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Buying Cushions: How to get the Best Ones (and Avo...

Buying Cushions: How to get the Best Ones (and Avoid the Duds)

stack of cushions on grey sofa from west elm against teal blue feature wall

It’s no secret that I’m addicted to buying cushions.

I’ve never met one I didn’t like, and I’ve become quite skilled in how to select the best varieties. It’s actually fair to say that buying cushions has been quite a journey. Figuring out the right colours, styles, sizes and shapes can take a while to master. As Rachel Hunter once said; it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

All of this cushion experimentation comes at a cost, of course. Not just financially, but potentially the cost of your relationship… when your partner opens one of the cupboard doors to find yet another cushion falling out onto him. That was a joke, of course. But I have been banned from buying cushions in the past because my partner claims I’ve got too many. My answer: I don’t have too many cushions. I have not enough sofas!

So here is what I’ve learnt about buying cushions. The lowdown on what to look out for (and what to steer clear of) is below. I hope it helps you the next time your urge to buy a cushion hits.

stack of blue and white cushions on blue armchair from west elm

Buying Cushions: Size & Shape

Buying cushions for your sofa is all about proportion. The bigger the sofa (and the higher the back) the larger the cushions can be. The biggest mistake I see people make is buying cushions that are too small. And they look dwarfed on the sofa. Here’s a few tips on buying cushions when it comes to size:

Choose cushions in a minimum size of of 45cm x 45cm (50cm is my preference)

Ideally, pair a 45cm cushion with a larger cushion of 50cm +

Place the 45cm cushion at the front and larger cushion at the back of your arrangement

Sofas with low backs can handle rectangular cushions, otherwise opt for squares

The image below showcases a low sofa back with a rectangular cushion

If your sofa has a tall back, a rectangular cushion will look too dwarfed

If you’re after a really casual look, round cushions will work well, but can look juvenile

black white and yellow cushions on grey sofa with tribal patterns from west elm

Buying Cushions: Materials & Inserts

There’s nothing worse than seeing a wonderfully plush and sophisticated cushion in a catalogue or website, only to get the cover home, put one of your old inserts in it, and have it look flatter than a surfboard. Achieving a cushion that looks as stylish as the professionals make it seem all comes down to the insert and material the cushion is made from. Here are some pointers:

Cushions made from linen, cotton, velvet or wool are both soft and sophisticated

Linen and cotton are easy to clean, so they’re great for us messy types

Steer clear of cushion covers made out of cheap materials like viscose

Look for tactile elements on your cushions like baubles, knits, tassels etc to bring added warmth

Duck feather or down is a great insert type and will give them that thick, plush look

The cushions you see karate chopped in magazines are duck feather/down

Polyester filling is a common option for cushions. You can’t chop them in the centre but they’re soft

stack of cushions on rustic timber bench against terracotta feature wall from west elm

Buying Cushions: Colours & Patterns

The colours and patterns your cushions sport are going to have a dramatic impact on the look and feel of the entire room. So have a careful think about how you want the room to feel and then hunt down your cushion colours accordingly. Here are some hints and tips:

Monochromatic colours are calming (grey sofa with darker grey and black cushions, for example)

Adding patterned cushions in monochromatic tones brings visual interest (grey sofa, black and white patterned cushion)

Block colours will be more visually stimulating in general (grey sofa with blue cushions)

Adding pattered cushions with varying colours will be the most stimulating (grey sofa with blue and yellow patterned cushions)

If you want to introduce some life to the sofa without it looking too busy, choose one colour in varying shades (navy and sky blue cushions, for example)

Hopefully this has made buying cushions a little easier for you. Drop a comment below if you have any questions of additional tips!

The cushions imagery in this post comes courtesy of West Elm. Explore their cushion range here.


Outside of his work as Editor of The Life Creative blog, Chris is also an interior stylist, presenter and author. His first book, Sydney Precincts, is out now. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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  1. Deb Roberts

    20 April

    Just inspired me to buy another cushion ( or 2)

  2. Elizabeth

    29 April

    I’ve just changed to a white quilt and 1 soft grey cushion, 1 white tufted cushion with 2 almost ink coloured cushions behind the white pillows. It’s still a bit blah. I. Think I need a smaller to go with the ink in front and change the cream /white print on the wall. ???

    • It’s so tough to advise without seeing a photo Elizabeth. Maybe some more texture or pattern is required!

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