Interior Design

How to mix and match pillows on a sofa – interior designer Emma Sims Hilditch explains

It's easy to get the right combination of sizes, colors and patterns with this expert guide

Pillows on a sofa in a purple-hued living room
(Image credit: Sims-Hilditch)

It may seem like a tiny detail, but knowing how to mix and match pillows on a sofa can ensure your space looks professionally finished, perfectly coordinated and – of course – comfortable. Plus, of course, we at H&G love those tiny interior design tips that build to create beautifully curated rooms – even in the busiest of family homes.

'Throw pillows are a great interior accessory which can be used to brighten up any room in the house,' says Emma Sims Hilditch of interior design agency Sims-Hilditch.

Below, Emma explains how she approaches this essential finishing touch in her clients' homes.

How to mix and match pillows on a sofa

These practical tips won't just tell you how to mix and match pillows on a sofa – many of them are the first steps in building a successful color scheme, too.

Consider your existing scheme

'The first thing that needs to be established before you choose your cushions is how they might fit into the existing design scheme of your home in order to maintain cohesion and flow.'

Pillows on a sectional sofa in a red living room

(Image credit: Sims-Hilditch)

Pair bright accent colors

With an eye to living room color schemes, bringing accent colors in with pillows is an important consideration. 

'If you’re looking to bring a splash of color to your scheme, then you might consider pairing cushions in brighter accent colors with the rest of your arrangement on a sofa, bed or window seat. 

'This is especially effective when the color picks out similar bold shades in other soft furniture, furnishings, and even the spines of various books on the coffee table or bookshelf.'

Pillows on a sofa in a purple-hued living room

(Image credit: Sims--Hilditch)

Introduce texture

When you're looking for living room seating ideas – such as a new sofa or armchair – you might well consider effect and practicality of the fabric or material of the upholstery. The same should apply to pillows.  

'Another thing to consider when styling your pillows is how you might introduce texture to the arrangement. Using natural fabrics or heavily patterned and printed materials paired with more neutral fabrics creates a pleasing contrast and helps to inject life into a room.'

Pillows on a banquette sofa in a dining space/kitchen

(Image credit: Sims-Hilditch)

Introduce decorative trim for a luxe feel

'If you’re aiming for an elegant and luxurious aesthetic, adding decorative trims to your cushions is a good idea. This introduces a good balance of elegance and comfort into a room.'

Living room with pillows on sofa

(Image credit: Sims-Hilditch)

Swap out cushion covers to suit the season – or your mood

Pillows on a yellow sofa in a floral living room

(Image credit: Sims-Hilditch)

Mix up pillow sizes

'For those who are on a budget it’s worth noting that changing your cushion covers is a relatively inexpensive yet creative way to update the look of an interior.'

Choose pillows in two or three sizes – small, medium and large – and shapes, square and lumbar, for example, creating height with larger pillows at the back. Doing so creates interest – and dimension.

Layered pillows on sofas in neutral colored living room with coffee table

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

Combine solids with prints

A good way to start a color scheme is by picking a couple of prints that you love – and then work neutrals and plains around them. This is a great way to refresh a scheme too – so it may be that your sofa and plain cushions stay year round, but you swap in new prints each season to give your sofa a new look. 

Ensure the scale of your pillows' patterns suit each other: one print might have a large motif, complemented by – rather than competing with – smaller motifs or simpler prints, as on the sofa above.

Sofa with pillows in foreground of living room with antiques

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

Mix and match pillows in odd numbers

Odd numbers of items – from pillows to pillar candles – look better when styled together. This means mixing and matching three or five pillows on a sofa to create a successful arrangement. 

Start with your pattern, then add plains – in accent colors and neutrals – to achieve the perfect balance.

colors mixed and matched on pillows on a sofa in a grey living room

(Image credit: Sims-Hilditch)

Do couch pillows have to match?

Couch pillows do not have to match – in fact, using pillows in contrasting colors and patterns are part of what creates a magical, individual and interesting scheme. However, it is worth sticking to a few basic design rules: having no more than one main color, two accent colors and neutrals, and picking one large design motif and a couple of smaller or simpler prints. 

How many pillows should you put on a couch?

There is no rule for how many pillows should be put on a couch – after all, whatever makes your sofa comfortable is what's most important – you may have noticed the varied approach designers take to this if you've been looking hard living room ideas recently.

However, if you are worried about aesthetics, sticking to three pillows for a smaller sofa and five for a larger one will create a good-looking finish.