A Bluffer’s Guide to Cushions: Designer, Decorative, Sizes, Fillings, Styling & more
Don’t underestimate the power of the humble cushion. These simple soft furnishings are way more than just a cush for our toosh – they can make living spaces striking, are an easy way to add a seasonal feel to your adode, create an instant ‘homely’ feel, and they are both practical and decorative.
Cushions are an easy, affordable soft furnishing piece that can transform a room or living spaces using colour, pattern, texture, shape, size and design. Not to be confused with a pillow, which is usually much larger and used for the head, the cushion is usually used to support other parts of the body or as a purely decorative piece – or both! They come in a range of shapes and styles and are an Aussie icon seen on sofas, chairs, beds, day beds, outdoor furniture, or for sitting on.
Cushion: the definition
In its simplest term, a cushion is a soft bag of some ornamental material, stuffed with feathers, wool, or other fibres including man-made materials such as polyester, bean bag balls, or other stuffing. “We love down fill,” explains No Chintz owner and Creative Director Chrissie Jeffery. “It can be a little hard on the pocket, however we’ve found a mixture of polyester and feather gives loft and helps retain the shape long term.”
Use cushions on chairs for comfort, support and as decorative pieces. “We at No Chintz love a cushion and believe they can come in any size or shape – it’s rare we come across a piece of fabric we can’t turn into a cushion,” says Chrissie. Orange cushion made-to-order using Ruff in Cumquat, $59.90 per meter, floral cushion available from a range in-store and online at No Chintz. Upholstered chair in Bukhara Ikat in Henna Olive, $97 per meter, featuring Catstripe Multi in Olive, $47 per meter. Lampshade in Allsorts Stripe in Charcoal, $31.50 per meter. Curtains made using Zanzibar in Saffron, $56 per meter with Barmer Chartreuse contrast panel, $46, all made-to-order at No Chintz.
The History of the Cushion
Cushions date back eons and span the globe. They were found in the great tombs of ancient Egyptian Pharaohs as head rests to prop up the body, and they were and are still used in Japan and Thailand as floor seats. In the Middle East, oversized floor cushions were found in the harems and great palaces for people to sit on, while in medieval times they were used as kneeling cushions for religious and Knighting ceremonies and during the early Middle Ages they were a sign of wealth in the great palaces. Not surprisingly, they often featured in the wealthier homes, as historically, dyes, hand-woven fabrics and the intricate embroideries and needlework of the time were very expensive.
These are likely to have a fancy cover material which can vary from patterns to prints, feature delicate needlework, embroidery, embellishments or be hand-woven and dyed. Generally used to decorate furniture and to bring together colour accents within a room, drawing together the colours in curtains, walls, furniture and rugs. Others feature applique, trims around the edges and fine fabrics. Ideally, these are used as the name suggests, as decorative pieces, as the fabrics take a little more care that cushions designed to lounge around on, which tend to be more hard wearing and durable. “Decorative cushions come with different uses – some are robust and meant to be used and abused, like outdoor cushions or throws in family rooms,” explains Chrissie. “Others are not really designed for hard wear and tear.”
Use a base colour palette, like blues, and then vary the spectrum from sapphire or cobalt blues to pales and aqua, mixing them up with a range of patterns – from stripes to spots or ikat designs, textures like roughs and irregular weaves, fabrics weights and sizes to add depth and interest to the look. You’ll often find decorative cushions are made of luxurious fabrics, like silk, hand-woven and hand-dyed yarn and luxurious velvets, a great winter fabric to add warmth to your rooms. All cushions available from a range at No Chintz in-store or made-to-order.
Artists, Fashion designers, Textiles aficionados and creative geniuses have in recent times broadened their medium from the painting easel to fabric design, so people can literally have a work of art that’s as visually cool as it is functional – with local designers leading the charge. “I’ve seen enormous growth in local designers producing cushion ranges over the past five years,” explains Chrissie. “It’s been very exciting to be able to offer these ranges in store. Each designer brings their own unique take on the cushion, all reflecting a wonderful Australian take on pattern.” International designers are also broadening their ranges. Case in point: French fashion designer Christian Lacroix began his career on the catwalk creating haut-couture gowns and then ready-to-wear before expanding his design empire to include jewellery, handbags and shoes to porcelain dinner wear, cushions and now, you can even score a Christian Lacroix mobile phone cover!
Bonnie and Neil: Bonnie and Neil are one of Australia’s most popular independent textile design studios. The dynamic duo, Bonnie Ashley and Neil Downie, relocated from New Zealand to Australia and launched the design studio in 2010. Their style is influenced by their background in floristry, art, textiles, furniture and set design, and their textiles and homewares range often feature bright and bold prints.
Natalie Atkinson: Textiles Designer for No Chintz, Natalie Atkinson, on the other hand, studied textiles and fabric design and specialises in vibrant colour, with beautiful and classic fabric designs printed on the highest quality fabrics.
No Chintz’s Textiles Designer Natalie Atkinson’s Vintage Bloom (left) with orange piping (also available in tourmaline, forest and cranberry), from $185. Pouch (top left), Geometric embroidered with fringe and (bottom) denim with circular embroidery, all Megan Park’s previous collections. Linen with blue fern (top right), Florence Broadhurst. All cushions available from a range in-store at No Chintz.
Give your cushion display a bolster with, you guessed it, a bolster! A bolster is a long narrow pillow or cushion filled with cotton, down or fiber. They are usually firm for back or arm support or used simply for decorative application. Bolster look great placed at the front of a cushion display on beds, when mixed and matched with different sized cushions on day beds, or on children’s beds.
Cushions for catching zzzz’s
Make a slumber sanctuary with a cushion display that’s as comfy as it is inviting. Bed pillows and cushions are a necessity to get the not too hard, not too soft but just right, dear Goldilocks! “We have a wide variety of fills at No Chintz for bed pillows – feather down, silk, polyester and latex,” explains Chrissie. “However, for cushions on the bed I prefer a mixture of polyester and feather, or just feather because they retain their shape, as opposed to a polyester only fill. Chrissie says there’s a few cushion display styles you can create, from traditional to a more simple modern style. “For traditional, create balance with two large cushions at the back and two slightly smaller cushions at front and one long oblong at the front,” she explains. “This creates a landscape effect, giving it height and a presence on the bed. But that’s a lot of cushions. A simpler version with a formal appearance is two large cushions, usually 65cm x 80cm, with a single pillow in front, 50cm x 65cm. Three pillows to arrange is much easier in the mornings!” And for a casual look? “Try one large square pillow, 70 cm, and another 65cm x 50cm cushion with a smaller square, 40cm, in front.”
All Shapes and Sizes!
Cushions have evolved over the past 30 years and now come in all shapes and sizes, says Chrissie. “When I first started making cushion, people would have five cushions on a sofa, all the same size,” she explains. “Nothing dates you more than a pile of cushions all the same size! Or too many cushions! Today, the trend is for a small number of cushions in interesting shapes, whether square or oblong, scattered on your furniture to give interest and comfort. They help pull in various colours and patterns to give cohesion to your interior. Use cushions on your sofa that pick up the colour of the rug or curtains, to break up large blocks of colour.”
Cushions come in a whole range of shapes, from rectangular to circular and bolster styles, which are cylindrical in shape. The most common size in Australia is 50cm x 50cm, but when mixed and matched with larger sizes positioned at the back of a display and smaller interesting shapes at the front, they look fab.
No Chintz have a made-to-order Cushion Program, which is a first-of-its-kind for online fabrics and soft furnishings in Australia. People can to choose from over 140 fabrics, and a nine shapes and sizes, online, and have their new customised cushions delivered to their door!
A cushion stack shows how to mix fabric texture with patterns and stripes. “This is a great combination of mixing dark with lights and strong bold stripes with variegated single patterns and a strong texture in a colour of the same depth, but not necessarily the same colour,” explains Chrissie. Cushions from top: Ribble in Indigo, $96 per meter, Ikat, from $76 per meter range with Awning Stripe in Capri, $56 per meter, Ikat, from $76 per meter range with Awning Stripe in Charcoal, $56 per meter.
There’s all types of cushion edgings and finishes for cushions – piped, flanged, trimmed with rope or fringe, braided, boxed edged, contrast trim… “The way to finish a cushion is many and varied,” explains Chrissie. Some of the more popular styles are piped, boxed and fringed.
So called because they have piping along the side seam as a feature to separate the back panel from the front. Use contrasting colours to create interest or the same fabric as a lovely finish. They can be used as couch cushions when made from more practical and hard wearing fabrics, but can as be decorative.
“Piping adds a refined edge to cushion and define outside edges with contrasting colour,” explains No Chintz Visual Merchandiser Lisa Llavero. “Piping is a great detail if you have multiple cushions on display in different fabrics, cushions, colours because the piping detail unify the look.” Cushion fabrics from No Chintz new Australiana Natives Fabric Collection. Cushions from left to right all made-to-order from No Chintz: (top) Twill stripe in Yellow, $87 per meter, Gumnut, $110 per meter, Zanzibar in Musk, $56 per meter, Zanzibar in Sea, $56 per meter, Cabana Stripe, $POA.
Fancy fringes and trims in contrasting colours are more decorative than functional, but add a heap more interest to cushions.
Bonny and Neil Gondwana Cushion in Blue, $145, is 40cm x 40cm and made from 100% Linen, and Bonnie and Neil Floral Garland in Pink, $145, 50cm x 50cm is made from 100% Linen and comes with a black and white fringe.
Panelled Boxed Cushion
Perfect for sitting on hard floors or on chairs, boxed cushions have panel inserts to create a box shape. “They are also known as walled cushions,” explains Lisa. “They are definitely thicker and more comfy to sit on that smaller decorative cushions and tend to be made with more durable fabrics like cotton and linen.”
This aqua panelled box cushion uses the wall to add contrast with bright colours and piping. Walled Boxed Cushion on chair made using Ruff in Tourmaline, Cumquat and Splice, $59 per meter. Chair available from a selection of furniture available at No Chintz. Curtain, Waratah print, from new Australiana Native Collection available at No Chintz.
Love Miss Stitched x