Cushion Masterclass: How to Choose and Style Like a Pro
An interior designer reveals the secrets to mixing colourful and patterned cushions on your sofa and bed.
BRIGHTLY coloured and patterned cushions are a fabulous way to jazz up your sofa or bed, but getting the combination just right can be harder than it looks. Mixing different patterns, hues and sizes in a cohesive way is an art in itself, whether you’re decorating a casual living room or a more formal space. Sarah Muir, interior designer at Coco Republic, reveals the secrets to getting it right.
And if you’re seeking scatter cushion inspo, look no further – we’ve accompanied Sarah’s tips with some of our favourite cushion arrangements on Houzz.
Scatter cushions can be like beautiful little artworks for you home. They add personality to a room and bring it to life. These cushions should tie all of a room’s colours together, and are a great way of making a space feel cohesive. They’re also an inexpensive way to bring a room out of a seasonal rut. Personally, I’m a fan of cushions with large-scale patterns, and I love mixing things up.
What’s the most common mistake people make?
Being too safe and not having enough pattern. Often the larger pieces in a living room, such as the sofas, are blocks of neutral colour. If the scatters are neutral too you’ll end up with a white-washed effect.
What looks are trending in cushions?
Loose-linen scatters are popular right now. These look great in both contemporary and classic interiors and create a relaxed aesthetic. Pastel colours are also trending. I’m seeing a lot of cushions in pastel pink mixed with soft grey and white for bedrooms.
When it comes to outdoor areas, cushions with bold prints are popular. Mixing different prints together looks fabulous in an outdoor setting.
Contrasting this, velvet, embroidered and fur scatters are big right now, and create a luxe feel in formal areas and bedrooms.
How do I know if a colour or pattern will work in my scheme? Bold colour and pattern look great in a space when they pair with artworks, rugs or occasional chairs. Scatters can look out of place if they don’t link with another item in a room. To create a cohesive feel, find a focal colour in an artwork or furniture piece and then introduce, say, a block velvet cushion in the same colour.
How do you mix different patterns together?
The secret is to find a common link between the patterns. Usually this will be a colour or tone. Once you have chosen the colour, mixing different patterns together is easy. I like to mix a block colour with a small-scale and a large-scale pattern. This creates a balanced yet eye-catching aesthetic. Mixing geometrics and florals is another fun juxtaposition, blending contemporary and classic designs. It’s best to mix no more than three different patterns in any one space.
Where’s the best spot for them on the sofa?
This all depends on the configuration of your sofa. But generally, I prefer to place scatter cushions in the corners of the sofa so the middle section is free for seating. You don’t want to overcrowd the sofa so much with cushions that you can’t sit on it.
I prefer to use odd numbers of cushions – for example, two on one side and one on the other side of a standard four-seater sofa. For a larger, modular sofa, I’d recommend two on each side and one or two in the middle so that each part of the sofa has a colour pop.
How do I go about choosing the right size? It’s a good idea to mix up different cushion sizes in your arrangement, whether it’s for a living room or a bedroom. For a large sofa, I’d use a 60 centimetre square size behind, and a 55 centimetre square size in front. For a smaller sofa I’d use a 55 centimetre square size at the back and a 45 centimetre square cushion or a lumbar cushion in front.
I use the same method for bedrooms; on a king-size bed the large-size combination, and on a queen-size bed the small-size combination.
And how many should I put?
Selecting the right number of cushions is all about balance and it can be hard to get right. The best thing is to play around with different combinations and see what is most pleasing to the eye.
As a general rule, odd numbers of cushions work well in a casual living room, while even numbers will give a formal living room the symmetry it requires.
Is it possible to have too many cushions?
Definitely. You know you’ve reached this point if you can’t sit on the sofa or see your bedhead.
You can also have too few cushions, which can give your room a cold, sterile look. One cushion on a large sofa or king-size bed, for example, is definitely too few. You would only ever have a single cushion on a statement chair or a single bed.
Does it matter what filling I choose?
Yes. Cushions are only as good as their inserts. The foam inserts people commonly use can distort the shape of the fabric and make a cushion look boxy. Feather or down cushion inserts are best. They will make your cushions look beautiful and, with proper care, can last a very long time.
What’s ‘the chop’?
‘Chopping’ cushions in the centre with the side of your arm (like a karate chop), pushes the filling out to the corners and gives the scatter a nice plump fullness. You can only do the chop on cushions with feather inserts; it doesn’t work with foam. Hence the importance of high-quality inserts (or fillings).