The Ultimate Guide to Throw Pillows

white couch with throw pillows

Are you a sucker for a pretty pillow?  We sure are!  Accessories are the “jewelry” for a finished room, just as your jewelry is the finishing touch for a pretty outfit.  Pretty pillows are important and functional accessories that pull together a room and give it that designer feel.  They also allow you to repeat patterns and colors for a cohesive look.  

Throw Pillow Shapes and Sizes

  • Square:  Many decorative pillows for sofas and chairs tend to be square and come in a variety of sizes.  Some of the most common sizes are 16”x16”, 18” x 18” and 20’ x 20”.
  • Round:  Little round pillows, often with ruching and a center button, look lovely when done in a pattern or two. 
  • Bolster:  A bolster pillow is a long pillow that has a number of uses, both therapeutic and decorative.  Bolster pillows can provide arm and back support, and provide that extra-special finishing touch on a sofa, chair, porch swing, or even your bed, 
  • Lumbar:  a lumbar pillow is a small rectangular pillow that is meant to support your back.  These are ideal for chairs and can even help improve your posture.

Best Inserts for Throw Pillows

Throw pillows can be stuffed and sewn closed, or can be made as covers, which we prefer.  The pillow inside the cover is called the insert, and is more versatile than a permanent pillow.  Pillow covers can be changed seasonally, and the inserts reused.  This is beneficial not only for your budget, but for storage as well.  Pillow covers can be stored flat and take up virtually no space, compared to storing a stack of pillows.  Consider this before purchasing pillows!  Throw pillow inserts can be made from down, foam, or polyester.  We prefer a good quality down insert for softness and ease of use.  It is considerably easier to change a pillow cover with a down insert because down can be manipulated more easily than a harder polyester or foam insert, resulting in less fabric stretching.  Foam inserts provide the most support, and may be appropriate for lumbar or bolster pillows.  Polyester tends to be the most budget-friendly, but also the least comfortable option, in our opinion.

Throw Pillow Fabric Options

Throw pillows come in an array of fabrics.  Consider the following:

  • Cotton
  • Velvet
  • Faux fur
  • Linen
  • Wool
  • Corduroy
  • Denim
  • Burlap
  • Leather
  • Silk
  • Chenille
  • Cotton duck
  • Canvas
  • Polyester

Each fabric should be carefully selected for proper use, and wear and tear.  For example, do not use a silk pillow on a heavily-used living room sofa with messy children.  Chances are good that the silk will be pulled, stained, or destroyed.  A silk pillow may be more appropriate in a private space with light use, such as a dressing room or as a decorative pillow in the master bedroom.  Try a denim fabric instead.  They are wonderful for high traffic areas, and come in almost any color, not just blue!

front porch swing with Christmas Decorations

Spruce Up Your Throw Pillows with Embellishments

Are you worried that a plain square pillow looks just…square?  Spruce up that pillow and give it some personality!  Some adornments you can add to throw pillows:

  • Beads
  • Ric-rack
  • Ruffled edge
  • Ruched edge in contrasting pattern or color
  • Welting, especially contrast welting
  • Knife-edge
  • Flange
  • Pom-pom fringe
  • Brush fringe
  • Tassel fringe
  • Bands
  • Braids
  • Gimp
white couch with throw pillows

How to Arrange Throw Pillows

Below are some ways to arrange pillows like a designer.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather ideas to get you started.

Throw Pillow Arrangements On a Sofa


  •  Put two same size large pillows on either end of a sofa.  For an L-shaped sofa/loveseat combination, try one large pillow on the left side of the sofa and a matching large pillow on the right side of the loveseat.  This also serves as an anchor.
  • Add smaller pillows next to the anchor pillows (same goes for the L-shaped sofa/loveseat combination).  
  • Add a lumbar pillow in the center of the sofa and/or loveseat


  • One one side of a sofa:  use pillows in three different sizes and coordinate patterns/color (more on this).  Put the larger pillow in the back, two same size pillows in front of and to the side of the large, and a smaller pillow centered in front of those.   On the other side, place a large pillow in the back, a slightly smaller one in front and to the side, and a fluffy throw next to them, draping over the arm of the sofa.
  • Play with different size pillows, mixing colors and patterns, and alternating sizes (large, medium, small, medium, large)


  • Use a couple of different size pillows in coordinating colors, but change the texture (nubby, smooth, furry, etc.).
  • Try all neutrals in the same palette and vary the texture


  • Repeat colors
  • Try an ombre effect in the same hue, dark to light)
  • Pick your favorite accent color (choose a main color and two or three accent colors) and then repeat a couple of times in your pillow arrangement.

By Size

  • Two large squares in the back left and two smaller rectangles in the front.  Repeat on the right side.
  • Two medium rectangles facing the inner arm, two large facing out, two medium next to those; symmetrical on each side
  • Asymmetric arrangement.  Arrange pillows in no particular order, varying sizes.  Use an odd number.  To ensure your arrangement is pleasing to the eye, use mostly neutrals, and throw in a couple of soft colors in smaller sizes.

Throw Pillow Arrangements On a Sectional

Use the same guidelines for a sectional that you would use on a sofa, anchoring the corners with large pillows and repeating your arrangement on all sides, whether that is L-shaped or U-shaped.

white slipcover chair

Throw Pillow Arrangements On a Chair

Should you put a throw pillow on a chair?  Yes, of course!  Just make sure the size of the pillow fits the scale of the chair.  If you have a pair of chairs, put matching pillows in the center of each chair.  Try the traditional square, a pair of rectangles, or even a neck roll or lumbar for a pretty accent on a petite chair.

Should You Mix Patterns with Throw Pillows

Most people find mixing patterns to be the most difficult part of accessorizing your sofa or chairs with throw pillows.  Be adventurous with your patterns, paying attention to the size and scale of the print.  Find common colors and repeat them using different patterns.  A good rule of thumb is to mix four or five patterns in a grouping.  If you use a large scale check, add a medium scale floral next to it, repeating at least one or two of the colors in the pattern.  Add to that a completely different pattern like a dot or smaller scale floral.  Simply repeat the colors in your patterns and you have a grouping that looks pulled together and totally designer!

Where to Buy Throw Pillows

Throw pillows are readily available.  You can buy mass produced throw pillows, have them custom-made, or easily sew them yourself.  

Some of our favorite places to try:

  • Home Goods
  • Target
  • Michaels
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Wayfair
  • Ballard Designs
  • Serena and Lily
  • Lo Home
  • Maine Cottage
  • Etsy (one of our favorites…help support small businesses; shop by color, style, detail, etc.)

How to Clean Throw Pillows

Cleaning your throw pillows is necessary, but take care to do it properly.  Many pillow covers can be washed in your washing machine on delicate with a little mild detergent.  Line dry and then steam iron.  Read the cleaning instructions carefully.  Depending on the fabric, some pillows are much easier to care for than others.  All of our throw pillow covers are machine washable and are either linen, cotton/linen blend, or denim.

Happy Arranging!

As you can see, there are no hard and fast rules for throw pillows, but we hope that by following some of our general guidelines and ideas, you will be able to create a professional look all on your own!  Need more help? Contact us for a design consultation!

 Until next time…

From the HartLand with Love,

Monica, Cheyenne & Brittany

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