Pillow vs. Cushion: What’s the difference?

Pillows and cushions are an important part of any home. They add a much-enjoyed touch of coziness to everything from the bedroom to living room decor. They can also be easily be swapped out depending on the season. As you browse for furniture, though, you may wonder about the distinction between the two.

So, what is the difference between pillows and cushions? For the sake of an easy shopping experience, you can think of it like this:

  • Pillows serve a more functional role in the bedroom; they are meant to support your head, neck, and spinal alignment.
  • Cushions are thought of as decorative accents for couches, chairs, and the like. This term can also refer to the removable seats on the same pieces of furniture.

In truth, this distinction is more about semantics than anything else. Still, it helps to know where to draw the line when you’re reading about interior design or looking for new pieces for your home. Let’s dig a little deeper into the proper use of both pillows and cushions to help you better understand the difference.

A collage of white pillow on bed and two sofa cushions, Pillow vs. Cushion: What's the difference?

What Is A Pillow Used For?

Your use of pillows should be more about function than form. These are the pieces you keep on your bed while you’re sleeping, the most common of which is used to support your head.

Of course, you can also find body pillows that help promote better spinal alignment based on the position you like to sleep in.

If you bought a comforter set, there’s a chance it came with some pillows that are meant to be displayed while the bed is made up. These are actually closer to cushions than pillows, as they have a solely decorative purpose.

Finding The Right Pillow For You

Most people don’t realize that changing your pillow every couple of years is optimal for a good night’s rest. And that probably means you’re due for a new pillow.

To get the perfect blend of comfort and support, a classic down pillow is always a good choice. For example, take these.

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If you have allergies, a hypoallergenic memory foam could be just the ticket to a restful night. Try this one on for size.

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If you have serious neck pain, something contoured to the slope of your neck can make all the difference.

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Finally, if you’d like some additional support, you can turn to body pillows like this one.

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Or you can tailor your sleep experience even further and get wedges that allow your spine to relax throughout the night. Take this piece for example.

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What Is A Cushion Used For?

Cushions, since they’re about adding color and texture more than serving a function, allow you to get creative in your home decor.

The most obvious placement for these accents is the sofa in your living room. However, you can pretty much use them anywhere! The armchair in your reading nook, on your guest bed, and even the bench in your mudroom make great spots for cushions.

Read more: What Is The Mudroom In A House?

The Right Cushions For Your Home

When it comes to picking out cushions for your home, you’ll want to consider color, texture, and style. The colors in the cushions should pick up an understated color from the furniture it’s resting on or be complementary.

Playing around with texture catches the eye, much like getting subtler colors to pop does. The best way to get playful without overwhelming the senses is to get one cushion with an unusual fabric and group it together with some more traditional accent pillows.

Finally, if you’re setting one cushion on a chair or bench, you can consider getting something with words on it or a piece that’s a bit flashier.

Colorful Choices

So, now that you have a better idea of how to use cushions in theory, let’s take a look at some practical pieces.

If you have a contemporary design scheme and a metallic colored couch, consider this set of cushions.

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The silver and bronze color combination will provide a nice complement, while the whimsical patterns offer intrigue.

For a traditional home with a simple, muted couch, turn to something that grabs attention without being too demanding.

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The simple pattern and classic, understated colors will provide just enough pizzazz to break up the monotony. The design is not so obnoxious as to overpower the rest of the decor, though.

Finally, for the perfect marriage of traditional and modern, consider something like this.

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These pieces are perfect on a white or gray couch. Add a throw blanket in a similar shade of blue, and you’ll have an aesthetically pleasing look in no time.

Playing With Texture

There are plenty of different textured cushions out there, from the understated to the bold. How wacky you choose to get is completely up to you.

For a simple way to shake things up, look to this piece.

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The subtle combination of different textures on one pillow is balanced out by the simple colors. This piece looks great in classic homes.

Employing a similar method, this piece draws the eye with its fringe and has a universal design that allows it to fit into any decor style.

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For something bolder, consider a modern powerhouse: the shag pillow.

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Though it should be used in moderation, it’s a sure-fire way to add some visual interest to a couch or accent chair.

For something a bit daintier but just as eye-catching, consider this flower pillow, which makes a lovely statement in a traditional home.

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Message Pillows

Looking for a way to boldly welcome friends as they sit down to take off their shoes? Or perhaps you want to mix up the look and feel of your guest room reading nook. A message pillow can be a charming and simple way to accomplish your goals.

Take this adorable play on words, for example.

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On the other hand, this message pillow has a few accent colors that’d be easy to pick up with a second pillow or accompanying throw blanket.

Read more: What Is A Throw Blanket For? [Inc. Decor Ideas]

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What Is an Accent Pillow?

Now that you’re much more familiar with the difference between pillows and cushions, you may find yourself asking, what is an accent pillow?

Not to make things more complicated, but this term is typically used as a synonym for cushion. Accent pillows are not meant for practical use and therefore aren’t pillows as we’ve defined them here.

In Closing

Finally, the terms should be clearly defined for you, which means you’re ready to go forth and add pillows and cushions to your home with savvy design.

To help you make the most of your new knowledge, check out this guide: Do Throw Pillows Need To Match?

And once you’ve picked out your ideal combination of cushions, check out this guide: How To Arrange Throw Pillows On A Corner Sofa Or Sectional Couch?

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