One of the things I really enjoy about my business is seeing different people's cushion style. Generally you have cushion maximalists (that's me) and cushion minimalists. The minimalists tend to have one cushion in the corner of a sofa. Yep, just one. For me that's inconceivable, but I've seen it done really well lots of times, particularly with a big, fat cushion that's really striking and speaks for itself. Just one cushion really can make a room so minimalists, you keep doing what is working for you! I just want to know how you really get cosy when lying on the sofa with only one pillow.
When it comes to style, I really don't think it helps being very prescriptive as ultimately you have to do what makes you happy but having taken a LOT of cushion photos I can tell you, in my experience what seems to work best.
1. Go for odd numbers.
If I see a sofa with two pillows in either corner it looks terribly sterile and the cushions look lonely. Poor cushions. I honestly think that one big fat pillow looks better than two. On our big sofa right now I have seven cushions of various sizes and shapes. I remember reading somewhere that the brain tends to find odd numbers more appealing than even numbers and odd numbers are better at capturing your gaze. Apparently the lack of symmetry forces your eyes to scan your surroundings a bit more, and that folks, is at the heart of visual excitement. Don't believe me? Go on to the website of any sofa company and you will see that if they use cushions in their photography/styling, they almost always use an odd number!
2. Mix sizes
Again with the previous point. Asymmetry really is more appealing and memorable to the human eye. In my collections, I use larger squares, smaller squares and rectangles. You can really play with the balance and proportion of a room this way. It also gives you a lot of versatility and you can move these various shapes from room to room as a way of giving a quick, cheap and easy update.
3. Mix patterns
With cushion covers the investment isn't so huge so you really can take a few risks here and go for something that you wouldn't normally consider. If you're nervous, then going for lots of different patterns in the same colour - all blues for example - is a really easy way to experiment with pattern mixing that doesn't feel too overwhelming. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, consider having a two to three colours in common amongst your patterns so there is a common thread of colour amongst your cushions. This doesn't even have to be in the actual print, but even in small details like the piping or other trims that perhaps match a rug you have in the room or your curtains. It's small things like this that bring a bit of harmony to the mix.
For me, the most important thing to consider when mixing pattern is to consider the proportion of the patterns you want to use. Have one large print/something bold, something on a medium scale like a floral or chunky striped cushion and then something in a very small print - a polka dot, mini leopard print or small gingham. If you're curious about doing this, I can highly recommend Rebecca Atwood's book 'Living with Pattern' on pages 60-72 where she gives great guidance on building pattern collections throughout your home. I practise what I preach so my cushion covers always have a mix of pattern proportions making it easier for you to build a balanced cushion collection.
4. Change with the seasons
Firstly, it serves as a good reminder to launder your pillows and get rid of dust mites but secondly, a change of your cushion covers can completely change the room your way looks. So, consider having a winter set and a summer set. Somehow walking into a room in the depths of winter with bright pinks and whites doesn't feel quite right in that type of light. You've got a couple of options - either keep those and balance them out with some velvets or thicker textured covers or switch to another set of covers more suited to the current season and changes in light that each season brings to your room. A change really is as good as a holiday so have some cushion covers in rotation to keep you and your guests eyes and hearts engaged with your surroundings.
A limp looking cushion makes me feel sad. People have different reasons for choosing different types of inserts but PLEASE just make sure that you fill whatever cushion covers you have with a nice plump cushion insert whether you're buying feather, foam microfibre or wool. Buy a size larger insert if it helps but please don't entertain a deflated looking cushion anywhere in your home. I forbid it.
I'm going to end this with saying don't agonise too much over your interiors. Life is not perfect and in my opinion, your home shouldn't be either. Things don't need to match. It helps if it's clean and if you can find things, but your home is for living and enjoying, not about maintaining perfection. The more relaxed your home can be, the more everyone who steps through your front door will enjoy being there. So, get out there and build a lovely, eclectic collection of cushions that give your home some personality and that you can relax and sink into every day of the year.