By Greg Natale
While some think of the humble cushion as an inexpensive and fairly inconsequential styling accessory, it has an honourable history as a substitute for chairs across the palaces and great houses of the early Middle Ages. Only the very wealthy could afford cushions thanks to the expensive dyes and fabrics of the day. As their intricate patterns were also painstakingly handcrafted using fine threads and complex knotting, cushions became pieces of art in their own right.
However these days, cushions are an easy and attractive way to add colour, pattern and contrast to any room and of course, they can also be replaced without fuss whenever you’re after a new look.
But cushions mean more to me than just that. As I point out in my new book, The Tailored Interior, they’re an important aspect of layering and styling that create cohesion and flow in a room. To be honest, I can’t even imagine a sofa without cushions – it simply doesn’t look finished! So here are a few suggestions to help you get your cushion size, shape and styling right:
Size. Over the years, I’ve found that 500mm (20 inch) square cushions work best for sofas and beds. Keep them the same size for a cohesive result. Look for feather and foam inserts for a lovely firm feel and covers with concealed zips for a seamless effect.
Quantity. I recommend four cushions for a two-seater sofa and six cushions for a three-seater. Divide them into two matching sets as visual bookends for a resolved and balanced look.
Positioning. Sit them on their flat side, placed one behind the other. Whatever you do, don’t position them on a point to form a diamond shape! Leave that look to the Travelodge!
Combinations. Consider other elements of your design and go from there – for example, a pop of colour works for an otherwise largely neutral base. I also like to mix organic and geometric patterns for a really dynamic arrangement.
Fabrics. Of course you can select more sumptuous fabrics for indoors, but remember to rely on hard-wearing ones to keep your outdoor cushions fresh. As a fan of detail, I also love a bit of piping or trim to add contrast and personality.
Anyone who knows me well knows that as a child of the eighties, a lot of my early memories came from what I saw on our family’s television set. I was obsessed with the American series Dynasty and consider its set design instrumental in inspiring me to become an interior designer.
In the introduction to The Tailored Interior, I mention that I thought Alexis Carrington’s all-white apartment was the height of glamour. Fittingly, as it turns out, it’s the pops of pink in her cushions that really help make her apartment sing.
Like all soft furnishings, cushions can be minimal, frivolous, classic or elegant, but whatever your taste, they’re a wonderful low-investment, high-return styling accessory.
So have some fun with them. Play with colours, patterns and textures and dare I even say it … throw cushion to the wind!
– The Tailored Interior by Greg Natale, Belle Coco Republic’s Interior Designer of the Year 2014, is now available at all good bookstores or online at Bookworld. It reveals Greg’s secrets on how to achieve your dream design look with complete confidence as well as all the places Greg shops for his fabulous cushions.
All photography from The Tailored Interior by Anson Smart. See photos from our reader book signing with Greg.