How to Layer Decorative Pillows on a Sectional Sofa

Sectional sofas can sometimes be tricky to style. Based on our experience though, we've found that in most cases, three layers of pillows usually works really well. 

Below is a look at a sectional that we recently helped transform and our tips to help you choose the best options for your own sofa. 


Start with a first layer of one pillow on each corner.

Fabric: Choose either a solid or a small scale print. For this sofa we went with the Les Touches Orange.

Size: Measure (or find out from the manufacturer) the seating height of your sofa and add 3 to 5 inches to that to get your optimal pillow size*. The seating height of this particular sofa is 16 inches, so the optimal pillow size is 19x19 to 21x21. We opted for the larger 21x21 size for a more luxurious look. 

*Exception: if your sofa has a high back, don't go larger than 24x24.

How to Layer Decorative Pillows on a Sectional Sofa | Layer 1


For the next layer, add another pillow on each corner.

Fabric: Choose a medium or large scale pattern. For this sofa we went with the two variations of the Hot House Spark - the one with the blue flower for the left and right corners of the sofa and the one with the orange flower for the middle corner. 

Size: Go for pillows that are 1 to 3 inches smaller than the pillows in Layer 1. Here we went with 20x20 pillows (1 inch smaller). 

How to Layer Decorative Pillows on a Sectional Sofa | The 2nd Layer


To finish it off, add a lumbar on the longest side of the sectional. If both sides are a similar length, place it in the middle corner. 

Fabric: Choose a fabric that pulls out one of the colors in the other pillows and/or coordinates with other accessories in the room. Here we went with the Peacock Velvet, which pulls out some of the blue in the Hot House Spark and also coordinates with a lamp in a nearby side table. 

Size: Opt for a pillow that's 10 to 14 inches tall and a similar width as the other pillows. We went with size 11x19

How to Layer Decorative Pillows on a Sectional Sofa | The 3rd Layer

That's it!

I hope you found this helpful. If you'd like styling and sizing recommendations for your specific sofa, we encourage you to sign up for a Mini Design Consult. You can learn more about that here.

arianna belle designer pillow combination on sectional sofa - Peacock Velvet,  Hot House Spark, Les Touches Orange | Home of Natalie Steen




Mini Design Consults - Get Pillow Recommendations for Your Specific Sofa - Learn More at | Sofa with Decorative Pillows


Photos courtesy of Natalie Steen

Pillow Inserts 101

The right insert or filler is essential to a great looking decorative pillow.  In short, we recommend feather down inserts that are 2" larger than the cover and have a ratio of 90% feathers and 10% down. Read on to learn more.

What size insert should I get for my pillow cover?

  • We generally recommend using inserts that are 2" larger all around than your finished pillow size.  For example if you have an 18x18 pillow cover, you'll want to use a 20x20 insert. This will ensure that your pillow looks plump and luxurious. If the insert is too small, the pillow cover will look saggy. The exceptions to this rule:
    • pillows smaller than 18x18 and most lumbars- these work best with inserts that are 1" larger (instead of 2" larger)
    • extra large pillows (24x24 and larger)- these will also work well with inserts that are 3" larger than the cover
    • extra dense inserts - this is rare - they're usually not dense enough, however sometimes small rectangular inserts (such as 10x18) are full enough to use with covers of the same size (for example a 10x18 insert for a 10x18 cover)
    • see our Insert Size Guide for size specific recommendations

What fill type should I get?

We recommend going with feather down inserts. Feathers provide firmness, weight, body and support, while down provides softness and comfort.

What feather/down ratio should I choose?

A higher percentage of down tends to be considered more luxurious, however depending on the use of the pillow, you'll want to be careful not to go too high on the down percentage as it will make it too soft and unsupportive. The ideal ratio for decorative pillows is 10%-25% down and 90%-75% feathers - not too firm and not too soft.

Below is a summary of the pros and cons of the various ratios: 

  • 95% feather / 5% down (95/5)
    • lowest priced feather down blend option
    • firm density
    • due to the small percentage of down, some people may find it to be too stiff
    • due to the majority of the fill being feathers, can sometimes be too prickly since the quills are more likely to poke out
    • good if the pillow is just for looks and/or you like firm pillows
  • 90% feather / 10% down (90/10)
    • an ideal feather down ratio for decorative throw pillows
    • not too soft and not too firm - provides support and flexibility
    • softer and more luxurious than 95/5 inserts due to higher down percentage
    • firmer than 75/25 inserts
  • 75% feather / 25% down (75/25) or 80% feather / 20% down (80/20)
    • another ideal ratio for decorative throw pillows
    • softer than the 90/10 pillows and usually higher priced due to higher percentage of down
  • 50% feather / 50% down (50/50)
    • soft-density and lightweight
    • comfortable, however doesn't provide as much support as inserts with a higher percentage of feathers
    • if used for decorative pillows, will require constant fluffing to keep it from looking flat
    • better suited for pillows that are used for sleeping

    What kind of insert should I get if I want to "karate chop" my pillows?

    • Feather down pillow fillers will hold a chop. 

    Why are some inserts pricier than others?

    • The majority of inserts you'll see available for sale are 95% feather and 5% down and these will be lower priced because the cost of feathers is lower than the cost of down.  As the percentage of down increases, so will the price of the insert.  
    • Other things that affect price include where the insert is made, where the feather/down is sourced from, and how full the insert is. 

    What if I'm allergic to down or feathers?

    • If allergies are a concern, good quality alternative down inserts that mimic the softness of down are the next best thing. 

    Watch video below for a quick tutorial on how to easily get your insert into your pillow cover

    Pillow cover shown in video is our Leopard Velvet  

    by Arianna Vargas

    How to Mix and Match Pillows

    How do you create a pillow combination that works? Below is a simple and easy-to-remember formula we like to use to effortlessly mix and match pillows plus some examples of it in action. Make it even easier by starting with a multi-color pillow to guide your color palette

    How to Mix and Match Pillows - Decorating Guide

    by Arianna Vargas

    How to Easily Jump-Start Your Room's Color Palette

    When designing a room, one of my favorite ways to easily decide on a color scheme is to start out with a multi-color pillow that I love.  I look for ones that preferably have 5 or more colors, although those with as few as 3 colors can work also.

    Once I decide on that one pillow, I look closely to identify all the colors within the fabric. Then I start looking for other pieces (throws, lamps, art, books, trays, decorative boxes, rugs, furniture, etc) that have those same colors.

    Doing this makes it so much simpler to sort through all the options and easily decide what will and won't work. Of course, it doesn't have to be an exact color match and you can bring in as many neutral pieces as you'd like, but by using the pillow palette as an overall guide, you'll ensure you are creating a cohesive look.  

    You can also do this with a piece of art or a rug, however what I love about pillows is that they're small enough to take along with you when you go out shopping for other pieces (tip: remove the insert and take only the cover).

    Below is a visual example of how a pillow, in this case the Sinhala Linen Jewel, can be used as a starting point for a room's palette:
    How to Jump Start Your Room Color Palette with a Multi-Color Pillow

    Interior design by Shay Geyer of IBB Design

    Product sources: pillow - Arianna Belle Sinhala Linen Jewel, rug - Nourison, sofa - Article Sven in Grass Green, art- Wendover Art, fabric on wall- Genesis Shay Blue by Shay Geyer

    To recap:

    (1) find a multi-color pillow you love
    (2) identify all the colors within the pillow to establish a color palette
    (3) stick to that color palette when sourcing other pieces for the room

    Once you bring everything together, you'll have a beautiful cohesive look! 

    Here are other multi-color pillows you can use to kick-start the color palette of your next decorating project (click right arrow to view more)


    by Arianna Vargas