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.
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.
(photography and styling Amanda Holland for perfectly imperfect living)