The Do's & Don'ts of Decorating with Couch Throw Pillows

Creating instant seating allure with couch pillows — and averting common mistakes — requires sticking to a few basic guidelines

Do mix throw pillow sizes & shapes.  

Square or round; oversized or petite. Throw pillows are anything but uniform these days, and that's good news for enlivening a modern sofa scheme. Mixing up the sizes and shapes of couch pillows makes for a more interesting visual arrangement, while averting a studied, overly staged look. Layer a larger square pillow with a smaller rectangular throw pillow, or contrast the straight edges of a square or rectangular design with the curves of a round pillow—like the Serengeti Round Pillow from Surya—and watch as your sofa morphs from staid to dynamic.


Don't underestimate neutral tones.  

Your instinct may propel you towards vividly colored, plainly dramatic couch pillows, but don't underestimate the value of well-chosen neutral tones. A beautifully embellished pillow in a subdued tone—like the GAN Rugs Espacio Raw Pillow, above—whether alone or combined with complementary hues or patterns, can yield as much impact as a collection of bright colors and prints. Decorating with throw pillows isn't always about obvious impact. A more sophisticated, textural arrangement and a subtle tonal range have their own nuanced rewards.


Do select complementary (vs matching) colors.

Matching pillows to sofa color or other elements in a room may appear to be logical, but obvious color tie-ins usually look as deliberate as they are. Much like any decor piece, couch throw pillows should enhance and elevate an interior in ways both subtle and surprising. A sofa of neutral tones presents an ideal canvas for experimentation, a prime opportunity for introducing an unexpected color or pattern—like the gorgeous chevron of the Timmy Throw Pillow. Sofas upholstered in more attention-getting colors may invite more subdued colors—making, complementing, not mimicking, even more critical.


Don't shy away from embellishment.

Tassels, fringe, sequins, rosettes. Who said modernists are averse to ornamentation? Modern design may err on the side of restraint, but a touch of fancy is precisely the kind of drama from which a clean, streamlined interior scheme can benefit. Couch throw pillows are an ideal vehicle for tactile richness, offering charming embellished details and glamorous adornments in just the right doses. Go ahead and pair the Psychedelia Pillow, festooned with colorful pompoms, with an elegant modern sofa; or reap the fringe benefits of the GAN Rugs Garden Layers Cushion, above, which easily manages to be both understated and attention-getting.


Do go the extra mile with texture & pattern.

Dense patterns and chunky textures are not everyone's cup of tea—making couch pillows the perfect vehicle for venturing into more adventurous modern decor territory. Accessibly priced and easy to switch out, pillows present a virtually risk-free opportunity to inject more exuberant decorative elements into a space where pure silhouettes and polished surfaces abound. Invest in throw pillows that showcase hand-applied craft, material richness, and arresting repeat patterns—exquisitely illustrated, above, in Patricia Urquiola's Bandas Pillow for GAN Rugs. Be bold, not bashful.  


Don't overdo it.

Given the immediate satisfaction to be gained from a beautiful throw pillow or two, and their relatively low price point, it's easy to overdo the couch throw pillow treatment. A sofa that's chock-full of decorative pillows is more conducive to a showroom than a functional living room, where sitting down trumps a pretty vignette. Be judicious about how many pillows to feature on a sofa at any given moment; the line between accessorizing and overwhelming may quickly blur. Typically, anything beyond 3-4 couch pillows is overkill. Thought and discernment make for an inspired throw pillow statement—not sheer quantity.