Choosing and arranging throw pillows is hard, which is why it takes some skill to get the arrangement just right. Keep reading to get my best styling tips from a decorating project I recently helped a client with and an easy shortcut for arranging pillows on a sectional!
7 Year Decorating Itch?
Back when I was a brand new designer, I always remember being in a home where the owner said she completely re-decorated her living room every seven years.
And it rarely got used, so this was just something she did just because it was time for a change. Maybe the 7 year itch also applies to home decorating.
It will be seven years this Spring since we have lived in this house and I’ve already got my eye on a few areas I’d like to refresh.
And, I’ve already refreshed my kitchen (although having a blog where I constantly need content was definitely a big motivation).
I was reminded of this story because earlier this year, I helped my long-time design clients Bob and Lynette Best, with a living room refresh.
I’ve worked on their living room twice before and the timing actually happens to land right at every seven years, which I thought was interesting.
The first time I helped them re-do their living room, I joked that their furniture looked like it was under arrest because their original sectional was positioned right in the corner of the room (cannot find that before pic unfortunately), and the rest of their furniture was sitting against the walls all around the house.
I moved the sectional away from the wall (because we had lots of room) and placed an existing sideboard behind it so we could create a vignette that became the focal point of the room.
When you walk into their entry, this room is the first space you see (below).
Current refresh in 2018 (After)
Design Circa 2004
I’ve also come a long way in the world of decorating and styling.
Let’s go back in time and see what the first ‘after’ picture (in 2004) looked like shall we?
We painted the room yellow and because they previously had a sectional. We chose a new sectional in blue (not brown, even though that was the current trendy neutral). And, as I’ve said before, a colourful sofa is more timeless. Lynette and Bob have a big family so when they entertain, everyone is in this room.
Lynette loves blues and they already had some lovely original artwork that we used.
After the sectional was installed, they decided they wanted an ottoman instead of a coffee table, which is why that space is empty for the first after photo (it was still on order and came later).
I had not mastered the art of arranging pillows yet. So for the after photo, I stood them up on an angle.
Don’t judge me, haha. We all start somewhere.
This was the artwork in the entry, so I chose a red and we painted an accent wall there and I repeated some red in the living room (above).
Design Circa 2011
Then in 2011, seven years later, Lynette called me to get some new pillows made, repaint and refresh the accessories.
It seems so obvious to me now, that I don’t understand how I could have missed this back then, but if I was going to bring red pillows into this room, I should have specified at least three of them.
Plus the room technically needs more red if we were introducing such a strong colour in throw pillows, but it’s fun to see how we evolve as designers by looking back at older work isn’t it?
I did love the paint colour I chose in here (BM Collingwood) which is a violet grey. Not blue, not green grey, just right. This colour doesn’t look violet unless it was sitting with green or blue (and the undertone should have been either of those two).
Also back then, we were still photographing rooms with the lights on. We don’t do that anymore.
The refresh in 2011 – Wall colour is BM Collingwood
Design Circa 2018 – Current Living Room Refresh
This time (and now it’s been 14 years), Bob and Lynette wanted new furniture, their living room faces southwest, the upholstery had faded and just looked tired.
They wondered if they should re-cover it, but since re-upholstering basically costs the same as buying new, I suggested a style that was more refined and would feel less casual than this one since this is also their formal living room.
She said, “I still love the blue, so let’s do that again”.
And this just makes my point, yet again. Colour is way more classic and timeless than the current, trendy neutral. Had we installed a brown sofa in 2004 when that colour was trendy, we would certainly not have done that a second time.
Anyway, since 2011, they have retired and are taking lots of fabulous trips while they are still fit and fabulous!
Lynette also confided that she didn’t want their house to look like they hadn’t touched it since they retired.
I once spoke to a real estate agent who commented that often, a home still looks exactly the same as the era that the owners retired. Makes sense right? Re-decorating and continual updating of a home is certainly a luxury for many and money often gets tight after retirement.
For this refresh, I thought it would be pretty to keep it in shades of blue and loved the cornflower blue in a throw rug they had placed on the left side of the sectional.
I found the watery inspired pattern in the fabric with the blues and lavenders which is also repeated in the artwork, and this time, if I do say so myself, I have actually mastered the art of how many and which size pillows belong on a sectional.
Related post: Why a Colourful Sofa is as Timeless as Subway Tile
I’m also really happy with the more sophisticated feel of this sectional. The skirted bottom helps reinforce that refined look. And the straight arms make it feel so much more tailored and modern. Sectionals are built for comfort, but that doesn’t mean the details can’t be refined.
Lynette was a nurse, so I placed her figurines front and centre along with a cornflower blue decorative knot and vase, and a navy blue lamp that feels fresh and current (below). Read my tips for styling the perfect vignette here.
Doing several shades of blue looks a lot more cohesive, rather than a strong pop of colour that then needs to be repeated to be done right. (I would love to go back and tweak the red pillows from the previous design iteration of the room, but progress is good right?)
She was happy when I arrived with faux peonies that didn’t need watering 🙂
And here’s a photo of Lynette with her fabulous new wavy haircut (below):
Here’s all three stages of the room again:
After in 2004
After in 2011
After in 2018
So much better right?
A Shortcut to Arranging Pillows on a Sectional
Okay, so did you catch my tips about arranging throw pillows? There’s a learning curve for getting pillows right on a sectional. So, let’s review.
Here’s the list of throw pillows that work well with an L-shaped sectional sofa:
- One pattern pillow in a square (19″ x 19″)
- One pattern pillow in a longer, lumbar shape (12″ x 21″)
- Three solid pillows (19″ x 19″) – in this case blue
- Three solid pillows (19″ x 19″) in a similar colour – in this case lavender
When I was first learning how to specify throw pillows, I would specify medium and large pillows, but I have learned that is not necessary. They can all be the same size, except for the longer one which sits on the longer side of the sectional (in this case).
So don’t underestimate the power of a throw pillow. I have worked many years to get pillows to look right on a sofa!
I love my clients for sticking with me as I grew as a designer.
Decorating using colour is definitely a skill that improves over time if you are committed!
PS. Check out my podcast interview with Nick May with The Chaise Lounge! Nick owns a painting company in Portland and he uses strictly True Colour Experts for his painting projects because his projects include a colour consultation so that his clients love their colours!