What’s your bum to cushion ratio?

No self-respecting interior designer wants to be branded a cushion scatterer but when major retailers are allocating significant percentages of valuable floor space to cushions, and more and more hobbyists appear on Etsy selling their handmade ones you can’t ignore their place in our hearts and homes. The number on our sofas has increased, and they now pop up anywhere else you might park your derriere; the bed, a window seat, a kitchen bench, in the garden. It’s a miracle we’ve not succumbed to softly furnished toilet seats.

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The number, size, shape and colour of cushions appears to be one of those gender specific obsessions. Why is it that football, beer and car shows tend to attract more male than female fans? And why do most men do their best to avoid shoe shopping, spa days and musical theatre? I often wonder if this unofficial segregation is the result of nature, nurture or just plain peer pressure. Mr W actually likes a bit of shoe shopping (see last weeks post on the number of pairs of brown shoes he owns…), a spa day (if there’s a gym) and a show (I swear). But I suspect he would deny all 3 if questioned by his friends. A picture I posted on Facebook of a newly decorated bedroom (not my personal page I hasten to add, it was on my decorators business page) prompted the post from a male friend “what is it with women and cushions” which supports my theory that cushions reside in the female camp. So at the risk of killing a career that has barely started, and in the interest of trying to engage more men in the topic of cushions I introduce to you my cushion playbook!

Playbooks are used by American football coaches to document their strategies and plays. In my old life we used to create sales playbooks to help brokers sell our products. The senior management team was literally obsessed with creating these things. They thought they were the holy grail that would deliver our new business budgets. So my old boss will be proud as hell if he reads this, and I’m hoping the sports metaphor will win me some male readers.

1. You can have too many cushions. In the living room I use the following bum to cushion ratio. Armchair = 1 cushion, two-seater = 2, three-seater = 4, four-seater = 5/6.

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 Pretty but where would you sit?

2. Size matters. For slim armchairs a single boudoir cushion is often best (30cm x 40cm. For armchairs and two-seaters, stick to maximum of 40cm x 40cm. Once you get to a three-seater you can introduce larger cushions, say a 50cm x 50cm paired with a 40cm x 40cm at each end. On my four-seaters I also have a single 60cm x 40cm in the centre but a row of same size smaller cushions can look stylish, or a selection of random shapes and sizes, particularly if you mix and match fabrics, patterns and colours. Just remember you need to leave enough space for people to actually sit down.

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3. Remember cushions are meant to add comfort, so avoid scratchy wool, sequins and beads however pretty they are. I’d also favour natural versus man made fabrics to avoid static, and down filled versus man made fibres unless someone in the house is allergic. Cheap feather cushions can be a nuisance if the quills poke through so check the quality of the material used for the inner.

4. Cushions are a great way of getting accent colour into your room. If you’re mixing patterns I tend to use a big pattern with a small one if the patterns are very different, and the same size if they are similar. Think big floral with small spots, or similar size geometrics together.

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5. There are occasions when cushions should be avoided (cue gasps from the women readers). For example, when you have a particularly bulky cushioned leather sofa or armchair. Cushions would stop you from nestling into the leather cushions and they’d probably slide off anyway. A customer and friend recently showed me the sofa below that she was considering purchasing. I’m not sure what caused her to sit on it in the showroom as pretty it is not (remind you of flying?), but her bum has been driving the need to have it ever since. Apparently it’s the comfiest thing she has ever sat on, and unfortunately we can’t hide it behind cushions because of its bulk. I’m looking into throws instead…If she buys it she may feel the need to point out the nearest emergency exits when guests sit down.

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6. Apply a similar bum to cushion ratio in the bedroom. Assuming two pillows per sleeper, add 1 cushion to a single, 2 to a double, or 4 if two of them are small, and 4 to a king size bed. When stacked up they shouldn’t cover more than 50% of the bed. You also have to consider what you’ll do with them at night. If you don’t have room at the foot or sides of your bed for the decorative ones keep it simple.

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7. I have a kingsize bed and I’m a fan of the 2-4-2 formation. 2 large square pillows at the back in a bold print or a colour that compliments the bedding. Great for people that read or watch TV in bed. Plus 4 regular pillows in either housewife or oxford pillow cases. Finished with 2 medium sized cushions. If your bedding and curtains aren’t an exact match having cushions that match the curtains brings the room together.

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8. My friend Phil goes for comfort 100% over aesthetics and deploys the straight 8 formation. All the same size and fabrics but different levels of comfort. Apparently pillow cuddling is something we all do to relax ourselves before drifting off to sleep. I haven’t asked him but perhaps he favours different ones depending on how stressed he is.

9. I don’t need to tell you where to buy cushions as they’re literally everywhere these days, but I would say shop around. You don’t need to go to John Lewis for quality, you can pick up great cushions in Dunelm, Matalan and the supermarkets. If you don’t want the same as all your neighbours then Notonthehighstreet and Etsy are a great source. If you have something in mind Google the colour and type of print you want. These days many retailers have photos of most if not all their stock online. This is how I found the geometric print and the green fern printed cushions I needed for a customers bedrooms, and if you can’t find the right cushion find the fabric and get them made by a local seamstress. The wonderful Dianne Roffey of Di’s Soft Furnishings in Keswick has made 75% of the cushions in my house.

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10. Finally, if you see something unusual that really catches your eye, get it. You might not have the room for it yet but you might one day and will kick yourself if you didn’t. This is what drove me to buy these beauties in Spitalfields Market yesterday. They’re made by The Cushion Studio. Some of their cushions are available in John Lewis and on Etsy but Spitalfields is the only place you can get all of their designs. I love Frieda Kahlo, even if she does look a little bit like Lilly Allen. They’ll be going in summer house when the weather improves.

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Author: Amelia Wilson, Interior Designer and Cushion Scatterer……