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How to Mix Decorative Pillows (+ 20 guaranteed-to-look-good combinations)

We do a lot of pillow combining over here. I feel like pillows and throws are the only accessories that everyone universally likes. Even minimalists that don’t like a lot of ‘decor’ still want a few throw pillows for comfort (there are exceptions, obviously, and I’m sure there is an anti-throw pillow secret society out there, but it’s doubtful that they read this blog.) If you are part of our pro-throw-pillow group, then keep reading.

Emily Henderson Pillow Combos Color Texture Size Pic 2

There are millions of throw pillows out there, obviously, and you might like a ton of them but are unsure if they will look good TOGETHER. So here are some tips that we always use:

*Put larger pillows in the back – 24″ or 26″ squares for a big or high backed sofa, but could be 22″ square for a more smaller scale. Then layer your 16″ or 18″ squares in front and mix in a rectangle (16×20 is a good size).

Emily Henderson Living Room Staged To Sell Boho Mid Century Eclectic Blue White Styled Couch Sectional Staged4

*If you want to mix patterns make sure the size and scale of those patterns are not competing, aka they are different enough that you can decipher between them easily. One big, one small and one solid is a good formula. Remember this mixing pillows video I did 5 years ago? The pillows are dated, but the lessons and the tips are the same. The best/weirdest tip was to ‘blur your eyes’ by almost closing them, and stare at the two patterns. If you can’t really decipher the patterns when your eyes are blurred then they are too close and compete with each other.

*If you are opting for simple solids, then make sure to vary the textures. Three cotton pillows don’t do anything special for a room. Mix cotton, linen, wool, chunky knit, velvet, fringed, etc all together for a look that is safe and timeless, but still has depth and interest.

Emily Henderson Pillow Combos Color Texture Size Pic 5 Emily Henderson Pillow Combos Color Texture Size Pic 4

*Work with your color palette but don’t be too perfect about it. Your pillows should coordinate and share a similar palette. Mine, in the above photo were all in the blues, grays, creams, and light pink world. But the pinks don’t match perfectly, nor do the blues. 

Emily Henderson Pillow Combos Color Texture Size Pic 6

*If you have a more statement pillow (like above) then pull the rest of the colors out of that, almost like we would a rug. Let one bolder pillow create the color palette for the rest of them.

Those are general tips to help you, but you know what I thought would be even more helpful? Creating 20 different pillow combinations, in different styles and color palettes that we love. You’ll see that most of the time those tips above are applied. If you have a neutral sofa I’d go ahead and say that ANY of these are guaranteed to look great.

Emily Henderson Pillow Combos Color Texture Size Roundup 1

1. Cream Tufted Amal Pillow, Blue Patterned Pillow, Black and White Lumbar Pillow | 2. Pink Linen Sham, Sun and Moon Pillow, Berry Pintuck Pillow | 3. Pink Cactus Silk Pillow, Corte San Juan Sacatepequez Pillow, Cream Mudcloth Lumbar Pillow | 4. Blue Oversized Chambray Denim Throw Pillow, White and Navy Checkered Pillow, Potato Print Pillow | 5. Blue Plaid Pillow, Floral Pillow, Toddle Pillow | 6. Marble Pillow, Black and White Geometric Pillow, Black Diamond Lumbar Pillow | 7. Dark Green Velvet Pillow, Pink and Cream Linen Stripe Pillow, Pink Floral Embroidered Lumbar Pillow | 8. Pom Pouf Pillow, Cable Stitch Olive PillowOmbre Cotton Lumbar Pillow | 9. Fini Pillow, Trevino Blue Pillow, Chambray Striped Pillow | 10. Blush Faux Fur Pillow, Skylake Toile Pillow, Shadow Geometric Print Throw Pillow | 11. Cream Pom Dot Throw Pillow, Black Stripe Pillow, Black Lumbar Throw Pillow | 12. Reversible Turquoise Throw Pillow, Black and White Embroidered Diagonal Pillow, RoundVelvet Pillow | 13. Blue Luster Velvet Pillow, Black and White Striped Pillow, Santorini Block Print Pillow | 14. Pom Pom Embroidered Cover, Linen Cushion Cover with Centered Stripes, Hand-Knotted Melange Pillow Cover | 15. Light Blue Striped Linen Pillow, Pink Montauk Large Euro Sham, Katchen Pillow | 16. Linen Euro Sham, Geometric Throw Pillow, Blue, Peach Sorbet Velvet Pea Cushion | 17. Cusco Pillow, Asterix Geometric Pillow, Tassel Lumbar Pillow | 18. Linge Particulier Grey Chambray Pillow, Amalfi Stripe Cross Stitch Decorative PillowRobinson Linen Stripe Lumbar Pillow Cover | 19. Blue Stripe Throw PillowBrenner Velvet Pillow, Slate Grey, Square Fringe Pillow | 20. Estrato Pillow, Division Rust PillowCream Solid Throw Pillow

There you have it. We’ve taken the guess work away from you, but hopefully if you have some pillows already and just need to add one or two more, those tips above will help. My favorites for our house are 4, 10, 11, 18 and 20, but I really like all of them.

Which one is yours?


***Photos by Tessa Neustadt

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6 years ago

Ooooo! What is that first nursery photo from!? Where can I see more 🙂

6 years ago
Reply to  Anna

That was an adorable makeover Brady did for his niece:

I love Brady’s work (and Em’s! Duh what brought me here) I’ll admit when Emily mentioned “news and changes” I immediately thought NOOOOOOO Brady is leaving to do his own thing! Which realistically is exciting and sad if it were true.

6 years ago
Reply to  MelissaB

Thank you!!

6 years ago

Hi Em, thank you, this is exactly what I need! I can never seem to get the pillow mix right without a LOT of trial and error. Now I just have to limit myself to a couple of combinations, instead of the five I’m crushing. Have you and the team ever done a roundup of coffee tables and complementary side tables? That’s another area I just don’t know where to begin and would love to see you blog about it. Maybe???

6 years ago

Yes! Perfect timing. Currently struuuuuuuggling to pull my front room together. Currently have a lot of wood (floors, coffee table, credenza, and piano), a white couch, but I am struggling to pull together linens/rug and pull the trigger on an accent chair. The two are related. haha

I’d love a post about rug/pillow combinations! That has been a consistent struggle for me and I can’t be the only one. Right?!

6 years ago

Verrrry helpful! I was hoping for a throw pillow update! But the question I always come to is….. how many pillows does a standard couch need? I hate spending. $300 just on throw pillows but it can look lame with just like 2 or 3 pillows.

6 years ago

I think that the president of the not so secret anti-throw pillow society is my boyfriend and maybe all boyfriends/husbands everywhere. I get shit on the daily for the amount of pillows i have on my couch and my bed and they’re always on the floor out of spite. I’ve heard this from many of my friends. Men don’t get why throw pillows exist.

Reply to  Zoe

Haha. I get this too at my house, that all pillows are useless fluff.
Then I get feedback when they are too scratchy… so clearly the soft comfy ones are appreciated.

6 years ago
Reply to  Zoe

My husband and sisters husband don’t understand the need for our furniture jewelry. I tell hubby I don’t understand the need for his collections of things but I never gripe or say anything. That usually shuts him up.

Emily K
6 years ago
Reply to  Zoe

yes! i designed my boss’es office I suggested a couple small throw pillows for the long sofa he picked out. The pillows were mainly for style and to bring some of the color and pattern of the throw rug up onto the couch. He was unconvinced and never bothered with the pillows. Now everytime I see the space i think it looks wholly unfinished and i mentally put those pillows in.

And in my own home the kids and SO are somewhat ok with regular medium sized square throw pillows but they immediately reject any with textures or unusual shapes. I constantly find my wooly gray and blue polka dot pillow tossed into the corner

6 years ago
Reply to  Zoe

YES! Tossed on the floor at all times… until he is hogging them all at night to sleep! My boyfriend requires FIVE PILLOWS for optimal slumber – he “needs” them; and yet aesthetic appearance or placement anywhere except shoved in a corner/on the floor does not compute. EVER.

6 years ago
Reply to  Angela

Yep. My bf and many of my guy friends can’t stand my throw pillows! They think they just get in the way. They’re very function-over-form people.

6 years ago
Reply to  Zoe

Yup… My husband and I have been cohabiting for a decade, and we’ve been bickering about throw pillows for exactly that long. I constantly have to pick up my beloved pillows off the floor, fluff them up, and return them to their sacred spots.

6 years ago
Reply to  Zoe

My dog hates them too – uses his paw to push them off the couch. I’m always like Dude, what do you have against the pillows??

6 years ago

Pretty combos! I find the problem is not finding great looking pillows but finding great looking budget friendly pillows (especially two-sided). Appreciate your budget combos- there’s no way I’m going to spend more than $50 on one pillow, no matter how gorgeous.

6 years ago

I’m having a problem figuring out the pillows for my greenish gold velvet (synth) upholstered couch. I finally got a bunch of the velvety pillows from Urban Outfitters because the other materials didn’t look great. 🙁 But I need about 2 more and velvet will be overkill but I’m afraid anything else will look weird. I think I’ll find a black lumbar pillow and one something or other and call it a day :(.

6 years ago
Reply to  Victoria

I’m not an expert…but my first thought was something linen.

6 years ago
Reply to  Victoria

The first thing that popped in my head was leather and black leather, at that. Feels like brownies would compete too much with the greenish/gold velvet.

6 years ago

You always have the best pilow combos!


6 years ago

Great post Emily! I have a leather sofa and all my pillows tend to ‘play dead’ when I put them on. Any suggestions?

Jennifer 70
6 years ago
Reply to  Kari

I know just what you mean! Now that I think of it, maybe a suede pillow in back and a colored/patterned one in front, which might be better gripped by the suede?

6 years ago

This is a really helpful posts. Thank you!

6 years ago

I have been looking for a post like this for a long time! Thank you!

I love Urban Outfitters’ round velvet pillows. I have that gold one on our bed, paired with a gray, black, cream and gold wool rectangular pillow from Target and two textured white shams from The Company Store. Your previous stories on throw pillows and bed styling helped me pull that look together. Thanks!

6 years ago

Aww that pattern mixing video is how I found out about Emily! That video was so helpful that I’ve been sharing it with everyone who faced a pattern connundrum.
Its been 5 years already?? I think I’ve read every post of the blog since then. I rarely comment but the time warp got me emotional 🙂

6 years ago

Great combos! It’s a tie between set #12 and #19 for my favorite. Thanks for the inspiration Emily.

Tracey (From KY)
6 years ago

Love this post and so helpful!

6 years ago

Once again your living room from
your last house is is everything..! 🙂

6 years ago

Full disclosure I recognize that this is probably more my issue than anything else buuuut if you guys every transitioned these sorts of posts to a slides format it would make it WAY easier for me to click through to various pillows that catch my eye. I hate to admit it, but with this post especially I’m finding it a bit of work to scroll down to the corresponding number, click, scroll back up and find the number for the other pillow that I liked, scroll down, click, etc etc etc.

I’m sure this format is better for some other reason I’m missing – pinning purposes maybe? But just thought I’d throw my two cents in. This is a minor thing and as a general rule I’m a major fan of aaaaall the content. I’m just also lazy.

6 years ago

They all look amazing!

6 years ago

Just bought number 8! Thank you. Just what I needed!
I copied one of your last pillow suggestion combos for a different room and am still in love! Could have never done it w/o you! Thank you.

6 years ago

This is one of the best articles I have come across. Keep up the good work.

6 years ago

The first photo looks so good! Bice yellow spot!

6 years ago

The pillows are lovely, but I want that couch! Can anyone tell me where it’s from?

6 years ago

More posts like this PLEASE! This is so helpful!

I just crossed my eyes at all my pillows! ha! Genius!

6 years ago

Hi there! Big time fan, first time commenter! I *LOVE* throw pillows, but I’ve learned the hard way to pay attention to the pillow insert itself. Down and down-alternative are soft, comfy, and retain their shape over time, whereas polyester stuffing will get wonky-shaped and out of whack after awhile if your pillows are actually getting used and sat on and leaned against. Emily, can you get Target to upgrade their throw pillow insides? I’ve had to pass on soooooo many cute pillows there because alas I know they won’t last. Party on, pillow people!

6 years ago

I would love tips on what would work with black buffalo check–or should I follow the model in the blue example?

Bennie Jenkins
6 years ago

Your blog have nice information, I got good ideas from this amazing blog.