pillow talk – how to style cushions

For those of us who haven’t got a decorating fairy godmother up our sleeves, yet still want to work a little makeover magic with our homes, I thought I’d talk about one of my favourite quick fixes when it comes to interiors – cushions. Cushions are the cherry on top when it comes to interior finishing touches and one of the quickest ways I know to make over a room in a heartbeat.

The facelift of the interior decorating world, beautiful new cushions make everything look and feel like new. And, if you enjoy a mish mash of cushions as I do, it is very easy to introduce one or two new ones into your mix. You’ll be amazed at the impact a new cushion has on your room.

Cushions are the ideal way to add colour & personality to a space, while at the same time adding a comfortable, textural layer. Done well, they should immediately invite you to sit down and cuddle up.

However, all my experience instore at Small Acorns tells me that so many people are scared stiff by them. Truly! Scared they’re a) going to get it wrong, b) scared their husband/partner/significant other will not like them, throw them on the floor and refuse to cohabitate with a floral and c) they don’t know how to arrange them. Bah humbug to all of that, especially the bit about cohabitating with a floral – it’s only a cushion!

So, just before lockdown, and because I am lucky enough to own a store that just happens to sell lots of beautiful cushions, Abbey and I borrowed a rather large bag full, & brought them home to show you just how easy it is to change things up majorly with them.

So, I should warn you before you watch our little video, that the real star of the show is of course, Maude, who manages to appear throughout the whole thing, along with a number of her toys. What a distraction!! Ignoring her is impossible. If nothing else, she will make you smile. OMG, my other issue, is my voice… (eye roll)… please don’t laugh. Next time I’ll try to leave all the talking to Abbey, who is a natural.

The key when choosing and arranging cushions is to mix shapes, colours, patterns and texture. If you reign in your colour palette to say 3 dominant hues, then you’ll find it much easier to mix colour and pattern together. I can’t stress enough how important this is, but we want our mix to feel harmonious, not rainbow crazy. Use a mix of textures – velvets, linens, silks, embroideries, and link them tonally. I would also suggest that when it comes to choosing your cushions, let one of them be the hero or the main act, with the other cushions working to augment or support that hero. It’s the ‘too many Chiefs and not enough Indians’ theory. If everything in the room is shouting for attention it will simply overwhelm. Also avoid a symmetrical look if you can – the idea is to mix your cushions rather than match them.

A large square or rectangular cushion, layered with a smaller rectangular or square cushion, & then perhaps a round cushion or smaller ‘statement’ cushion is a good way to mix your sizes and shapes.
Change it up at the other end of the sofa. Try not to repeat the exact same arrangement, unless you’re wanting a more formal and sit-up-straight kind of look. Repeat some of the same cushions on other pieces of furniture in the room but arrange them in different pairings. One of my favourite tricks is to use a little charcoal or black somewhere in the mix, perhaps as a trim, as we do with all the cushions we make. It’s like a little full stop amongst the colour and pattern. Also, I know that feather inners are an investment, but there is nothing worse than a limp, sad cushion. Good feather inners stay soft and plump, and will last you a lifetime.

All the cushions shown here, and in the video, are made using beautiful Designers Guild fabrics, and are available at Small Acorns. They are, as you can see, beyond stunning fabrics.

How many cushions should you have on a sofa? Never knowingly under-cushion is a good mantra (!) unless you’re after a very minimal look. There are no set rules, and the size of your furniture will determine a less or more approach, but, honestly, on a 3 seat sofa, ideally 5. Yes! Five! Certainly, no less than 3 (and they’d need to be big!) And note that I’m suggesting odd numbers. This is because I prefer an assymetrical cushion assortment. Assymetry isn’t for everyone I know, and there are no hard and fast rules, so if you want a little more order and symmetry then try a two plus two approach, with perhaps two out of the four cushions the same, with the other two cushions in mismatched harmony.

The beauty of a mixed rather than matched approach is that you can add or subtract at any time, making it much easier to update your room with just one beautiful new cushion each season, or as often as your heart desires.

There you have it. One exhausted dog. One video debut. One sofa, fifty ways. OK, slight exaggeration, but you get my drift. Have a play with your cushions, and let me know how you get on.

And I promise that much as I would have liked to keep them, almost all the borrowed cushions went back to the store, except perhaps one of those stunning new cut velvets. I just couldn’t help myself! A girl has to have something to help her get through isolation.

Amanda xx

(photography and styling Amanda Holland for perfectly imperfect living)

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  • Mo

    April 3, 2020 at 8:45 am

    All those collections look lovely on your sofa but particularly the bright colours. Which one did you keep?
    I’ve got my eye on the hydrangea one xx

    • Amanda

      April 3, 2020 at 9:55 am

      I couldn’t resist the floral cut velvet used in the second scenario. It works so beautifully with my existing cushions and gives everything a little makeover. Wishing now though that I hadn’t had time to take all the others back to the store!!

  • Mo

    April 3, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    Oh yes, perfect!

  • Mary

    April 4, 2020 at 8:54 am

    Very inspiring video,you both have such a great eye for colour.😃 Thanks for cheering us up with your posts on Instagram too.x

    • Amanda

      April 12, 2020 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks so much Mary! That’s so lovely of you to say x

  • Zana Lokmer

    April 8, 2020 at 1:37 am

    It is so good to see all three of you in this video. You are so good at unselfishly conveying all these ideas Amanda. Abbey and you look so stylish and seeing both of you put big smile on my face. Missing you a lot 💕
    I have the same dress like you Amanda ( Mine comes from is Zara)

    • Amanda

      April 12, 2020 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks Zana. You know we miss you a lot too. Abbey is a natural in the video isn’t she. So is Maude!! Haha! PS My dress came from Zara too!

  • Jacqui Bozoky

    April 18, 2020 at 10:16 pm

    Just beautiful! Thanks so much for doing this article Amanda – really interesting and helpful tips. You, Abbey and Maude make a great dynamic on film too! Each photo looks just a like piece of art – made up of such interesting elements and combinations of colour/texture/ print pattern etc that one just can’t stop staring at how beautiful they are and trying to take in all the interesting aspects! Thanks so much for sharing your amazing knowledge and expertise with us here. xx

    • Amanda

      April 30, 2020 at 10:36 pm

      Thanks so much Jacqui. So lovely of you to say. We’re going to pluck up the courage to make more. Maude and Abbey especially are such stars!