Design Mistakes – Throw Pillow Tips + Dos and Don’ts

I started my Design Mistakes series many years ago. It began as a way to showcase some of the mistakes I made around my own home while helping others to learn the dos and don’ts when it comes to home design. Well, it quickly turned into my most popular series here on the blog!

Here are some fan-favorite posts from the series. Or you can peruse them all right here.

My Best Throw Pillow Tips

My best pillow styling tips

When I first got into home design, I was a big throw pillow lover and I was constantly adding more to my cart whenever I was out and about shopping. Back then, I was still figuring out my style, and swapping out throw pillows was a fun way to play around with the look and feel of my home without spending tons of money.

My best throw pillow tips

Throw pillows may seem silly and non-essential when it comes to your home. And I’ll admit, they’re not essential items for your home to function well. However, they can totally change the look of a room. Adding blankets and a variety of pillows is a great idea if you aren’t in love with your couch. Take the attention away from the couch, that you can’t replace just yet, and instead, let guests focus on your rockin’ pillow collection.

A new colorful lumbar pillow for the bed
Gorgeous lumbar from my mom’s bedroom refresh

Throw pillows can really bring a room together and make it feel polished, pulled together, and finished. So even though they’re not essential items, they serve an important purpose in a room and shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Throw Pillow Dos & Don’ts

The pillows and blankets used in our reading nook
Our Basement Reading Nook

Since this is a design mistakes post, I want to dive into some of the no-nos I see when it comes to displaying throw pillows. The good news is these are all simple things that you can tweak in your home to elevate an entire space, so don’t stress if you make any of these mistakes.

Don’t – Use Your Matching Couch Pillows

My best throw pillow tips
My first couch purchase, circa 2015

One of my first design mistakes as a new home decorator was solely using the pillows that came with my couch. My first “big girl” purchase was a white couch from JCPenney, back in 2011. I was so proud of this couch and it even came with three matching pillows. I added those to the couch and thought I was good to go. Wrong!

My best throw pillow tips

Once I added some colorful pillows to the couch it looked so much better! It was then that I realized the power of a good throw pillow. Now this may seem like an obvious “no-no” to some of you, but I see this design mistake happen all.the.time. Things could be a lot more personalized, and a lot less “big box” if people swapped out their couch pillows.

Do – Use Those Matching Pillows…Elsewhere

matching couch pillow inside a new cover

The good news is you can still use those matching pillows that come with your sofa or chair – just not on that piece of furniture. Bring it to another room, or better yet, put a pretty pillow cover over it.

Throw pillows in our home
Black Pillow Cover

The white pillows that came with our current couch are now used all around our home with various pillow covers on them. There’s no need to toss perfectly good, down-filled couch pillows. Instead, re-purpose them!

Don’t – Use The Same Size Pillow Insert

Flat pillow insert before changing it out

The insert that comes with a pillow will often be the same size as the pillow cover. For example, the pillow above is a 20×20 size with a 20×20 insert. This results in a flat pillow that can sag and not look so great. I suggest ditching that insert and then sizing up with a bigger insert. (You can use the original pillow insert with a smaller sized cover.)

Do – Size Up Your Pillow Insert 2-4 Inches

My dos and don'ts for throw pillow styling

Instead of using a 20×20 insert, here I opted for a 22×22 pillow insert. Now, the pillow is much fluffier, it fills the cover better, and it looks more expensive. This is a super easy fix! Always try to go two to four inches up with your insert and all of your pillows will look better. Trust me!

Do – Opt For Zippers

Opt for pillows with zippers

I always buy pillow covers that have a zipper or button closure. This ensures that I can remove the insert if needed, but more importantly, this is super helpful for storage purposes. If you’re someone who likes to swap out your pillows seasonally, you can save a lot of space by just folding up the pillow covers and re-using the same inserts over and over.

Do – Spend on Quality Inserts

Use quality pillow inserts

I think it’s wise to spend a bit more on high-quality inserts. You can use the same ones with a wide variety of pillow covers and they’ll look full and plump on your couch! But what pillow insert material should you choose? I usually opt for either a down or a down alternative.

Down pillow inserts are filled with feathers and are usually pretty soft and cozy. However, you may find some feathers throughout your home and when they get compressed they’ll need a good fluff to liven them back up. Here’s a good set of two with lots of sizing options.

My favorite down alternative pillow insert is this one with a polyester fill. It’s a good price point and comes in a variety of sizes.

Don’t – Display Teeny Pillows

A common design mistake I see is placing a bunch of tiny pillows all over your couch. For the most part, 20×20 is as small as I go on a sofa. Bigger is usually better!

Do – Display a Variety of Sizes

Our new basement furniture
Our basement setup

I think it’s always a good idea to showcase a variety of throw pillow sizes on your sofa. I think a few square, 22×22, along with some smaller, 20×20, and then lumbar pillows make for a good variety of sizes.

Do – Add Texture & Pattern

Adding lots of pillows to our reading nook

I think most people think about color when it comes to choosing throw pillows and they do a good job of incorporating an assortment of tones. However, don’t neglect to change up the texture and pattern.

My Favorite Throw Pillows For Your Couch

My best throw pillow styling tips

Basilia Velvet Pillow // Striped Lumbar // Black Plaid Pillow Set // Green Velvet // Colorful Lumbar // Striped Set With Leather Detailing // Striped Pillow // Blue Lumbar

More Styling Throw Pillow Tips

My best throw pillow tips

If you’re looking for more throw pillow tips, these posts may be of some help.


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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