pillows.

As with colors, you can mix and match geometric patterns, as long as they have a similar color story.

The easiest way to match patterns is to select your main pattern - which will be the largest pattern and often contains the most colors. Your secondary patterns will contain fewer colors, and the final pattern will possibly be only one or two colors. "Our rule of thumb is to combine a solid color pillow with a large patterned one, an organic or color-blocked one and a lumber pillow," explains Robin DeCapua.

Here are some pattern combinations to consider:

  • Floral, geometric, and solid.
  • Chevron, polka dots, and knitted.
  • Stripes, geometric, and solid.
  • Buffalo check, toile, and small stripes.

Or Even Pillow Pattern Size...

Whether you get a striped, floral or geometric pattern, you still need to remember the Rule of Three when it comes to the scale of the patterns. Patterns can clash if they have similar sizes (for example, if you only get large patterns). Therefore, you need to choose one pattern that is larger than the rest, followed by a medium and small pattern.

"Mixing patterns will give you a designer look, just be sure to mix the right patterns. It is all about scale when it comes to pattern mixing, so if picking two different patterns, make sure one is a larger scale, and one is smaller. For example, a large floral pattern on one and a smaller plaid on another," adds Leisyl Boone Buxton of Leisyl B Designs.

"The biggest mistake I often see is intricate patterns being left at the back, or being covered up with a bigger pattern or pillow. Make sure the intricate pattern or pillow is at the front taking center stage," adds Heather Mastrangeli.

Mix and Match by Pillow Texture

Throw pillows on a sofa
Mixing textures can help to create a cohesive feel in your space (credit: Carmen Mackey/Decorating Den Interiors)

Although colors and patterns are fun to mix and match, you can also consider the texture of the pillows and introduce different fabrics to your sofa.

Create a juxtaposition by mixing smooth and rough textures, or soft and frizzy textures like faux fur. It might seem contradictory, but mixing textures will give your family room a more cohesive feel.

Leather will work well with a softer wool or woven texture, while a smooth pillow can be perfectly matched with a tasseled accent pillow. You can get creative and even apply the Rule of Three when it comes to texture. Keep it simple when you mix textures, and never combine more than three textures.

Break The ‘Pillow Rules’ And Find Your Style

Although the Rule of Three is a good jumping-off point, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to interior design. It is all about finding your own style and creating a space that feels right to you.

If you find that four colors or four different textures work better than three, go for it! What is most important is that you like what you see and that you choose patterns, colors, textures, and sizes that work in your home.

Additional Tips For Pillow Arrangements

The simple guidelines above are just that - guidelines. There is so much more you can do when mixing and matching throw pillows on your sofa. Here are some additional tips:

  • Odd numbers gives a modern twist. Using an odd number of pillows on your sofa will look very modern and artsy. Three, five, or even seven pillows on a larger couch will contribute to a modern decorating aesthetic.
  • Even numbers are more traditional. If you want a symmetrical look, opt for an even number of pillows. Two large pillows or four smaller pillows will look more traditional and orderly.
  • Fewer, large pillows will look sleeker. If you want a minimalistic look, fewer, larger pillows will look cleaner than a jumble of small pillows.
  • The fill of your pillows is important. Although the outside of your cushions will change the aesthetic of your room, the inside will determine how comfortable they are! Feather or down fills will be more "squishy", while foam and synthetic fills are slightly harder but cheaper.
  • Keep your home fresh: "By changing pillows frequently, you can always keep the atmosphere of your home current and up-to-date without having to make significant changes," says Karen Rohr.

Read more: How to Arrange Pillows on a Bed: Five Layout Ideas

Think About the Size of Your Sofa

According to Carmen Mackey, the first thing to consider when planning a pillow arrangement is the size of your sofa. "When considering the size of your sofa, look at the back and arm height. Does your sofa have a short back? You may want to consider a smaller pillow size so the scale doesn't look off," explains the founder of Carmen Mackey Designs.

Throw pillows on sofa
The size of your sofa will help you decide on the best size cushions (credit: Carmen Mackey/Decorating Den Interiors)

If your sofa has large arms and a taller back, Mackey says you may want to consider a bigger pillow size such as a 20"x 20". "You can also mix and match pillow sizes, but you always want your biggest pillows in the back. This will keep your sofa looking balanced and intentional," she adds.

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What is the Average Size of a Sofa Pillow?

There is no standard size when it comes to throw pillows for the sofa. These pillows are most commonly square, and they come in the following common sizes:

  • 12 x 12 inches
  • 16 x 16 inches
  • 18 x 18 inches
  • 24 x 24 inches

How Many Pillows Should You Have on a Sofa?

The number of pillows will depend on the size of the couch, although four is a popular choice for many.

That being said, there is a formula you can follow to create the perfect look: take the length of the sofa in feet, subtract one, and that is the number of pillows that you should not exceed on a single sofa.

For example, if you have a sofa that is six feet long, then it will look good with five throw pillows.

Again, this is not a hard rule, and you can place as many pillows on your sofa as you feel looks good.

Do Pillows Have to Match on a Couch?

Pillows do not have to match the couch. In fact, it will probably look better if your pillows do not exactly match your couch!

Pillows matching the couch are very traditional and will work well in formal living rooms with a cohesive color scheme.

Using pillow combinations to introduce contrasting colors or different patterns into your living room is an easy way to make a room feel more modern and fun.

Do Throw Pillows Have to Match Curtains?

Throw pillows do not have to match the pillows.

Although it is great to draw inspiration from the other furniture and decor in the living room, having an exact match is not required. If you have patterned curtains, selecting a single color from the curtains and including it in your pillow color story can make the room look more cohesive. Still, if you get pillows in a different color, it can also create visual interest in the room.

Should Throw Pillows be the Same Size?

No, your pillow can either be the same size or different sizes. Same-sized pillows will look more traditional, while you can create depth by using a variety of pillow sizes.

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
Ash Read
Ash is the founder of Living Cozy. He's been featured by publishers like MyDomaine, Realtor, Real Homes, Architectural Digest, The Spruce, Homes and Gardens, and more. As a writer his work has appeared in publications like FastCompany, TNW, and Entrepreneur.
Ash Read
Written by
Ash Read
Ash is the founder of Living Cozy. He's been featured by publishers like MyDomaine, Realtor, Real Homes, Architectural Digest, The Spruce, Homes and Gardens, and more. As a writer his work has appeared in publications like FastCompany, TNW, and Entrepreneur.
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