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Couch Pillow Formula: how to choose the right pillows that reflect your style

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

The idea of changing textiles, like blankets and throw pillows, with the changing seasons is a good one to be sure but isn’t always easy on your pocketbook. Buying new pillows each time a season changes and depending on how many pillows you need, can cost anywhere from $20 - $200+. Though I love second hand purchases, buying pillows is on my list of ‘hard pass.’

What’s a girl to do? Make them! It’s easier than you think. Truly. If you can sew a straight line, you can sew a pillow cover. I'll show you how in the next blog post.

First, however, let’s talk Couch Pillow Formula. It’s a thing and you should know it. If you’ve been hanging out with me long enough you know I don’t like decorating rules. They’re rigid, boring and contradict one of my core decorating values that ‘it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.’ I like to use the word ‘guidelines’ instead, but this my friend…this is a RULE!


Ditch the couch pillows that come with the purchase of a couch. But why? So glad you asked. The texture of the fabric combined with the patterns typical of this genre of pillow are trying to appeal to the general population. Doing that means they are generic and void of personality. You, my dear, are NOT that and your pillows should be a reflection of you and not the general population.

Now, if you’d like to keep the pillow inserts to use as you follow my instructions for how to make a pillow cover, that’s great. You can donate just the cover or the whole kit and caboodle. You choose.


Now that we’ve ditched the pre-fab couch pillows, let’s chat strategy for how to bring in personality with your pillows. Depending on the size and shape of the couch you have, you can modify the formula. Just keep this in mind: stick with odd numbers. For example, loveseat = 3 pillows. Standard sofa = 5. Sectional = 7. Got the idea?

Pattern vs. plain? Textured vs. smooth? Farmhouse vs. boho? Matchy-matchy vs. all different? Here’s where it gets a little tricky and a bit more nuanced, but I almost always start with two matching solid pillows with a soft texture, like velvet. Those are my anchor pillows. For me, in my house, those anchor pillows are grey and can stay the same in each season or change of decor, but they are easily interchangeable if I want a different color, say at Christmas time. Once you have two anchor pillows, start playing with what you like, remembering that you can read the room just like you read a book. So, what is it you want your room to say?

If you followed my guide for how to choose curtains, the same principles will apply with the pillows on your couch.

If you want: Then choose:

cozy, cohesive, classy tone on tone colors and patterns

playful, fun, energetic bright colors of solids & patterns

Just like with the curtains, your pillow covers should not be an outlier within the room. What ever color you choose, do you have that same color represented somewhere else within the room? A frame on the bookshelf, a pattern within the rug, a stripe in your throw blanket? As long as that color is represented within the room, it belongs!

Keep in mind, you simultaneously add depth and warmth to your room with varying textures. If your anchor pillows are velvet, try a different texture for the remaining pillows. Maybe knit, faux fur, linen, etc. This should happen wether you want a cozy, classic look OR a playful, energetic look.


For a standard sofa: 2 - 20” x 20” textured anchor pillows + 2 - 18” x 18” OR 20” x 20” pillows of a different texture + 1 - 16” x 16” or lumbar statement pillow.

Up next: save money by making your own pillow covers!

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