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How to update your sitting room for less than the cost of dinner out

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Buying cushions will give any sofa an inexpensive new lease of life, says Lucy Dunn. And there’s an art to choosing the right ones

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By Lucy Dunn on

When it comes to buying things for my home I am always racked by indecision, even when it comes to little things like new cushions. I have written countless times over the years how they will “update your sofa in a flash” (particularly when your sofa has seen better days like mine). Yet despite my own advice it has taken me well over a year of cultivating a slow-burning hatred for my sofa cushions (scatter cushions in printed cotton fabric; totally harmless; didn’t deserve my vitriol) to actually do anything about replacing them.

But boy, I am so glad that I’ve finally done it. I am officially in love with my new ones – two black and white berber-style cushions from Wayfair which are woolly and soft and fit the width of my two-seater sofa perfectly. They have made me realise how fiddly and awkward my last lot were and have also showed me how there is an art to finding the right cushions, which I am going to share with you here.

beware The mean hard scatter cushion - it won’t do you any favours

Anything that is small and overstuffed, in any kind of slippy, silky fabric, will always be an annoyance on a sofa. Not only are they uncomfortable things to rest your head on, but unless you spend precious minutes every day arranging them, they will always look untidy. I’ve decided that I now prefer fewer and bigger cushions to the traditional 30 x 30cm squares, and am particularly fond of these velvety 50cm x 50cm Ikea ones I bought a year ago for the bench in my kitchen which are still in store now.  

Think about texture and fillings

Don’t be swayed by cushions that just look cool – check how they feel on your face. Avoid anything too scratchy, hard or pleated and overly-fussy. In my edit below I have picked out some of the softest and squidgiest versions around. 

Decide how you want them to sit

The idea is for your sitting room to look cosy, casual and effortless, not for it to look styled to an inch of its life. A neat trio of cushions of different shapes and sizes are low-maintenance and look cool bunched to one side, and so do two extra-wide cushions that fit neatly the width of your sofa. Whatever style you go for, don’t overload your couch, or cushions will end up spilling off, and you could even end up sliding off onto the floor yourself. I made this mistake last time and now realise I had far too many cushions – I was forever having to pick them off the floor as they were always being thrown off by my teenage boys.

Keep it practical

Make a distinction between decorative and functional, and stick to it. I have a few round cushions I bought years ago from The Conran Shop that, although they look perfectly lovely, are no use to man or beast. They now sit on my rocker chair in the corner of the room which is also now purely decorative as one of the legs is broken (a simple fix that will also take me a year to get round to, like buying new cushions).

CHANGE AROUND frequently

Finally I would stick to my original point that cushions really do update any sofa in a flash. Changing or adding to them every so often is one of the cheapest ways of switching up your sitting room and unless you have very expensive taste, won't cost more than what you'd spend on a pizza and a bottle of wine with friends. If you are not like me and can actually make up your mind, that is.

Click here for Lucy's cushion edit

@luce29

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