Cushions are the quickest and least expensive way of changing the mood and style of a room, so it is surprising that we don’t all have cupboards(closets) bursting with alternative covers awaiting their chance to be the main feature in response to our prevailing mood. It is difficult to imagine having too many cushions because each one adds to the atmosphere of comfort and relaxation, which is a priority in any living space.
Use the colour, texture, shape and size of cushions to add interest to a room. The same room with a plain sofa, carpet and neutral wall colour can be transformed by an arrangement of Chinese embroidered and tasselled satin cushions, rough homespun earthy-coloured bolsters or frilled red gingham squares mixed with patchworks and cotton lace. The mood each time will be entirely different. Just a few other options to consider are Provencal prints, Indian hand-blocked cottons, rich brocades, velvets and satins, or tactile velvets.
Cushions with borders (Oxford pleated or gathered), edges adorned with colourful piping or braids, appliquéd patterns and pictures created from embroidery or fabric paint and patchwork covers: the ways that cushions can he adorned are limitless. Mix similar patterns but with different colours, or similar colours but a variety of patterns. Look at the many textured fabrics that add a tactile pleasure to the visual: cottons, suede, leather, velvet, silk, wool; each has a place in the sitting room.
Large, square cushions mixed with smaller, rectangular or round ones can be piled very successfully one on top of the other. Bolsters, too, can be used as the base for a luxurious mix of cushions. The secret is to use them to fill the angle between a sofa sear and back or bed mattress and head. Then pile other cushions on top to make a gentle slope at the perfect angle for an afternoon cup of tea or a long and absorbing hook. Wrap a bolster in a lace-edged tablecloth, tying up the ends with ribbon, Christmas-cracker style, so that they spill out over the edge of the sofa, or use velvet-edged ribbons, fancy cords and tassels for flamboyant Renaissance look.
A comfortable cross between a bolster and loose cushions can be made by stitching together a row of same-sized cushions. Use cushions covered in the same fabric or choose a mixture of plain covers and co-ordinating prints. Using a strong thread, sew one edge of each cushion together to make a single long, jointed cushion that is the same width as the sofa or bed.
Look out for fabric-remnant bins because they usually contain a wealth of short lengths that arc ideal for cushion covers. It is also worth looking in haberdashery (notions) departments for dressmaker’s trimmings such as fringing, lace, braids, ribbons and beadwork borders. These are not as hard for caring as upholsterer’s trimmings but cost a fraction of the price and are perfectly adequate for cushions. Don’t despair if you don’t like sewing as covers can be made just as effectively using iron-on hemming tape, double-sided carpet tape or pins and knots.
Few things immediately suggest luxury and comfort as easily as white linen cushions do, and they are well worth the investment.
If you have always thought that cushions just belonged in the living room and pillows were only for sleeping on, then perhaps it is time to consider giving cushions a bit of bed space too. A cushion can be merely decorative and it can be highly pleasing to dress up your bed during the day, particularly if it is going to be on show, and then removed at night. This sort of bed dressing is fun when decorating, because there will be periods when the room stands empty but still needs to look welcoming.
In addition to the essential equipment needed for creating any form of soft furnishing, there are specific items to help make cushions:
Corner turner: this tool is useful for turning points and corners of cushions. Embroidery hoop: this consists of two hoops that fit snugly inside each other. Made of wood or plastic, with a spring closure, it is used for both hand and machine embroidery.
Fabric dyes: hot and cold dyes are available. Fabrics with natural fibres, such as cotton and linen, can be dyed most successfully.
Fabric paints: there is a wide range of easy-to-use products. Choose water-based paints that can be fixed (set) with an iron. The paints can be mixed and applied with a brush to create an unlimited number of colours.
Pair of compasses: use these for drawing circles. If you do not have your own compasses, draw around cups for small circles; to draw larger circles use plates or bowls.