Cozy + Comfortable: How to Decorate with Pillows

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on March 26, 2021

Like the cherry and whipped cream on top of a sundae, adding pillows to your space is the final touch when designing a room. If your bedroom or living room feels not quite there yet, plopping in a pillow or two could bring its design to the next level. 

Still, not just any old pouf will enhance your room’s design. Unsure how to decorate with pillows? Take a cue from Havenly designer Kelsey Fischer to learn how to mix size, texture, and print to style throw pillows to perfection.

Create a Luxe Look for Less

If you’re aiming for a chic pillow arrangement on your sofa, trying keeping every pillow the same size, says Kelsey. “Stick to all 18-inch or all 20-inch pillows for sofas to give you that polished feel and designer pillow look.”

Another way to make your pillows feel luxe? Buy pillow inserts that are one size larger than the pillow cover, Kelsey reveals. “This gives that really plump, luscious look,” she says. You know — the one you see in photo spreads, but rarely on your own couch.

Pare Pillows Down for a Clean, Fresh Feel

When styling pillows, more isn’t always better. Want a fresh, minimalist design? Use fewer pillows with minimal patterns for simplified styling. 

If you want to turn your bedroom into a meditative oasis, stick to the basics. Stack a pair of neutral standard-size bed pillows, like the simple cream pillowcases in this Pottery Barn set by themselves for understated elegance, or place a single lumbar pillow in front, like this minimally designed linen pillow from Lulu and Georgia. When you want simple, minimal vibes, carefully curated pillows create a pulled-together and restrained design choice.

Work in Tiers

As Havenly co-founders say in their guidebook, Design the Home You Love, it’s all about ratios. 

If a maximalist, cozy, pillow palace of a bed is more your speed, create a layered effect using tiers. Use larger pillows, like a Euro-size, 26-inch or 24-inch pillow, at the back near the headboard. Then, layer a smaller set of decorative pillows and 18–22 inches to round out the room. 

Bohemian and global fans, take note! Don’t be afraid to play with size. Opt for mixing an 18-inch pillow with a 24-inch pillow. That sort of dimension, mixed with various textures, can make the room’s design feel fuller while giving you plenty of opportunities to mix in colors and prints.

Theme Your Colors

When it comes to pillow styling, it can be hard to tread the line between buying a set of the same pillows, and getting a ton of varied pillow styles that lead to chaos instead of cohesion. 

To keep your styling balanced, stick to a color theme, advises Kelsey. 

“Go for all earthy natural tones, airy neutrals, high contrast, a pop of pink, or greens and grays. Giving yourself a color palette can help narrow down those selections for you and create a cohesive story within your patterns and textures.” 

With a color theme selected, you can go wild (within your theme, of course) with patterns, textures and sizes. Pair a patterned pillow with a solid, textured pillow. Try styling a patterned pillow with a striped design to bring in eclectic design that feels daring, yet complimentary.

Play with Shape to Add Dimension

When you have color, texture, and pattern to play with, it’s easy to forget pillows come in all shapes and sizes. Styling pillows using more than just a simple square or rectangle can help add a dynamic feel to the room. 

Kelsey swears by the magic of a lumbar pillow in any space. She uses an oversized one on the bed to help pull the styling together, and will sometimes include a small lumbar pillow on an accent chair, desk chair, or sofa. 

“It’s a great way to play with adding smaller pops to a room. You can use a smaller rectangular pillow to vary the height of those pieces on your sofa, or add a pop of color or pattern to a more neutral chair.”

As a finishing touch, top off a styled pillow corner with an irregularly-shaped accent pillow. Lulu & Georgia’s velvet round pillow and burnt orange bolster pillow help top off a room’s design with a quirky shape and bright pop of color.   

Don't Forget Durability

A good pillow moment is pretty to look at, but it should also be comfortable to lounge on. Kelsey tries to select fabrics that are easy to maintain and durable. 

“I often choose materials and styles that are removable, washable and more comfortable to lean on or snuggle up to for bed or living spaces.” If durability is a priority, look for linens with removable cases. Ensuring pillows look and feel good makes the room feel both well-designed and livable. 

Just beginning your design journey? Take Havenly’s style quiz to see where you fit in.

Words by Emma Diehl