And, Why I’m Proud To Be Called A Pillow Fluffer!
When I was in design school back in the late 80’s, I would quip smugly that interior design is so much more than just figuring out the throw pillows.
Years later, I realized that I was wrong.
Actually, throw pillows are everything.
Well, almost everything.
Don’t believe me? Check out the following rooms and put your finger over the pillows and imagine that same room without them.
Above and below by me.
My living room.
A room without beautiful throw pillows would be like:
Jennifer Aniston jumping out of the shower without blow drying her lovely hair and then showing up on Oscar night in her Versace with massive amounts of frizz. Oh, the tongues would be wagging about that one!
I mean, the pillows are front and center. Put a cheap (but still nice) fabric on the sofa. No one will notice because you spent your wad on the exquisite fabric on the pillows! That is what they and you will notice most.
In fact, if you muck up your pillows, you can destroy your room in one fell swoop of goose down.
It is very easy to screw up your throw pillows. I see it all the time. Flat, shapeless, limp, lumpy and sad.
We shall have none of that.
What I didn’t realize back in 1988 is that decorative throw pillows are actually quite complex creatures.
Here’s the skinny on what to do and look out for.
Unless you’re highly allergic, all throw pillows should be filled with a nice fluffy mixture of down and feathers. Please. The optimal IMO is 50/50 down but 30/70 is fine and even a good quality 10/90 is preferable to some crappy foam insert.
However… for the highly allergic (and I say highly because there are the down/feathers, the down-proof case and then the outer cover between the victim and his allergen), there is something else. It’s usually called a down alternative.
United Pillow actually makes a nice one.
But, please don’t get your real down and feather pillow inserts from United Pillow.
That is, unless you like the smell of dead duck. Not joking. It’s a rather foul (haha) odor. I spoke to them about it and they weren’t very helpful. Oh well.
I’ve been getting my down and feather inserts from Cuddle Down. They sell retail and to the trade. The inserts are wonderful! Their standard 90/10 is actually quite nice but their 50/50 is like floating on a cloud. The latter is a custom order. If anyone knows of any other great sources for down and feather pillow inserts, please let us know.
I can spot a polyester insert in about .0001 seconds. That’s how much they stand out. There is almost nothing that will cheapen your room more quickly. Yes, the down and feather inserts are more money but I think that is an expenditure that is worth every dollar.
You want your pillow filling to be nice and full.
In fact, better too full than too skimpy. If you are doing say a 20″x20″ throw pillow and your insert is also 20×20, it will be too skimpy. The only exception might be a particularly dense insert, but they usually aren’t dense enough.
Here’s the rule:
If your pillow is 18″ or larger, then the insert should be two inches larger on each side or 20 x 20.
However, if it’s a lumbar pillow and one side is smaller or a square with sides less than 18″, the increase is only one inch.
So, if your finished size is 14 x 24 then the insert should be 15 x 26.
I have even gotten a 24×24 insert into a 20″ pillow. Absolutely fine. So better too big than too small. Too small and your pillows will look they had their stomach stapled and lost 100 lbs. No flabby pillows please.
How large should the throw pillows be?
Well, it depends on the size of the furniture.
But, dinky pillows are not rich.
For most sofas, if doing four pillows, I do two @20″ and two @22.”
OH! and BTW, very important. If you don’t already know this, pillows should be measured UNFILLED– from seam to seam (or welt to welt if there’s welting). I got into trouble recently, because one of my vendors measures their pillows filled which is not an industry standard. First of all, it’s impossible to get an accurate and consistent measurement when they are filled.
If you order throw pillows from a furniture manufacturer, do not assume that they know the proper way to fill a pillow.
Last year I ordered a whole mess of pillows from CR Laine and furniture too for a wonderful client. Usually, I have the pillows custom-made, but not always. This time, we were using mostly their fabrics and trim, so it made sense to do their pillows.
The size that came with the sofa was 18″. This is what an 18″ pillow looks like.
They weren’t made for these chairs. I’ve had these pillows for 20 years and still love them! They are a little small, but acceptable, I think. I would’ve done a 20″ pillow if I had made the pillows for these chairs.
Therefore, I did a custom order and did two pillows at 20″ and two at 22″. You can see that in the images above of my living room and my client’s living room with the yellow sofa. Lumbar pillows are usually about 14″ x 22″ or so. The one in my living room is a non-custom pillow from Bliss Studio.
This client received her CR Laine furniture and was happy. But after weeks, the pillows were bugging her and they were bugging me too a little, quite frankly. I measured them. And, they were from 2″ to as much as 4″ larger than specified!
Below, you can see the pillows the way they arrived.
Beautiful, but mostly a little too big. It’s primarily the black pillows and the ones in the window seat were the really huge ones. The floral pillow is fine.
I called my rep who said that they measure the pillow when it is filled.
How do they know how big to cut it then?
That makes no sense because the fill size could be lots of different things depending on how full it is. I’m not trying to be a miss-know-it-all, but in my 24 year working history have never heard of such a thing. We did take care of it and the pillows are perfect now!
For chairs, you will need to measure the inside but it gets a bit tricky because the pillow “shrinks” after it’s filled. I find if the interior is let’s say 20″ wide, I would not go wider than 22″ if a lumbar pillow or 20″ for a square pillow.
Sadly, we can no longer stand behind CR Laine. :[ You can find out why here.
My favorite brand for upholstered sofas, chair and ottomans is now Lee Industries.
What else do you need to be concerned about with your throw pillows.
Make sure they put in zippers!!! Don’t assume they will, because as soon as you do that, your pillows will come without them. Of course, you’ll want to be able to remove the pillow cover for cleaning purposes.
- Pillow corners. I like mine pretty sharp. I am not fond of pleated corners. Sharp corners = upscale, expensive. Pleated corners, no.
The best places to get cool designer throw pillows
Well, it used to be that the only way was to have them made. But that was then and now, you can get amazing pillows in zillions of places.
One place to get pillows with expensive designer fabric for not-a-lot-of-$ is Etsy.
But here’s what you need to know about Etsy pillows.
- Although it looks like only one person is making them, they are made by many vendors, but there’s an “Etsy style”
- There’s usually no welting. I actually like this and sometimes do specify pillows without welting as it gives them a little more modern look. But if you like welting, you’ll need to find out if they’ll do that.
- The expensive fabric is usually only on one side and on the back is something plain and far less expensive. However, they will do the expensive fabric on both sides, but of course the pillow will cost more.
- The pattern may or may not be centered on the pillow. You’ll need to specify if it’s important to you and/or if it’s a pattern that would look bizarre with an off-center pattern.
- Is there a particular part of the pattern you’d like to see or not see? Again, you’ll need to expect an upcharge for that.
- The pillows might not match each other if ordering in pairs. In some situations, I actually prefer that because there’s a huge repeat and/or I won’t get to see parts of the pattern I’d like to see. Sometimes I’ll have them put one part on one side and the other part on the back.
- The pillows do not come with inserts.
Who knew that ordering throw pillows could be so complex?
I didn’t until I started working in the business and that is when I found out the truth.
And finally, some great sources for throw pillows.
Most of these are in Laurel’s Rolodex, but there are dozens more in the rolodex not listed here.
Just a tiny sampling above with sources like Quadrille, F. Schumacher, Scalamandre, etc. Please pin to pinterest if you like!
And now, I hope that you’ll like this.
Below are numerous pairings of five pillows each in rows. If you click on any image, it will take you to the source.
Most of these pillows come in a wide variety of sizes and most come in both lumbar and square versions.
And below, are some of my favorite sources for ready-made pillows. Some of these sources also sell high-end window treatments and other soft-goods, made to order.
- Etsy (lots and lots of great places, but these are some that I particularly like)
- Arianna Belle
- Pop O Color on Etsy
- Kline Deco
- Lynn Chalk* (also fabulous window treatments!)
- Spark Modern
- Stuck on Hue
- Studio Tullia
- McGee & Co.
- Williams Sonoma Home
- Serena and Lily
- Janet Kain Home
- Eastern Accents
- John Robshaw
- Caitlin Wilson
- One Kings Lane
Oh, One last tip.
If you are looking for something on Etsy, but don’t know where to find it; let’s say you see a designer fabric like a Quadrille fabric for example. Go to your google search box and put in the name of the fabric and pillow and Etsy too, if you like. Hit images. They’ll all pop up. :]
PS: Happy Mother’s Day! I’m spending a beautiful weekend with my son and girlfriend who are showing me a wonderful time in western Massachusetts!