How to Choose Outdoor Throw Pillows for a Fresh, New Look

Finding the right throw pillows for your outdoor space can be tricky, especially if you’re new to design, but it’s all about finding the right balance. Throw pillows create an inviting space and provide a well-polished look in indoor and outdoor spaces. The good thing about pillows is they aren’t a permanent change and can easily be removed if you don’t get it quite right on your first try! To give your patio the piece it’s missing, read on to learn how to create the perfect combination of throw pillows.

How to Measure Throw Pillows for Covers

It’s important to include pillows of all shapes and sizes for a thoughtful, fun look. You can do this by purchasing pillows with filling that are ready to be placed immediately, or you can get pillow covers that require filling (normally sold separately). First, let’s be sure you know how to properly measure a pillow so you can find what works for your patio furniture

Some general things you should know to make finding the right size pillow easy are: throw pillows are not measured across the middle or diagonally, use a firm tape measure rather than a flexible one to measure the pillow, and it may be easier to have someone hold the pillow or cover while you measure. It’s also important to remember that once your pillow cover is filled, the dimensions will be slightly less than what you measured. For example, if you measure a cover as 10” W x 10” H, after filling is added, it might measure 9” W x 9” H.

diagram to show where to measure a pillow

Measuring a Pillow

1: Set the pillow on a flat surface or have someone hold it up for you.

2: Pull the top and bottom corners tight so the fabric is stretched naturally. Measure along the edge of the pillow to find the height.

3: Pull the left and right corners of the pillow tight. Measure along the edge to find the width.

Tips for Choosing New Throw Pillows

Now it’s time to find the perfect pillows for your conversation set, bench, or outdoor chairs. A general rule to keep in mind when using the tips below is to follow the rule of three for balance and a professional look. Use the tips below as guidelines to help you get started.

stack of colorful pillows

Choose 3 Colors

Start by choosing a color palette to follow as you select pillows. Think of the space as a whole and choose 3 colors that appear elsewhere already. Look at your patio rug, cushions, or other decorations to begin creating a color story. Using colors that already exist in the space helps create a cohesive look among all pieces.

various patterns in yellow and teal

Choose 3 Patterns

After you’ve chosen what colors to include, find some patterns you like that use those hues. There are 2 types of patterns: geometric and organic. Geometric patterns include stripes, plaid, and shapes, while organic patterns are botanical, floral, or abstract. Finding the perfect blend of patterns gives your outdoor space a professional look. Be sure to use your color story and vary the sizes of patterns for cohesion. Start by finding your lead pattern (botanical, floral, geometric), which is the largest and boldest pattern. Next, choose secondary patterns that are medium to small in print size (stripes, polka dots, damask, solid colors) to better complement the lead pattern.

throw pillows with different textures

Incorporate Textures

Try incorporating different textures to add visual interest and make solid patterns more interesting without adding too many varying features. Juxtapose soft and rough, smooth and ridged, and other textures to create different moods in the space. Some different textures to try include velvet, faux fur, cable knit, embroidery, and smooth.

throw pillows on couch

Use Different Shapes & Sizes

Using pillows with different shapes and sizes adds dimension to your patio furniture. Varying the size of pillows also leaves more room to sit on a sofa or chair. Find pillows that are square, rectangle, round, and even cylindrical (bolster pillows) to fill the sectional or chair. Generally, it is best to keep the largest pillows at the outside sides of a couch and gradually lessen the size of the pillow as you get closer to the center.

Consider Filling

Throw pillows can be filled with different materials, which impact how they sit and feel over time. A feather- or down-filled pillow is softer and more easily manipulated than a foam or synthetic filled pillow. Foam-filled pillows are usually stiffer and hold their shape better. 

throw pillows on couch, chair, and loveseat

Arrange Carefully

The last thing to consider while choosing throw pillows is how many pillows you should have and how you will arrange them. If your outdoor space has a more modern or natural feel, use an odd number of pillows. Choose either 3 or 5 pillows and keep the largest pillows toward the outside and place the smaller ones in the middle. If your outdoor space is more traditional, use an even number of pillows, like 2 or 4, to create an inviting sitting area. It is also a good idea to put a throw pillow on each surface for a sophisticated look. Generally, chairs have 1 pillow, small sofas or loveseats have 3 pillows, and larger couches or sectionals get 5 pillows.

You can use multiples of a pillow as long as you are mindful while placing them. Don’t put pillows that are exactly the same right next to each other. Put one matching pillow on either side of your furniture and build from there.

outdoor throw pillows on a deck box

Mixing and matching throw pillows on outdoor furniture on your patio, deck, or backyard adds a sophisticated touch. If you have a little creativity, follow a color scheme, find patterns, and use different shapes, sizes, and textures, your outdoor furniture is sure to look like it was decorated by a professional. Check out our Bright Ideas Blog to learn how to keep your throw pillows looking brand new!

Outdoor livingPatio furniture


Lily Johnson

Thank you for sharing such valuable information. It helped a lot.

Lily Johnson

Thank you for sharing such valuable information. It helped a lot.

Lily Johnson

Thank you for sharing tips for choosing new throw pillows. It helped me a lot in decorating my outdoor cushions.

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