The Art of Throw Pillows: Everything You Need to Know

There will always be people who see pillows as nothing more than fabric pockets filled with fluffiness intended to offer you comfort. They are a soft place to land, for sure, but they are also a good way to accessorize your living space without breaking the bank. The only problem with pillow placing is that it’s all too easy to do it wrong. Overdoing it tends to be the more common mistake, but you can just as easily underdo it. Here are some things to consider when you’re thoughtfully “throwing” your decorative pillows onto their respective canvasses.



Big and Small

Not all your pillows need to be the same size and shape. Don’t be afraid to mix it up! The 18 inch, square pillow isn’t your only option. While the standard is quite attractive and seems to work on most sofas, what it doesn’t consider is the beauty that’s afforded to us via our depth perception. Think of it this way. Imagine if the New York City skyline were composed of buildings that were all the same size and shape. All of them standing in a neat row, one after another. Not a very satisfying sight, is it? This is because the eye wants to dance around beauty, not scan it. Give your pillow arrangement curves and corners, talls and shorts, inners and outers. Doing so will allow you to behold a better and much more interesting view.



How Many?

Rule of thumb: If you can’t see the sofa back, you have too many pillows on your sofa. In keeping with the NYC skyline analogy, it’s important to acknowledge the importance of the sky and light that peek through the cityscape. In terms of design, your sofa or chair back and bed’s headboard need to be somewhat visible. On the flipside, one lonely pillow sitting in the center of your sofa of average dimensions is a sad visual. Even if it’s a pillow that has the word “family” or “love” stitched across it in a fancy font, it won’t be enough. Frankly, it’d be better to forgo the throw pillow altogether. If you want to display your support of “family” or “love” and don’t have enough throw pillows to round out the design, put your “family” or “love” on a shelf or a chair. Or, perhaps, just keep them in your heart where they are better served.



Textures & Patterns

The pursuit of a “pop of color” is often what motivates us to go the decorative pillow route in the first place. This seems easy enough; a little color seasoning here and there can only enhance the vibe of the room, after all. What needs to be considered, however, is the intended vibe of the room first and foremost. Is it an industrial space? Romantic? Whatever the case may be, this is where fabric textures and patterns need to be thoughtfully chosen. A soft, shiny satin pillow with a rosebud pattern sitting on angular Avant-garde sofa is an odd juxtaposition. All your choices should complement one another. That same pillow, placed on an equally pretty sofa would also fail miserably if you gave it, say, pillow neighbors dressed in hemp or wool. Or, if you put that authentic satin pillow next to an acetate one. Real satin and fake satin resting side by side? Why? That’s like wearing a zircon wedding band with a diamond engagement ring. Think of decorative pillow placing as trying to tell a story through shape, color, pattern, and texture. Like words, each of them conveys meaning. Each has something to say individually. Strung together, however, they must work to communicate your message clearly. If you want to tell the story of modern durability, then that chiffon pillow, much as you love it, should probably be replaced with something like a jute one. Also, don’t be afraid to do a seasonal swap of your throw pillows. The heavy velvet ones that call winter to mind, for example, can be stored away and replaced with your light and airy ramie ones once summer approaches.



So, the next time someone observes your sofa and mocks you for having too many pillows that seem to value art over function, remind them that art, too, can serve a function. In this pillow case (wink wink), it can artfully get people into your design story and off your sofa at the same time.



Images used with permission, courtesy of and

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