If you love to decorate you will really appreciate how important finishing touches are. The clutch bag and necklace for the little black dress or the ideal leather belt for your jeans – you couldn’t do without them. Cushions on a chair or sofa are the fashion accessories that you need to complete the room. A decorating finishing touch that an interior stylist would be completely lost without is the humble cushion. It is our chance to add texture, colour and layers – loved by most women, loathed by many men – the cushion, I believe, is the clutch bag you can’t do without. Let me show you how to choose cushions.
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How to choose cushions – the starting point
Generally, unless people really love colour or want to make an amazing statement, I recommend that large investment pieces, like a sofa, are in neutral tones. Either greys, creams, browns or a dark navy – I’m sure you get the picture.
Floors too should be neutral and tie in with the neutral choice of sofa. The accent pieces – those all-important finishing touches – are the glue that holds it all together. They bring the personality and style to the scheme. The cushions in the very neutral image above from Weave Home add both much needed colour and texture.
Major accent pieces to consider when selecting cushions
I recommend that you begin from the floor up so if you decide you would like a statement rug, this will be your starting point for colour. Other accent pieces are occasional chairs.
Gone are the days of the traditional 3 piece suite and it is now far more acceptable to have a large sofa or two or a great modular piece with accent chairs. You can either add a chair upholstered in a design or a block of a different colour – this makes the room so much more interesting but it does offer more challenges to the decorator, or opportunities!
Don’t forget your artworks which quite often are statement pieces and will be where you can look for colour inspiration.
Related: How to display a statement artwork
How to choose the design for your cushions
But back to how to choose cushions.
Once you have decided the major pieces for your room, together with the colour accents, you can then introduce this finishing touch based on the colours already decided.
Fabric houses will usually put together a range that very nicely goes together that includes a block colour, a stripe and possibly a chintz or geometric design. So this is a great place to start if you are unsure about what will work together as their talented textile designers have already done all the hard work.
The Pegasus range from Mokum Fabrics, shown above or the Monaco range from Warwick Fabrics, below, demonstrates this point perfectly. There really is no need for you to do all the hard work!
You can of course just make a statement with a plain cushion in a bright colour. I really love these orange cushions on this grey sofa – all from Romo Fabrics. It really is all that is needed to give the scheme a lift. It is sophisticated, eye catching and classy. So when you consider how to choose cushions, don't feel that you have to introduce lots of pattern and vibrant designs to be on trend, keeping it simple can make just as much of a statement.
Now, to the next extreme – the full on Boho look. Do you love this? Then you will love a riot of colour with a mix of varied cushion styles – they’re not meant to go together – just ensure that the look of them is similar. So steer away from a traditional muted chintz with a bright geometric. Keep the colours strong and deep with patterns in a similar size and you will get away with it.
These designs from No Chintz are perfect and illustrate this point well. You will notice that whether it is in a collection like this or one from a major fabric house, that there will always be a plain fabric which just helps to break up the flow of the patterns and tie the look together.
How to choose cushions – getting the size right
When it comes to the size, remember to mix it up a little. Size and scale are so important in design so a row of cushions, all the same size, however interesting they may be individually, may leave the look a little flat.
Consider using extra-large lounge cushions, at least 55cm x 55cm and then partner with a smaller square, probably 50cm or maybe 45cm and one or two small lumber cushions.
Remember that a large scale sectional sofa will need more cushions but more importantly will need larger cushions to address the scale – a small 45cm x 45cm square will look absolutely lost, even if you have lots of them.
Do you want to know what a designer says about how to choose cushions? Go for odd numbers when styling. Having said that however I meet so many people that favour either a strictly symmetrical look or an asymmetrical style. Often people really like things to be equal and there is nothing wrong with this at all but just throw in an extra cushion and see what you think!
With a large 3 seater sofa, you will probably need at least 6 cushions or a smaller 2 seater will need 4 and if you are the type to mix things up more then you can opt for either 5 or 3 cushions.
An occasional chair will also benefit from a small lumber cushion. Two chairs side by side can either have the same cushion or a different one on each – again it will probably come back to your personal style. I know some clients that would be really stressed by two different cushions and others who would love the funky look – remember, it’s your room not mine!
To embellish your cushions or not?
A cushion can be a work of art with buttons, beads and embroidery. These pieces can be expensive but if you just introduce one or two to the collection, you benefit again from the mix of textures and design elements.
If you want a subtle look then select cushions for a neutral scheme that at least have some textural layers. These ones from Weave Home are perfect for this look
Texture really important if you are not introducing colour with the cushion. A neutral scheme really needs layers and texture and embellished cushions, like the ones below, are a great way to introduce this if you want a very tactile cushion. Remember though that these look terrific but won't be as soft as the example above!
This takes us back to the number of cushions that you want to style with – perhaps that fifth cushion, the small lumber one, could be the embellished one too?
I particularly like a simple cushion with piping which can be in a co-ordinated colour. This touch of piping adds another dimension and this kind of attention to detail really makes a difference and sets it apart from the cheap and cheerful ones that you can buy off the shelf. Fabric for piping needs to be cut on the bias and therefore you need quite a bit extra for this purpose but I think it is worth it.
Get creative too and use edging like tassels and contrasting coloured piping,
Remember that if you are buying fabric to make a statement cushion that has a beautiful pattern that you will need to consider the details for the pattern repeat to ensure that you purchase enough fabric to have the statement image, the Pineapple in this case, centre stage.
For cushions like these I like to have the backing in a plain colour – perhaps the same as the piping. This cuts down on cost and also makes the cushion less fussy.
How to choose cushions – the filling
Do you want to lie on the cushion or simply admire from afar? A simple and inexpensive polyester filling can often be more comfortable than feathers which can collapse and also be hard, particularly if the cushion isn't full enough. If you do like feathers then I recommend that you select a feather and fibre or feather and foam combination.
A good way to ensure that your cushions are nice and plump is to get an insert that is slightly larger than the cushion cover – you have to stuff it in but the end result is a lovely rounded and comfortable cushion. For example a 55cm insert for a 50cm cushion cover.
If you like to make bunny ears, as in the image above, then you absolutely must have a good quality feather or feather and fibre combination filling. Simply puff up the cushion and then karate chop the top! A stylist’s secret tip which makes the cushions look amazing but of course these are to be admired only…..
An outdoor solution for cushions
If you are planning to use cushions outdoors and leave them there then you absolutely must invest in professional outdoor cushions that have quick dry foam for the filling and outdoor fabrics that will stand up to harsh UV conditions and will be mildew, water and fade resistant.
Often a good quality outdoor fabric can also be machine washed, spot cleaned and some can even be cleaned with bleach which makes them extremely durable. Not cheap, but if you want something to last more than a season then your product selection here is important.
Visit stores that have a range of co-ordinating accessories so that you can put together a scheme with cushions, throws and other homewares that are designed to work together. Look for great stores like this Aura Home Concept store in Melbourne for great inspiration or look online at Aura
I have lots more inspiration on my Pinterest boards which I would love to share with you and I would love to hear your comments too – simply post something in the comments section below.
If you are planning a new look for your home then take the time to put together a mood board. This will save you time and money in the long run as you will get exactly the look that you want and ensure you don't make costly mistakes. I have a FREE e-book on how to put together a mood board in my Free Resource Library – Sign up here.