Pillow Pairing & Sizing 101

People tend to really struggle with how to pair pillows as well as how many to use on certain pieces of furniture. I’m here to help!

I have a little bit of a formula when it comes to pillow patterns– I like to mix a solid (with or without trim), an organic (florak, ikat, etc.) and a small scale or geometric.  Like below, on the sofa are a solid and small scale/texture and on the chairs are a floral.  The scales are all different, which is important, especially given that the chairs have a pattern on them too.  The tiny stripe on the sofa would have been way too busy on the chairs and too similar on pattern style. So the floral breaks up all the linear pattern and the sofa has a nice mix of saturated color and smaller scale movement.

As far as size goes, I like my pillows to be a little on the larger side and ONLY use down filler.  Here’s two examples of sizes and pattern pairings that work well!

Pillow Pairing 1: Purple Stripe // Floral // Small Scale

Pillow Pairing 2: Greek Key // Pattern // Geometric  

COMBOS TO AVOID:

  • All geometric patterns together
  • All the same scale pattern
  • All the same material (I like to mix velvet, linen, wovens, fur, etc. to create texture)
  • Get rid of the pillows that come with your sofa. Always.

When it comes to how many and what size to use on various sofas, here is a cheat sheet.


And since men tend to feel like this about most throw pillows (or having too many) I noted where you can option out with the third pillow :)  Too many pillows looks ridiculous and creates issue when you try to actually sit, too few looks sad and anemic.

via GIPHY

Another example of a great pairing of patterns and sizes

On daybeds I go a little nuts because I want daybeds to function as seating and sleeping space. So typically we make round bolsters for the ends and then put three Euro shams pillows along the back and a pair of king shams in the front.  On top of that you can add one or two accent pillows too.

For regular beds, I am a BIG fan of one long, large lumbar pillow. I do this in almost every king or queen bedroom I design.  I make these custom, so the sizes aren’t something you can just pick up most places.  But you can message the many Etsy vendors who make custom throw pillows to ask them to custom size one for you.  For king beds, we do an 18″ x 40″ pillow, for queens slightly smaller 16″ x 36″.  For full and twin beds you can use a square accent pillow or regular size lumbar!

I hope this little cheat sheet helped! If you have any other pillow questions, ask in comments!

Photography of our work above by Michael J. Lee, Michael Partenio and Sarah Winchester.

28 comments

  1. Do you by chance know the name of the fabric of the palm pillow on the white couch (3rd pic from the bottom)? I love it!

  2. Great Post Erin, but I have a question/challenge that I have been attempting to deal with! I recently purchased a Pottery Barn York Slope Arm deep seat sofa, which I love – great to sit in but also great for an extra bed! BUT it has three back cushions and three lumbar cushions – so what to do for accents? I’m worried there will be too many? HELP! (Its solid brushed canvas with a slip cover – much of my apt is blue and white with touches of beige/cream, FYI)

    Thanks so much for any thoughts!
    wendy

    1. I would actually have the lumbar pillows recovered in a fun fabric– maybe a stripe or a small scale print, and then add a pair of 20″ or 22″ larger pattern accent pillows to the ends of the sofa. Check some pillow vendors on Etsy like Spark Modern and message them with your pillow dimensions and pick a fabric and have them make just the covers!

  3. Those are some lovely combos you have suggested. Pillows are useful with deep sofas, so that the height-challenged among us can lean back and also keep our feet on the floor. A deep sofa is so nice for, say, stretching out for a nap or reading a book, but for sitting less so….unless there are some pillows to put behind.

  4. Pillows can seem so simple, but it can actually be complicated to choose the right pattern/color mix and the right sizes to fit each individual space. My customers often come to me eager to order, but they can get overwhelmed with the details. Thanks for sharing your pillow tips to help people get on the right track!

  5. Great post! Would love a post on your favorite sofas – both loveseat and regular size sofas.
    aloha, Cindy Nichols

  6. This post was so helpful and I love all of your pairings!!! I love these type of posts and hope you will do more! Also, I would love to see Etsy vendors that you enjoy working with for pillow covers!

    P.S. Can’t wait for your collection to be ready!!

    1. Hi, Caralee! I don’t want to be spammy, but I’d like to introduce myself as a pillow maker who would be happy to work with you! I specialize in designer pillow covers full of pattern and color, but I have a few neutrals too. I sell on Etsy and also on my own website.

      Hollie Rich
      Owner, Stuck on Hue
      stuckonhue.com

      1. I can vouche for Hollie! I’m just a happy ( repeat) customer, not a friend or anything. Prices are fair and her work is outstanding.

  7. Hi Erin
    What arrangement would you suggest with a sofa that has a chaise at one end – not quite a sectional and not a standard sofa?
    Thank you for the excellent post!
    Aimee

  8. If I have a 20” pillow, what size insert should I get? Or what is the general formula to use when buying inserts?

    Thanks.

    1. We usually buy 22″ down inserts for 20″ pillow covers so they are nice and full! Typically just go up one size!

  9. I’m struggling with pillow placement at the moment. Thank you for this post. I have a sofa and love seat in the same room (forming an “L” shape) but can’t decide how to mix pillows. Should the pillows be the same on all four corners of the sofa/loveseat?

  10. We have a restoration Maxwell L shape sofa. I have three large square pillows at each end and in the corner that are solid with a texture and then have a smaller square and rectangular pillow in the corner too, is that correct? The large pillows are like 22 or 24” square and it is a large sectional but they sometimes feel too large.

  11. Hi Erin,
    I love this post and I’ve been stuck in a pillow rut since we bought our new gray Restoration Hardware sofa and chair. The only pillows I purchased are your gorgeous blue greek key pillows but now I am stuck! I’m thinking adding green as another color – should I wait for your new pillow collection to hit Wayfair? If so, which pillows would you add to the navy velvet Aegean pillows? I’d love your advice and I’m a huge fan!
    Many thanks!
    Kara Ullmann

  12. Hi Erin,
    I have a sofa and loveseat in my living room. Do you suggest having the same fabric on the pillows on each or ones that compliment each other?
    Thank you so much! I LOVE your blog!!
    :-)
    Suzanne

  13. LOVE these kind of posts! Bookmarked it as a reference. I love everything about the cream colored living room photo. Any chance you could tell me the paint color on the wall?

    Also, do you have a pillow recommendation for a toddler’s queen size bed? I was going to do two euros with a top monogram, two 20″ pillows, and a small lumbar, but now I’m thinking just the euros and a long lumbar like you mentioned. Less pillows to get thrown around!

  14. Hi Erin!

    Do you have a resource for larger lumbar pillow inserts? I’m finding that the larger sizes are hard to find. Looking for something 40” or longer for my king bed. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Patterson! Sometimes a body pillow is perfect for a long lumbar. (FYI, if the insert isn’t super full, you might have to size down quite a bit on the cover.) Other than body pillows, I haven’t found anything at retail longer than 36″, so I use UnitedPillow.com for custom inserts. They have a zillion different fill types, including down/feather and polyester. For long lumbars, I recommend their Perma Soft fill, which is a bouncy, high-quality polyester. It keeps its shape, rather than slumping in the middle like down/feather fill does, which I don’t like for long lumbars. Hope that helps!

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