We’re here to ask–and answer—the tough questions about styling your sofa with pillows.

Courtesy of Elsie Home
Lauren Meichtry of Elsie Home has the sofa pillow intel you're looking for.

“Elsie was my husband’s grandmother,” explains Lauren Meichtry from her home in Manhattan Beach, which is also the headquarters for her growing pillow business, Elsie Home. “When she moved into senior care a few years ago, my father-in-law gave me her vintage sewing machine. He said, ‘If anyone in this family could put this to good use, it’s you.’ At the time, I didn’t even know how to sew.”

The machine lingered in the closet while Meichtry was raising two young kids as a stay-at-home mom. Then, when she and her husband were selling their house in Palos Verdes, she plugged it in and got to work, making new pillows to give it a fresh new look.

Not just for sofas, patterned pillows can also turn chairs into small design moments.

Courtesy of Elsie Home

“We were moving, and I couldn’t afford to buy new pillows. So I made a bunch with fabrics I sourced in Los Angeles. People who saw the house asked if I had staged it. They loved the pillows so much,” she says. “So I thought, ‘Hmmm, maybe there’s something here?'”

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To get her business off of the ground, she started by hand-making 80 pillows in subtle, versatile patterns and colors. That was six years ago. Today, she employs a mother-daughter seamstress team and has just launched a home design blog, Behind the Seams. She sells dozens of varieties of pillows through her site, and is planning some seasonal pop-ups for later this year.

Meichtry can do virtual or in-person pillow consultations to get that just-right mix of size, shape, and color.

Courtesy of Elsie Home

The right combination of pillows, Meichtry says, can transform a house faster (and cheaper) than just about any other home accent. And they provide excellent camouflage for furniture that’s been semi-destroyed by small children and pets.

“I’ve covered so many stains with pillows and throw blankets,” she says.

The trick is to get a combination of sizes and complementary patterns to make it look intentional, and calm, not just a riot of mis-matched prints.

“When I started, I was trying to work against all of these rules for interior design,” she says. “I came in with the idea of ‘You pick.’ There’s no right or wrong way. But what I’ve learned is that people really want advice. So I put together collections that make it easier.”

For her clients in Southern California, Meichtry offers a pillow concierge service. She’ll come to your house with every piece in her collection and style it for you. If you send photos through her site, she can do it remotely and put together options. Her are some standard tips she likes to share:

Matchy-Matchy Is a No-No

“It feels too much like a furniture showroom,” Meichtry says. Don’t buy two of the same pillow and put them in opposite corners of a sofa. Just don’t. Trust her.

Choose an Odd Number

“I do like having an odd number,” says Meichtry. “I like to do two 20 x 20-inch squares and a 14 x 20-inch lumbar in the corner of a couch,” adds Meichtry, if the sofa is 80 inches or shorter. “If it’s a longer or deeper piece of furniture, I I try to do a 22 x 22-inch square in in the back, and then a 20 x 20 and 14 x 20 lumbar on one side, and then just two squares, a 22 x 22 and 20 x 20 on the other side.” An average-size sofa could be styled with up to five pillows, depending on the depth. “We did a sectional the other day and we put 11 pillows on it! It was a huge.”

Mix Solids, Stripes, and Florals

“I like a bigger, solid print as the anchor, and then a little lumbar in a small print or stripe,” she says. “Something that I noticed is that about 80% of the people who come to me have a gray sofa. That might be why there are so many blue pillows out there. People think that goes with gray.” Meichtry suggests trying vintage mud cloth and soft browns and umbers instead. Shades that look like pale clay are very popular these days. “It’s a subtle way to do color.”

Get the Look

Meichtry breaks down some of her favorite Elsie pillow looks for various styles and colors of sofas.

This gray sectional from Crate & Barrel is wide and simple enough to merit five pillows in a mix of soft neutrals.

Courtesy of Crate & Barrel and Elsie Home

A small, gray sectional from Crate & Barrel gets a fresh take with contrasting stripes (two Emmas, size 22 x 22, and Kilim in Mushroom, 22 x 22), pale blue Sandy (22 x 22), and a Moroccan print (Blush Cactus Print, 22 x 22).

Even a tailored, natural leather sofa from Article could use a small pile of pillows in washed blue and cream.

Courtesy of Article and Elsie Home

A handsome, tailored sofa from Article in natural leather gets a softer look with a chambray pillow (Raw Solids in Denim, 22 x 22), Kilim in Mushroom (22 x 22), and Orcha (14 x 20).

A large, white sectional is like a beautifully blank canvas for a pillow styling pro. Meichtry chose six or various sizes.

Courtesy of Interior Define and Elsie Home

A huge white sectional from Interior Define is a world of pillow opportunity, and could handle bold color or subtle shades. Meichtry went for five neutrals in the same size, 22 x 22 (patterns Leo, Ginny, Isla, and Ruth) and a small Ginny lumbar (14 x 20).

A blue, tufted, tuxedo-style sofa is a pillow challenge. Meichtry leaned into the blue and paired it with tan and cream.

Courtesy of Scout & Nimble and Elsie Home

This Moe’s Canal sofa from Scout & Nimble is about an eight out of 10 on the pillow challenge scale. Meichtry kept it simple with solid beige (Claire, 20 x 20), soft cream (Sherpa, 22 x 22, in Ivory), black and white mud cloth (Loxo, 20 x 20, in Onyx), and a subtle print in the same color family (Fanorona, 14 x 24) in Lagoon).

Explore all of these pillows and more at elsiehome.co.