Decorating with cushions

Today’s Ask the Designer is all about cushions. I got asked the other day how do you choose and mix cushions in your living space when there is so much choice and options out there. To me cushions are one of the most important decor elements through which you can truly express yourself. Because they are only 10% of your overall colour scheme, when using the 60-30-10% rule, you can really go bold and wild. So here are my top tips when it comes to cushions.

1. Start with colours

Before you even go out shopping for cushions you need to know what colours you are after. I usually have 3-4 colours in my mind. That way you are focusing only on those colours. So let’s say that you are in John Lewis standing in their cushion department and you know that you are after lime green, yellow and teal. So immediately I’m filtering those colours and I’m not even looking at the rest. No matter how nice the other cushions might look you need to focus on your colour scheme. Do not get distracted because if you do it really messes your mind.

2. Focus on patterns

Now when you established your colours you need to focus on patterns. Generally I like mixing stripes/geometric with floral/ikat and plain/textured. I start with florals/ikat pattern because they have more than one colour in them. From there I can easily choose the striped/geometric cushion which should be complementary. It doesn’t have to have the exact colours in like your floral/ikat but it should have colours pulled from your overall colour scheme. So if I use the teal, yellow and lime green example, I’d get teal ikat patterned cushion, yellow striped cushion (which might also have a hint of teal or lime and maybe purple) and lime green textured cushion.

So again when you in the shops you focus on the patterns. I’m not looking at animal prints or fur cushions I’m totally focused on what I’m after.

3.  Mix materials

I like mixing different materials because each has a different texture. A good guide is mixing prints (cotton or poly-cotton) with velvets and jacquard. Or you can go for tweed, linen, fur and leather mix. Think about mixing different textures – for example rough with smooth.

Again focus on your search. By narrowing down your search you are automatically eliminating the weed and focusing on the good stuff.

I know this process might take you a while and lots of research but in the end it’s totally worth it. And if you can’t  get a ready made cushion you can always have one made for you. My tip when searching for cushions is: be specific. I give you an example. While updating my own living room years ago, I knew I wanted orange, black and taupe. I found an orange velvet cushion in Ikea so that was sort of my starting point. So next I needed the black cushion. Because I had velvet I knew I wanted some print but I didn’t want floral. I searched for black and white geometric cushion online and found one in Dwell. Now my last one was taupe which actually was the easiest. Once I had the two textures covered I focused my search on taupe cushion in rough material. In the end I found basket weave cotton cushion in two tones of taupe – light and dark. Perfect!

So you found your cushions but how many do you get?

That depends on the size of your sofas but here is a quick example.


I like getting cushions in pairs and perhaps throw one in as the odd one for added interest.  But that’s really up to you.
To me, cushions are here to stay. They are vital decorating ingredient and should be part of your decorating plan. Think about the balance, linking the elements within your space. Hope this helps. If you have any questions, please contact me or comment below. I want to hear from you. If you found this post helpful can I ask you for a big favour and share it so others can also benefit? Cheers and see you here next week!

If you have any questions for ASK THE DESIGNER, please drop me an email and I will answer it next week!

Karolina Barnes


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