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Scatter cushion secrets – how to choose & style cushions like an expert

How many? Which size? What shape? Mixing materials? Tips and tricks for achieving plump perfection with your cushion selection…

Everybody loves a plump cushion…but working out how to style them so they look like they’ve just been flung together (when the reality is anything but) is an entirely different story.

In fact, there’s a fair bit of styling science involved in pulling off the perfect crop of cushions – sizing, combining patterns, mixing textures – so we’ve put it all together in nine simple steps. You’re welcome.

Step 1 – choose your colours

While you don’t have to stick to a strict colour scheme when it comes to cushions, it helps to look around the room you’re adding cushions before you hit the shops. Take in the existing furniture, artworks, wall colour, window dressings and rugs and try to identify a couple of repeated colours which can act as your base. We’re not saying your cushions need to all be upholstered entirely in these couple of colours, but they should feature the colours somewhere, whether in an edging, pattern, fringe or embellishment.

Step 2 – size and shape  

If you’re looking for a general rule to follow, on a bed or sofa you should arrange the larger cushions at the back and the smaller ones in front, paying attention to the height of the back of the sofa or the bedhead. For instance, 60cm square cushions will be too tall for a low-profile sofa, all you’ll see is cushions and the swish sofa underneath will disappear. For a large sofa, a 60cm square cushion with a 55cm square cushion in front is a tried-and-tested combo. Bolster cushions, rectangular cushions and round cushions are ideal in the centre of the sofa. For two-seater sofas, it’s often best to stick to 40cm square cushions, or a mix of 45cm and 35cm cushions.

Rectangular cushions of up to 35cm are ideal for armchairs – square cushions are usually too tall unless it’s a high Wingback-style chair. Round cushions are a fun feature and can soften the angles in rooms where there are a lot of straight lines and right angles thanks to dining tables, entertainment units, cabinets and so on.

Beds can accommodate both – larger Euro square cushions at the back if your bedhead is tall enough to still be seen above them – with rectangular or smaller square cushions in front and a feature shaped cushion front and centre if you fancy. Just make sure you have somewhere to store them when you climb into bed each night. A floor littered with countless cushions makes for a cluttered way to wake up!  

Step 3 – how many cushions?

Hmmmm. Depends who you ask. It’s all a matter of personal style really – and tolerance for collecting dust! Formal or traditional rooms usually feature an even number of cushions on a bed or sofa to achieve a symmetrical look, but it doesn’t really matter what that number is.

Modern, eclectic styles typically opt for an odd number of cushions, but more than five or six cushions on a three-seater sofa will often have you fighting for space to sit, so maybe map it out before you hit the ‘Buy Now’ button. For armchairs or occasional chairs, a single cushion makes a statement. More than that just looks squishy.

A fabulous five favoured by many stylists for a three-seater sofa involves a solid coloured cushion at each end, a slightly smaller patterned cushion inside each in a palette which incorporates the same solid colour, and then a feature round or rectangular cushion in a more central position in a completely different material – think fur, embroidered, fringing or beaded.

For a modular or chaise arrangement, opt for a single cushion in one sofa corner and two in the other – anything more may start to look messy.

Step 4 – mix materials

A sofa full of all-velvet, all-silk or all-fur cushions is too homogenous. The eye doesn’t know where to rest, there’s no personality, it’s just one of those cases where it’s not all OR nothing, but all IS nothing. So, the simple rule here is to mix your textures. Sure, it’s a good idea to have a couple of pairs in there, such as two velvet cushions and two fringed cushions to give your arrangement some sense of cohesion, but whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of buying a stack of the exact same cushion in different shades. It just doesn’t work.

The exception here is if you want to stick to one shade across all cushions but mix the textures. However, to pull this off, the shades shouldn’t be identical, but a mix of light and deeper shades in a range of textures, such as leather, velvet, fur, woven, linen, or knitted. This works particularly well with beautiful blues or natural, neutral shades, such as cream, beige, camel and chocolate.

Step 5 – pattern play

If you pull it off, mixing patterns can be magical. The question is: how do you pull it off? The solution lies in finding a link between the patterns, typically a common colour. Another stylist’s tip is to combine patterned cushions with solid block choices for a more balanced look. If you want to avoid going full maximalist, then don’t choose more than three different patterns. If eclectic is your thing, well, then you don’t need our advice anyhow.

Step 6 – be brave

If you’ve been hankering after that purple velvet sofa or patterned armchair but couldn’t bring yourself to commit, cushions are the answer. Use them to inject a pop of seasonal colour, add an element of surprise or experiment with weird and wonderful materials you mightn’t otherwise consider on larger furniture items. To ensure your out-there experiment doesn’t look utterly out of place, ensure at least one of its feature colours is repeated elsewhere in the room, whether on a rug, artwork, window dressing or on other more subdued cushions.

Step 7 – budget-friendly

Cushions offer more bang for your buck than virtually any other home décor item, so if you’re not feeling flush, splurge on a cushion in lustrous velvet, fur or cow hide; or choose an embellished or embroidered option you mightn’t be able to afford on a more sizeable piece.

Step 8 – a cushion for every season

Fancy changing things up from season to season but can’t afford (or justify) buying a new sofa four times a year? We hear you. Use cushions to satisfy your inner stylist instead. Choose citrus bright or beach-inspired shades for Summer, pretty pastels or floral prints for Spring, bold blues, burgundies and jewel-tones for Winter, and warm reds, rustic oranges, mustard, olive and browns for Autumn. Too easy.

Step 9 – props for ‘chops’

We’ve all seen the ‘chopped’ cushion look in magazine spreads, on your insta-feed, in interiors’ stores. But what’s it all about? Essentially, ‘chopping’ the top centre of a cushion creates a crease which makes the cushion seem more relaxed and natural, and which can soften an arrangement of square and rectangular shapes. But remember, it only works with feather or down-filled cushions. Try it with a foam cushion and it’ll be more flop than chop.

Here’s a sample of our fresh cushion collection to get you started…

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