Home Decor

Throw Pillows Are Meant to Be Fun—Here's How to Style Them

Home52 resident Nicole Crowder shows us how to bring life to a neutral couch.

April  2, 2021

Follow the Pattern is a brand new column from furniture maker and upholstery expert (and Home52's Resident Design Wiz), Nicole Crowder. Nicole is here to show us how to breathe new life into old furniture, reuse and repurpose materials, take chances with color and pattern—and develop a signature aesthetic. Today, she shares her love for styling with throw pillows.

The pull towards a springtime refresh is upon us, and our homes—where we have largely been laboring and living for the past year—are taking center stage among the areas of our lives that we’re reimagining. Considering the weight of the news that sits just outside the thresholds to our homes, I love to turn to color and pattern to both brighten my mood and reinforce the truth that I am well, and able to experience joy. Adding accent colors and textures to my home is also how I express my personality, and the throw pillows on my couch are the perfect vehicle for that.

Couches are one of the biggest, most personal purchases we make towards our homes, because of how much time we spend assessing the expense, but also their dimensions, weight, shape, and—I’ll say it—potential for napping. More often than not, when it comes to the color of our couches, we play it safe.

I like to think of our neutral couches—beige, grey, or cream—as a great blank slate, and our throw pillows as the perfect low-stakes way to test the waters before getting bold with color. By having two sides, pillows also extend a special invitation to experiment with a solid pop of color on one side and a print on the other. Not feeling like you have it in you? Let me help you. But first...

Does size matter?

A fellow designer recently took a survey on Instagram to see whether people preferred 18-inch by 18-inch or 20-inch by 20-inch pillows, and the latter won by an overwhelming margin. 20-inch pillows are more versatile in that they provide added comfort, but they also fill out the space on a couch better. But, truly no size is too small to play with pattern and color. Small lumbar or round pillows are a great way to fill in the gaps on your sofa.

Mix and match textures

Along with choosing from a range of prints and colors, I also like to play around with the materials I use, mixing soft fabrics like bouclé, shag, and chenille with more durable fabrics like linen, jacquard, and polyester. Tassels and fringes are great for added embellishment, too. Remember: Throw pillows are meant to be playful accents, so have fun!

Colorways to consider for your neutral sofa

1. Chartreuse and Electric Blue

I recently moved into a new apartment and found this beautiful, tufted heather grey sectional for my living room. I love using grey because it is a great neutral that acts as a springboard for almost any color to pop against. If you’re a fan of cooler colors like blues and greens, experiment with the most extreme spectrum of those colors and then turn the volume up an extra 20 percent! For my grey sofa, I love contrasting electric blue and chartreuse because they are such a dynamic color combination—even combining the two on one pillow.

Have a cream or beige sofa? Try whimsical pastels like pinks, mint, and light blues. If you prefer playing with pattern, create a nomadic, desert vibe by incorporating a mix of abstract and geometric prints in a mix of rust, cayenne, sienna, and black.

Photo by Nicole Crowder

2. Saturated berry colors

One of my favorite colorways is fuchsia, eggplant, and orange. Just picture those colors, saturated, bright, and juicy (like fruits set against each other in a bowl) against a solid grey or neutral couch. Beautiful! I’m a fan of mixing geometric and abstract shapes as much as I am a fan of mixing colors, but if you’re a little hesitant to play with print and color at the same time, try just using different hues within a single color spectrum and make your pillows all the same size for even more impact. But remember: If a pillow color or print doesn’t work on your couch, you can always repurpose it on your bed or an accent chair.

Photo by Nicole Crowder

3. Green, Black/White, and Yellow

Green is my favorite color—I find it very underserved in upholstery and home furnishings—so I love to incorporate it as much as I can. Green runs the spectrum from lime to emerald and is a great partner to black, because black allows it to pop even more. Add in some yellow and you’ve got a springtime freshness that feels reminiscent of being on an island. Yellow is one of those accent colors that, depending on the hue, will pair perfectly with greys, blues, blacks, greens—or just about any color.

Using bold color and print in home décor is a bit like working a muscle: the more you do it, the stronger and more confident you get. Whatever colors and patterns you end up picking, just make sure the ultimate style reflects you.

Photo by Nicole Crowder

Are you Team similar-hues or Team mix-'n'-match? Tell us in the comments below.

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Nicole Crowder

Written by: Nicole Crowder

Nicole Crowder is a furniture designer and upholsterer creating custom one-of-a-kind pieces. She has a lover of mixing vibrant color and bold textile patterns. Nicole and her work have been featured in design publications, including Architectural Digest, Domino, Martha Stewart Living, and Better Home & Gardens.