If you’re home-upgrade curious, your social media feed is likely filled with carefully curated, ultra-stylized living room setups prime for afternoon naps, movies and game nights. “What makes those couches look so cozy and inviting?” you wonder. The answer is simple: throw pillows. There aren’t too many. The patterns don’t clash. They look like you can melt right into them. But how did they get so perfect?
There might not be a science to throw pillows, but there is an art. To help make your couch more alluring, we asked Cathleen Gruver, lead interior designer for Gruver Cooley Interiors, and Margaret Cashman, interior designer and co-founder of Cashman Interiors, to share their best throw pillow practices. Check out their tips, then stock up on affordable options from homedepot.com/decor.
Consider the space (and how it’s used)
Not all pillows are created equal, so the throw pillows you keep on your bed should differ from the ones on your living room couch. “When you’re choosing pillows for a living room, you have to factor in comfort,” Gruver explains. “Sure, a beaded pillow may look beautiful, but it will not feel great to sit against or lay on.” Instead, she suggests saving the fancier embellished or tasseled styles for spots that won’t be used for lounging, such as the entryway.
Use a variety of sizes
Different silhouettes add interest to a room — and that goes for pillows, too. “The goal would be to have a staggered look, where the pillows all feel like they are close enough in size to connect, says Gruver. “The only reason I would add a bunch of pillows in the same size would be if the sofa or seat was super deep and needed more support.”
Cashman agrees. “Try using 22-inch pillows on either side of the couch and something fun in the middle to keep the space feeling unique.”
Mix things up
Ultimately, Cashman just wants people to have fun — and be a little daring — with their pillow choices. “Adding accent pillows that aren’t matchy-matchy will help the space feel more unique and organic and less overstyled,” she says.
“The first approach is to keep it simple and let textures and neutral patterns be your friend, and have art be the real focus,” Gruver adds. “The second approach is to tie in [your pillows] with any art you may have by pulling colors from it.” Each method provides an opportunity to reinvigorate the space.
Work in threes
You don’t want to risk overwhelming anyone with too many throw pillows, which is why both Cashman and Gruver recommend sets of threes (two pillows on one side of the couch plus one on the other). People don’t typically feel overwhelmed at the thought of sitting down with three pillows, explains Gruver. “I’ve noticed most people like to curl up with a pillow, so it also gives the opportunity for that to happen naturally.”
Keep your throw pillows fresh
Cashman and Gruver suggest ordering inserts that are one to two inches bigger than the covers so the pillows look taught and tailored. Flat pillows look — and feel — uncomfortable. “Rotating your pillows helps if you know you use one side [of the couch] more than the other, or if one side is more exposed to sunlight,” Gruver explains.
In addition to washing them, Gruver notes the importance of proper storage and suggests having an organized box or bin, as well as a vacuum-sealed bag for pillows you’re not using.
Prioritize quality and durability
High-traffic areas, like your family’s living room, call for furniture and accessories that can survive pet hair, food spills and lots of lounging. Cashman prefers pillow covers made with durable fabrics. “Using performance fabrics like nylon or polyester ensures that pillows will hold up longer and can be cleaned from the everyday messes of life,” she says.
Similarly, Gruver is a fan of down alternative inserts. “They’re super comfortable, easy to shape, and you don’t get poked with feathers popping out,” she explains. “They can also easily be thrown into the wash for care, which I recommend doing at least once a year.”
Photographer: David Tsay; Art Direction and Production: Armine Altiparmakian and Sabrina Contratti; Prop Stylist: Olga Grigorenko; Merch Team: Two Coast Productions; Local Production: Right Arm Productions