All About Pillows

Posted In Design - 12/03/2016

While many people view them as small detail, a few throw pillows can actually transform a room. These simple accents may bring in new hues or highlight existing ones, make bold statements or add quiet warmth. They brighten up solid-colored couches and add visual interest to beds, breakfast nooks, and chairs. More than anything, however, pillows add personality. Decorative pillows allow you to create a personal design statement that makes even the most basic furniture unique. For enviable pillow arrangements, keep these tips in mind.

Start with the Right Materials

Most accent pillows consist of cases and inserts that may be sold together or separately. Detachable cases make switching your pillow designs easy and affordable, while attached cases create one consistent look.

Pillow Cases

When choosing cases, stay practical.

Beading and embroidery look striking on little-used window seats or beds but may feel too scratchy for everyday use.'


The furniture the pillow sits on can also make a difference. Slick silk pillows will slide right off slippery leather couches. Instead, try contrasting fabric textures for an eye-catching look that's also functional.

Pillow Inserts

What's inside a pillow is often just as important as what's on the outside. Inserts come with a variety of fillings from natural down to synthetic materials. While more expensive, down feels the softest. Foam and polyester are affordable options that are a little stiffer but also hold their shape longer.

Choose Colors and Textures

Pillows are an excellent way to balance color in your space, whether you need to add some vibrancy tone down bright furniture or bring disparate pieces together. If your room already has a lot of patterns, it's best to stick with solid-colored pieces. Try using contrasting hues, like orange and blue, to bring the drama. For a more soothing combination, stick to neighbors on the color wheel such as blue and green. Pulling accent colors from art, blankets, rugs, or other furniture can help tie the room together.

Rooms with mostly neutral-colored furnishings often require more visual interest than those with brighter hues to feel warm and inviting. To add depth while staying within a calm palette, try using pillows with plenty of texture and pattern. Ruffled or velvet pieces work well in traditional settings, while pillows covered in burlap or other homespun fabrics are shabby chic.

Consider Size

When buying decorative toss pillows, size matters. Standard squares measuring about 18 inches are made to fit neatly on an average sofa. For a more relaxed look, choose oversize pillows, which may measure 24 inches or more. If your pillows will sit on a low-backed sofa or headboard-less bed, smaller squares of about 16 inches or rectangular pillows may work best.

Play with Pattern

With a few basic tips, grouping throw pillows for the couch can be simple and fun. Those who like the security of a blueprint can stick to the basic, no-fail formula of one pattern and one solid color. This classic look adds visual interest without overwhelming the eye.

Another popular option pairs one simple print, one elaborate print, and one solid color. For example, try using an accent pillow with refined stripes along with one featuring dramatic florals and another in a solid shade. In general, mixing linear patterns with free-flowing ones creates appealing contrast. Consider using animal prints and plaids or curving vines and polka dots.

Experiment with Arrangement

We've all sat on a couch with too many pillows. To avoid that feeling of being edged off the sofa by territorial marshmallows, create a full look using perspective to your advantage. Larger pillows often look best at either end of the couch rather than in the middle. These pillows anchor the rest of your arrangement and won't need to be moved for guests to sit comfortably. Toward the center of the couch, pillows should be smaller. This creates more physical and visual space, making your sofa appear open and inviting.

Pillows for Your Decor Style: Traditional

Classic designs tend to favor even numbers of pillows and symmetrical arrangements. Two or four decorative throw pillows divided equally between either end of the couch or one pillow on each of your two chairs would fit well with this style. Lush fabrics, like velvet and silk, and trims, including tassels and beads, complement traditional furniture's curving lines and ornate carvings.

For Modern Spaces

Contemporary designs that trend toward the sleek usually arrange pillows in odd numbers like three or five. Unlike traditional decor, modern styling focuses on creating interesting proportions rather than strict balance. For minimalist rooms, a few big pillows look more streamlined than a heap of smaller ones. Stay away from gaudy trims and aim for clean lines and blocks of color. Geometric prints, such as chevrons, may also give rooms a modern look.

Eclectic Designs

For contemporary homes with a more eclectic or bohemian feel, it's okay to embrace variety. Consider large floor pillows for a casual seating alternative, or stick to arrangements of mismatched yet harmonious throw pillows. The goal of this style is to appear as if these pieces just happen to be here and look great together.

When creating diverse arrangements, the goal is to keep at least one element of your design the same. For example, groups of pillows with one theme can look unique yet coordinated. Collections of floral print pillows in a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes can look sophisticated without being stuffy. Similar size or color range are also excellent ways to tie together many textures and prints.

Go With What You Like

Despite these general guidelines, there will always be arrangements that follow no rules but their own, yet simply look right together. This just goes to illustrate our final tip for selecting throw pillows: the right pillows for your home are the ones that look right to you. Whatever your choices, remember to be open to trying new things. As long as you enjoy the way throw pillows look in your space, it's likely that others will, too.

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