How to Choose Scandinavian Decor Pillows that Will Give Your Living Room a Pro Designer’s Touch

Grey room with blue, white and grey pillows

Throw pillows are one of those little home accents that might not grab your attention at first, but that are ultimately a big part of what makes a room look magazine worthy.

Minimalist Scandinavian interiors tend to be all about simple forms and muted neutrals. In a room like this, with few extra embellishments, a little extra color, pattern, and texture can make or break the space.

Grey room with blue, white and grey pillows
Classic patterns add a little life to the subdued natural tones, but stay in harmony with the room’s overall reserved air.

Whatever your style preference, though, you have a lot of options. Scandinavian decor pillows range from neutral solids and simple geometric patterns to designs with playful, nature-inspired graphics or bright folk embroidery.

Get the basics down and you’ll be able to find pillows that look like an interior designer chose them especially for your living room.

How Many Pillows Does One Sofa Really Need?

White living room with black and white pillows
Seven throw pillows nicely fill out a long sofa. In this case, it’s three pairs of matching pillows and one accent pillow.

The number of pillows you’ll need depends on the size of your furniture and the style of your room.

Two pillows on a long sofa looks skimpy and unfinished, but you also don’t want your sofa so stuffed with pillows you have to pile them to one side so you can sit. As a guideline, one is all you need for a chair, and two or three are enough for a love seat. For a standard-size sofa, three or five usually works well.

To choose between and odd or even number, consider the ambiance you’re aiming for.

Odd numbers – In any home decor grouping, an odd number tends to be more pleasing to the eye than an even one. It feels more natural and balanced. This is by far the favored look in modern Scandinavian interiors.

Even numbers – In contrast, an even number of throw pillows lets you create symmetrical arrangements for a more planned, formal look. This works best if the room’s architecture and design are also symmetrical.

Define a Color Palette and Stick with it

White room with yellow pillows and chairs
The mustard yellow of the throw pillow here is pulled from the two chairs across the room, helping to tie the decor together.

Before you buy anything, define your color palette. Without a color palette in mind, you’ll end up with at least one pillow that clashes with the rest of your decor.

For the strongest visual impact, keep your pillows in the same shade or in a pair of complimentary shades. Pick a neutral and one or two colors, the look for pillows within that color palette.

If that feels limiting, remember you still have a lot of latitude for variety with patterns and textures. We’re getting to that…

So how do you choose your colors? Think repetition. Repeating a color throughout a room is key to making a design feel cohesive. Go for pillows with colors that show up at least two other places in the room.

If you love the sage green of your replica Eames Eiffel chair or you want to bring out the soft sky blue in your area rug, consider those colors for your pillow.

Of course, not every room needs more color. If your furniture, walls, and other textiles are loaded with color, your throw pillows are a good place to add some restful tones to give your eye a break. In this case, try two or three other pillows in complimentary neutrals, and add just one colorful pillow.

Geometrics, Abstracts, and Nature-Inspired Prints – Patterns for Scandinavian Style Pillows

Black and white patterned pillows
In a monochrome living room, a variety of pillow patterns adds interest and visual texture. The narrow stripes on one pillow balance out the bolder patterns on the rest. Photo: Holly Marder via Zillow.com

Using all solid-color pillows is popular choice in Scandinavian interiors, especially the in more upscale urban minimalist homes. If you go this route, start with solid shades that pull together other colors in the room, then add one or two pillows in an accent color.

If you do want patterns, though, Repetition is the goal for color, but the key to making prints work is variety. Try not to repeat patterns from elsewhere in the room or you’ll end up with contrived, matchy-matchy look. Your “pillowscape” should have a personality that meshes well with the room, but that’s still distinct.

Aim for a balance of small-, medium-, and large-scale prints. Too many small-scale prints look fussy, too many large-scale prints can feel loud and garish, and too many patterns in a similar scale rather counterintuitively end up a mess.

So if you already have a few bold graphic prints in the room, stick with one or two and layer them a more subtle pattern to tone things down. For example, if you have large-scale geometric-print curtains, try a small-scale animal-print and a medium-scale stripe for your pillows.

This works no matter what your preference for patterns. Layering different shades and patterns is a favorite interior stylist’s trick. All florals or all animal prints can work if you get colors and pattern scales are in balance.

Size and Shape: Another Place Where Variety Counts

Minimalist room with round pillow
Just one pillow in an interesting shape can lend more personality to a room.

This is another area where, in general, you’ll want some variety.

At the very least, get large square, medium and smaller rectangles so you can layer them.

Consider the aesthetics of you furniture, too. A boxy, angular sofa can be softened up a bit with round pillows, while a big, puffy sofa will take on some solidity from square and rectangular pillows. A combination of squares, rectangles, and a bolster is perfect for livening up an otherwise sparely decorated room.

Shape can also stand in for variety in pattern and color. If you’re worried about cluttering the modern look of your room with different patterns, try using throw pillows that have the same simple pattern, but different shapes

Knot cushion, Desighn House Stockholm
If you’re a fan of Scandinavian interiors, you’ve no doubt seen this pillow around. It’s the Knot Cushion created by Icelandic textile designer Ragnheiður Ösp Sigurðardóttir for Design House Stockholm. It’s just begging to be squeezed.

There are five basic categories of pillow shapes:

Square – This is a versatile shape that’s comfortable to lean on. These, along with rectangular designs are the most common Scandinavian decor pillows.

Rectangle – This shape gives you good lower back and neck support, making a large sofa more lounger-friendly.

Round – Primarily decorative, round pillows work well alone on a chair or other smaller furniture items.

Bolster (cylindrical) – Like rectangular pillows, these support your lower back well, so they’re good to have on any sofa or big chair meant for lounging.

Novelty shapes – Admittedly, these are fairly rare in modern Scandinavian interiors, but that’s no reason to write them off. Like the Knot Cushion in the photo above, pillows in fun shapes add character to a room and let you express your personality. Throw in a starfish pillow for a seaside feel, a heart or a butterfly to add a feminine touch, a mountain or stone to keep with your nature-inspired decor.

Want more advice on styling your Scandinavian decor pillows, try Studio McGee’s tips:

Texture: Hands-On Design

Furry brown pillow
A single furry pillow in a modest neutral shade is enough to accent this streamlined white sofa without veering into something claustrophobicly cozy.

Texture is easy to overlook, but done well, it can turn a plain Ikea sofa into an inviting, multi-sensory experience where you’ll love to spend time. The right textures add depth and warmth, as well as another layer of visual interest.

Go for contrast with the fabric of your sofa. If your sofa is a crisp, smooth weave of linen, cotton, polyester, try pillows in a nubby linen or silk, a soft velvet or shaggy faux fur. Pillows with quilting, embroidery, fringe, and other touchy-feely details also contrast well.

Textured pillows are a good fit for a leather sofa, too, because they’re less likely to slide off. Over all, rich textures aren’t that common for Scandinavian decor pillows, so you’ll be fine with just one pillow like this.

For a more textured sofa, look for pillows in a fine linen or smooth brushed cotton.

Blue and grey pillows in a minimalist Scandinavian home
The pleated blue pillow and grey button pillow have a country cottage charm that lends warmth to this urban minimalist apartment.

Textures should contribute to the feeling you want to create in the room. Natural matte linens and cottons have a simple, minimalist feel that’s perfectly suited to modern, urban Nordic interior, while heavy textures like faux sheepskin, flannel or cable knit create a warm, country cabin ambiance.

Used sparingly, shiny fabrics such as satin, crepe de Chine silk, and velvet have look of opulent luxury, but are also a simple way to add give a simple interior a dash of youthful glitz and energy.

As a rule, pillows with striking colors and patterns should be made in simple fabric like cotton or linen. If you want a pillow with texture, such as knit, velvet or faux fur get it in a solid color.

I know it takes some searching to find Scandinavian decor pillows from small designers, much less to find them in natural materials, so I’ve been keeping a Pinterest board on the work of some of the great textile designers out there. It’s not just pillows, but also blankets, kitchen towels, wool storage baskets…


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