The ability to mix patterns in textiles such as throw pillows, curtains and rugs will really help to bring your space together, create a cohesive look and add interest to your space. This is also an easy way to experiment with a different color palette in a non-permanent way!

Pillow Covers: My Not-So-Secret Design Weapon

Throw pillows in particular have an amazing way of completely transforming a space. If you like to keep everything else relatively neutral, adding some fun throw pillows will really add personality and visual interest to your family room.

If you are short on storage space, pillow covers can be a great way to swap out pillow styles seasonally. They can easily be removed and stored year after year.

Although you can never be steered wrong with square pillows, opting for a few different sizes can add extra interest.

Altogether, bringing in accent colors, different shapes and sizes, and a coordinating overall feel will help you create the perfect pillow combination.

Pattern Mixing Formula

There’s a simple formula that I use that guarantees beautifully styled and matching pillows every time:

pattern mixing formula with text overlay
  1. Pick a Dominant Pattern: The first step is choosing a dominant pattern. Think of this as a busier print, maybe featuring large scale floral prints or geometric patterns. You can pick something with only a couple of colors or many colors. This should be the “busiest” of your different patterns. From this fabric, you’ll pull your other colors.
  2. Pick a Solid Color: Pull one of the colors from your dominant pattern. It doesn’t have to be the main color, any of the colors in that pattern will work. Usually, picking from a secondary pattern or the least obvious actually looks the best. Also, it doesn’t have to be an exact match but should be pretty similar in tone. Add interest to solid colors by picking different textures like faux fur or leather, or a heavier knit or some sort of fringe detail. Layering textures is the ultimate way to get achieve a level of style equivalent to that of interior designers.
  3. Pick a smaller scale print in either the same accent colors as the solid pillows or another color pulled from your dominant print. This smaller scale print could be a simple pattern such as polka dots, subtle stripes, a gingham print or even a solid print with a lot of texture that gives the effect of having a print on it.

My go-to for three pillows is a solid color, a geometric and another pattern. Using odd numbers of pillows creates a contemporary look. The geometric print can either be the large scale pattern or small scale pattern, with the third pillow than being the opposite.

Texture also works in place of the smaller scale pattern, and/or can be part of the solid-colored pillows, too. I think it’s always important to vary the textures on throw pillows to really elevate the look.

Watch The Video Tutorial

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The above examples use a a simple two color formula – all blues and white (or off-white). When you’re only dealing with two colors, mixing and matching these colors will always guarantee success as long as you are following the pattern mixing formula.

But What if You Want More Color and Variation?

This is the next step in the process! It’s not any more difficult than pattern mixing with two colors, and follows the exact same formula. Instead of only using two of the colors from one of your patterns, you simply use three!

When you get comfortable with the basic formula, you’ll find it easier to train your eye to pull in additional colors that complement the pillows and form a cohesive color scheme.

Study the images above. In the first example, I’ve pulled out 2 of the colors from the patterned lumbar pillow to get coordinating colors – a warm camel color, and a darker blue (the less evident color in the pattern). You’ll notice very organic patterns that are easy to use with different pillow combinations.

In the second example, I again opted for the less obvious colors. I could easily have chosen a sky blue solid pillow, but it would look flat and lifeless.

Instead, by choosing the deeper blue that’s evident in the threads, as well as the neutral color between the knit texture, the pillow combo really comes to life. Once you start recognizing these elements, it will become easy to match pillows.

Finally, in the last trio, I opted for the darker shade of blue as well as the darker neutral shade from the pattern. I could have just as easily pulled out the green, or even that pretty dusty pink color. In fact, let’s take a look at how that would look…

Using the dusty pink color as the solid, I opted for a less red version of the red in the pillow, with the fig colored small scale pattern.

Then below, I pulled out the warm golden tone for the small scale/textured pillow as well as the green from the floral stems and leaves.

Owning a patterned pillow like the lumbar that I’ve been using in this demonstration, is such a great piece to own because it’s so versatile!

The Best Places to Buy Throw Pillow Covers

I adore the throw pillows from Serena and Lily but they are pricey, so I always wait for a 50% off sale before purchasing. The quality is really good and the prints are timeless and classic if you like the coastal look.

Pottery Barn is another favorite of mine. While they’re not cheap, they are a lot less expensive than Serena & Lily and the quality is also really good. I also highly recommend their pillow inserts. They are excellent quality.

For solid color pillows in particular, I buy a lot from H&M Home, HomeGoods and even Amazon. Additionally, The TJ Maxx website regularly has Serena & Lily dupes that get snatched up quickly. The quality tends to not be as good, but for the price they can’t be beaten.

Tips For Arranging Throw Pillows on a Couch or Sectional

For a couch, the traditional approach is 4 pillows – 2 on each end. For a more casual contemporary look, opt for asymmetry with an odd number of pillows.

For a sectional, 7 – 10 pillows is the norm. Two on each end, three in the corner, and then more if needed. Again, keep the numbers even for a more traditional look or work with odd numbers and asymmetry for a more casual style.

How to Make Throw Pillows Look Fuller

The key to a nice full throw pillow is using inserts that are a size larger. This typically means that if you have a 20inch cover, that you’d use a 22 inch insert.

Final Thoughts

I hope you found my tips helpful! Just remember, practice makes perfect! Don’t be afraid to pull out a bunch of decorative pillows in the store and get your pattern mixing on while you’re there. Pottery Barn in particular is a great place to do this, as they usually have a couch right in the pillow section!

When matching throw pillows you don’t have to follow a strict rule and can have fun to express your own personal preferences.

Before you know it, your living room will be transformed with beautiful pillows and modern style!

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