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Design + Decorate

Your Guide to Choosing and Styling Throw Pillows

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written by:

Carrie Barker


Adding throw pillows to your sofa is the perfect way to completely change the look of your family room or to give it just the right finishing touch! However, choosing and styling throw pillows can be a little overwhelming and confusing.

If you are unsure how to choose the best pillow fabrics, pillow sizes, and pillow inserts OR how to coordinate your pillows, this post is for you! Below is my easy guide to walk you through choosing the perfect throw pillows for your home!

choosing and styling throw pillows guide

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Many retailers sell pillow covers and inserts separately. Of course, you can buy some pillows with the insert included. Note: If you are purchasing pillows online, be sure to double check the description to determine if you are buying just a pillow cover OR a pillow cover with the insert included.

The most popular pillow insert fills are polyester, down, and down alternative. Polyester is a synthetic material that is thick, full and keeps its shape. It’s less expensive than down, but also doesn’t look nearly as lush as down. This is the foamy, unmalleable pillow insert you find in a Target or Homegoods pillow (or similar retailer).

Down is more expensive and much softer than polyester. However, it tends to flatten when laid on and some people are allergic to down feathers. Also, you might see (and feel) feathers poking through the fabric!

I prefer down alternative pillow inserts because they are softer and more luxurious than polyester but without the allergens of down. They aren’t stiff (like polyester) and they don’t fully flatten when laid on (like down). Not to mention you won’t have little feathers poking you in the head or back! Down alternative inserts are malleable enough to still do the ‘karate chop’ (if you like this look)!

guide to styling throw pillows on sofa



Pillow covers come in just about any fabric; however, the most popular and most durable pillow fabrics are cotton and linen. Common fabrics for accent pillows include velvet, suede, wool, and faux fur.

When choosing pillows, really think about how you’ll use them. Will they be purely for decorative purposes or will your family snuggle with the pillows and lounge on them? The PURPOSE of your throw pillows will determine the fabric you should choose.

If you plan to lounge and lay on your pillows, I recommend cotton covers or another fabric that is easy to clean (make sure to check the label or online description for cleaning instructions). If the pillows will be used only for decorative purposes, you can choose just about any fabric!


If you prefer to change your pillows often, I recommend that you stick to choosing pillow covers in standard square sizes (16”, 18”, 20”, or 22”). This allows you to easily switch out pillow covers and place them on pillow inserts that you already own. This saves money because you don’t need to buy new inserts every time you replace your pillow covers.

Lumbar pillows (oblong, rectangular shape) are a little trickier to buy in a standard size. Retailers have various sizes of lumbar pillows, so there isn’t as much of a standard. However, some sizes can be found more often (e.g. 12” x 20” and 16” x 26”).

In general, just a few large pillows (18” – 22”) and a complimentary lumbar pillow looks cleaner and less cluttered than several small pillows on a couch.


Your throw pillows don’t have to match! Pillows actually look more professional if they don’t match perfectly. They should, however, coordinate with other colors and patterns in your room (rugs, chair fabrics, window treatments, and other pillows).

You can coordinate throw pillows by sticking to a cohesive color palette both with your pillows and your room in general. This can be either the same shade of a color or complementary shades (e.g. sky blue, navy blue, gray-blue, etc.).


My favorite way to style pillows is to anchor the look with one solid print (the largest pillow), followed by varying patterns and varying sizes. Choosing different patterns in different scales helps to keep patterns from competing with one another.

your guide to choosing and styling throw pillows comboSHOP THESE PILLOWS


If you aren’t a fan of pattern and you prefer neutrals, you can coordinate various textures and embellishments (e.g. tassels). Textures are just as fun as patterns! I tend to stick more with neutral textures as opposed to bold patterns in my own home.

If you enjoy patterns, vary the scale among your pillow patterns; mix solid prints with large scale and small scale prints. Pair a busy pattern with a simple pattern … just make sure you have at least one common color family to create a cohesive flow among the pillows.

Learn more about coordinating pillows in HOW TO MIX AND MATCH THROW PILLOWS.

It’s really up to you if want to create a symmetrical look or an a-symmetrical look. Symmetrical would be matching pillows on either side of the couch, whereas a-symmetrical would be an odd number of pillows and varying patterns on opposite sides of the couch.



This guide to choosing and styling throw pillows included quite a bit of information. We covered how to choose pillow inserts, pillow fabrics, and pillow sizes; as well as how to coordinate pillows on your couch.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what to look for when you purchase throw pillows for your home. You can get started right now … I’ve rounded up several of my favorite throw pillows below! Many of these pillows are sold as covers, but make sure to check the description to see if the insert is included :)!


  1. Carly Mckeen says:

    Thank you for stating that you would recommend cotton covers if you’re planning on laying on your pillows. My sister just bought her first home and is in the middle of trying to decorate it, and wants to get some throw pillows, but doesn’t know how to go about choosing them. I will definitely pass along all of your great tips and information to my sister so she can buy the perfect pillows, and arrange them properly for her home.

  2. It is interesting that you asked us to consider the fabric of the throw pillow as it makes a lot of difference. I definitely agree that the fabric needs to be soft to touch while ensuring that it is easy to clean. My wife is planning to give my mother throw pillows as a birthday present. I will remind her of this information since my mother is quite particular about the fabric.

  3. Brigitte Singh says:

    Thanks for this very informative post. This is awesome to know about the pillow inserts.

  4. Beth says:

    Hello! For the chevron pillow pictures right above the “conclusion” section (that says pillow not available) – what store was this from? Thanks!

  5. […] can soften the room with out making it really feel too crowded or disorganized. In keeping with Caroline on Design, the trick to choosing the proper throw pillows is to actually take into consideration how you […]

  6. […] pillows can soften the room without making it feel too crowded or disorganized. According to Caroline on Design, the trick to choosing the right throw pillows is to really think about how you plan to use them. […]

  7. […] up your wife’s living space with a birthday floral pillow. Choose a pillow design featuring her favorite flowers or a vibrant arrangement that adds a pop of color to her […]

  8. […] Now that you have chosen the perfect decorative throw pillows to elevate your anniversary dinner table setting, it is important to know how to maintain and care for them to ensure they continue to look stylish and beautiful. For a more detailed guide on choosing and styling throw pillows, you can check out Your Guide to Choosing and Styling Throw Pillows. […]

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I designed my own custom home from the ground up, inside and out. A home that is cozy, comfy, laid out perfectly for the way my family lives, and makes us happy every single day. Oh, and did I mention I did this all without blowing the budget?! 

Yep, it’s true. I’ve been there, done that, and actually lived through it … and you will too. Pinkie promise!

a.k.a. Caroline on Design

I’m Carrie Barker.

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