Wow, I was blown away by how many people wanted to know my formula for styling decorative pillows after I shared this post about our sofa! But I totally get it. Especially when you see so many beautifully styled living rooms on Pinterest and Instagram. After years of designing pillows and working on photoshoots, I have a certain set of rules that I usually follow because they are so easy! I don’t follow them every time, but it’s a really great place to start. After reviewing these tips, you’ll be able to confidently style your sofa AND bed, I swear.
How to Arrange Pillows (My Easy Formula!)
When it comes to styling in general, I have a few rules that I follow. I dug through tons of old photoshoots and blog posts to find many examples, too! Here’s how they are translated into arranging dec pillows:
- Odd numbers — odd numbers create visual interest because it keeps your eye moving around the space or vignette. Usually my pillows are in groups of 3 or 5.
- Mix prints — pattern mixing is an easy way to make your space feel more ‘designed.’ Select two prints and go from there. Make sure the prints are not the same scale and are in a color palette that’s related, but not identical. If you’re doing 3 printed pillows out of 5 total, you can select 3 different prints or do 2 of the same.
- Incorporate solids — solid colored pillows are like the jeans you can always throw on with whatever you’re wearing. They will help ground the patterned pillows you’ve added to the mix.
- Mix up textures, too — there are so many incredible pillows out there, in a variety of materials and textures. While I always choose a down filled insert, the pillow cover could be anything! Personally, I love linen and velvet because they are soft and not itchy.
- Fluffy, but don’t chop — I like my pillows to be fluffy and lofty, especially since they are down filled. Instead of chopping, I pull the top two corners straight up to help the middle part gently relax. It’s a more subtle look that chopping the center!
- Shape and size matters — don’t just use all squares! Instead, mix things up with a few squares and a lumbar or super-long rectangular pillow.
How to arrange pillows on the sofa
There are sooo many ways to style pillows on a sofa and so many factors. A lot depends on the overall vibe of your home, as well as what kind of sofa you have. Our sofa is pretty neutral, so here are a few ways I’ve done it and some notes on each look!
Look 1: Minimalist
When I styled this container home display for Value Village, I kept it simple with just 2 pillows on one end of the sofa. Then, to keep true to my odd numbers philosophy, I added a draped throw. You could go this route or be a true minimalist and style a single lumbar pillow in the center of the sofa.
Look 2: Layered & Maximalist
I am definitely of the mindset that ‘more is more’ when it comes to pillows! I really love the feeling of sinking into a pile of fluff. Because of this, I usually style at least 5 pillows on a sofa, as you can see in our living room refresh.
Look 3: Asymmetrical
One more look to try is embracing an asymmetrical composition of pillows, like what I did for our patio reveal. For this look, try grouping two square pillows + a throw on one side of the loveseat or sofa. Then, counterbalance with a single square and a lumbar. For this example, color and pattern play an important role because the black coloring on the lumbar pillow balances out the dark blue square in the back. Visually it feels balance, even though it isn’t!
How to arrange pillows on a chair
Usually for a lounge chair, I’m a firm believer in the one-and-done philosophy of pillow arranging… especially if your chair has a pattern. Typically, I drape a throw across the back of the chair and then pop on one pillow. Play with whether a square or lumbar pillow works best given the proportion of your chair. For our lounge chair, I like to use an 18×18 square. Sometimes keeping it simple is the best!
How to arrange pillows on a bed
One of my very first jobs out of college was assisting on photoshoots for a bedding company. That was where I learned the ropes of how to style a bed with pillows. We have a queen sized bed, so my formula is based on that. I’ll mention where to make changes for a king size whenever possible!
See the square pillows in the back? Those are called Euro Shams and they measure 26×26 traditionally. I love them because they sit higher than just another standard pillow and they help to add texture and pattern to a bed. Usually, my euros are either solid white or navy blue linen or hand dyed shibori pillows. I made sure that each set can coordinate with each set of sheets and duvet that we have.
Next, I add the pillows we actually use when we sleep. Both of us like to have two pillows (one memory foam and one down), so I stack them usually. I like the way that it changes things up and makes it slightly less traditional… and less like a catalog! Usually, these pillows are all in white pillowcases that match or I mix things up with the shams that match the duvet + white pillowcases.
I’ve been overruled a LOT on having true-blue dec pillows in the bedroom. Sean just hates having to remove another layer before we get into bed. So that’s an argument I’ve given up on… but for photos, I keep it simple usually. A lumbar (low, rectangular pillow), is my favorite, especially in a print that complements our wallpaper. Sometimes I’ll style with an 18×18 square pillow, then pop the lumbar in front of that. Usually, this is my go-to when guests are coming to stay in our home so that the bed feels a bit more special.
So those are my tips and my formula for arranging and styling pillows! Let me know if you have more questions, but most importantly, keep practicing and playing until the balance feels right to you.