How To Effortlessly Mix Throw Pillows (and 5 no fail combinations)

How can I truly express my love of a good throw pillow other than to say if I was given the choice of a new piece of jewelry or a new set of throw pillows, I’d go for the pillows. Every time.  I know, it’s totally a sad statement on my level of obsession but it sure makes my husband happy that I am so easily (and inexpensively) pleased!  Haha!

At RHI we have become like great pillow sommeliers, pairing the right pillows to magically tie a room together, add dimension and bring it to life.

We have also updated the look of many a circa-1980’s-sofa when we are working with our Real Estate Styling or Photo Styling clients so that they and their Realtors can sell insanely fast even with furniture that feels dated and tired.

Can you imagine these rooms without the pillows?  I can and trust me on this…not as pretty, for sure!

Design:  Rethink Home Interiors  Photo Credit: Ashlee Hall


yellow living room with lavendar chairs rustic coffee table and lucite lamp

Design: Rethink Home Interiors Photo Credit: Ashlee Hall


gray family room with coffered ceiling yellow drapes and chair

Design: Rethink Home Interiors Photo Credit: Ashlee Hall



Now, I looove HomeGoods for the basics but my new favorite resource for pillows is Etsy.  And if you want to go that route, I have a few things that you must know before ordering from Etsy so read carefully…

How To Order From Etsy Like A Pro

My Favorite Etsy Shops For Pillows

**Important note:  These will be more expensive than going to Target or HomeGoods, but you are buying from an artist and supporting small businesses across the country and globe when you shop at Esty.  You also will have much better variety and quality in my opinion.


Size obviously depends on the size of the furniture but here is our typical formula:

  • for most sofas we like to do 2-22″ x 22″ pillows with 2-20″ x 20″ pillows in front  and if there is room, a lumbar pillow (the smaller rectangular pillows)
  • for sectionals we do 3-22″ (one for each end and in the middle corner), 3-20″ and 1 lumbar to finish off the corner of the sectional
  • for chairs we tend to do a single 18″ or 20″ pillow or we do a lumbar pillow
  • for chairs you must have the interior measurement of the seat (the distance from the inside of one arm to the inside of the other arm) to know how long you can go.


Most of the pillows that are purchased through Etsy are covers only.  This means that you will need inserts for them.  And you want nice, big, fluffy pillows.  Saggy pillows are just not ok.

I actually like the idea of purchasing pillow covers because if you like to change your pillows more often than the Kardashians have plastic surgery, you can repurpose your inserts (mother nature and a few geese will thank us for this).  They also store more compactly when you are just tucking away a pillow cover vs a whole pillow.

A word of caution, curiously, you do not buy the same size insert as your pillow dimension!  I find this so odd, but after making this mistake not once, but twice, I now know it is always better to size up.

So…if your pillow is 18″ or larger, you add 2 inches to the size of an insert…an 18″ pillow gets a 20″ insert, a 20″ pillow, gets a 22″ insert, etc.

If your pillow is smaller than 18″, you add 1 inch to the size of the insert.

Now, unless you are allergic to down–and there are a lot of you out there–I would go with a feather-down filled insert.  You will see them as 50/50 or 95/5, either are waaaaaaay better than the cotton ball-like filling in many off the shelf pillows out there.  The pillows just lay nicer and they last much longer.

Believe it or not, two great resources for pillow inserts, both feather-down and down-alternative, are Crate and Barrel and West Elm.

One last thing

One last very, important note about the covers that you will buy from Etsy….they are typically only the patterned fabric on one side and a solid linen or cotton on the back.  Some of the shops that I mentioned above do offer double-sided options.  I only tell you this so that there are no surprises for you when you are ordering.

How To Effortlessly Mix Throw Pillows

Here is my quick and easy formula for getting it right everytime.  And remember, you may only use two or three of these categories.  Don’t feel like you need to use all four elements:

  • Organic:  I always like to start with something organic that has more than one color in it as my jumping off point for a color scheme, especially if I don’t have art selected for the room yet.  The organic is usually the last pillow that I place onto the sofa so that it sits in front of all others.
  • Geometric:  Next, I like to choose something that is more straight-lined, simpler and graphic that pulls one of the colors out of the organic pillow.  I usually put the geometric pillow behind the organic pillow.
  • Scale:  After you choose the first two, I like to choose either a large or small scale patterned pillow to add into the mix.  
  • Texture:  A texture can be a solid fabric, embroidery, a solid with tape trim or something where the colors have similar intensity to them that they blend because of a lack of contrast. I like to choose my more solid element after I have chosen everything else.  I typically place the textured pillow on the sofa first and layer on top of it or I do the texture on a lumbar pillow.

To make your life soooo much easier, my friend, I have put together a handy guide for you below.  You can also get some pillow basics in the Real Estate Style Guide with the Bonus No-Fail Neutral Paint Guide.  You can get your copy here.  Happy pillow zhushing!!

Combo #1 Links:  1  /  2  /  3  /  4

Combo #2 Links: 1  /  2  /  3  /  4

Combo #3 Links: 1  /  2  /  3  /  4

Combo #4 Links: 1  /  2  /  3  /  4

Combo #5 Links: 1  /  2  /  3  /  4


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