Throw Pillows – Everything You Need to Know

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

And, Why I’m Proud To Be Called A Pillow Fluffer!

 

When I was in design school back in the late ’80s, 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, put your finger over the pillows, and imagine that same room without them.

 

Pound-ridge-lr-coffee-table - throw pillows - image LB Interiors

Above and below by me.

 

Laurel Bern Interiors Portfolio - throw pillows on a Lee Sofa

My old living room in Bronxville, NY.

 

Veneto_Throw Pillows_Ashley_Whitaker_House_Beautiful_September_2012

Ashley Whittaker via House Beautiful

 

collins-interiors-pretty-living-room-with-lovely-throw-pillows

Cynthia Collins

 

Throw pillows are one of the easiest ways to add a lot of pizazz to your interiors.

 

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.

What I didn’t realize back in 1988 is that decorative throw pillows are actually quite complex.

 

Here’s the skinny on what to do and look out for.

 

Inserts

 

Okay, there was a time when I kind of turned up my nose on anything but down and feather pillows. And, preferably a blend of 50/50 down and feathers.

However, these days with so many people not wanting anything from an animal, allergies, expense… Whatever the reason, I am acquiescing from that stance.

Actually, the down alternative fills that are 100% polyester are quite nice. Please note that this is not a foam insert. No foam inserts for throw pillows, please.

 

I still love the 50/50 down insert, but 30/70 is fine, and even a good quality 10/90 is preferable to some crappy foam insert.

 

You want your pillow filling to be nice and full.

 

In fact, better to 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, 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 like they had their stomach stapled and lost 100 lbs. No flabby pillows, please.

 

Where to get pillow inserts for throw pillows?

 

Well, you can get them at any big box store. However, if you want some that are higher quality, one fantastic source is

Dekowe Pillows

 

There are also dozens of terrific sources on Etsy.

 

And, Arianna Bell also sells them. In addition, they have a more detailed tutorial and cheat sheets for sizing.

 

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 they know the proper way to fill a pillow.

 

Storytime.

 

Usually, I have the pillows custom-made, but not always. Last year, I ordered a mess of pillows from CR Laine and furniture for a wonderful client. We were mostly using their fabrics and trim this time, so it made sense to do their pillows.

The size for the sofa was 18″. This is what an 18″ pillow looks like.

 

living room bronxville New York - My old throw pillows from a discontinued Clarence House tapestry

My old living room in Bronxville, NY

They weren’t made for these chairs. I’ve had these pillows for 24 years and still love them! They are a little small but acceptable, I think.

 

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 24″ 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, 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.

 

The square throw pillows are a little too large

(This is the client, now dear friend with the fantastic kitchen!)

 

Beautiful, but mostly a little too big. It’s primarily the black pillows on the sofa, 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.

What?

 

How do they know how big to cut it then?

 

That makes no sense because the fill size could be many 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 19″-20″ for a square pillow.

 

What else do you need to be concerned about with your throw pillows?

 

Make sure they put in zippers!!! Please don’t assume they will because your pillows will come without them as soon as you do that. 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 are not my preference. But, it’s important to specify if it’s important to you.

 

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. Sometimes I’ll have them put one part on one side and the other part on the back. 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.
  • 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.

 

In addition, there are two sources, each with a gorgeous website, that I’d like to highlight.

 

The first is Hollie Rich of StuckOnHue.

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Hollie is a delightful, and frequent commenter. At present, her Etsy shop is closed. She chose to focus her brand on her own website. And, the website is absolutely gorgeous.

[By the way, after what happened this week to me, building your brand on your own website is always a good idea! Please scroll to the bottom of this post.]

 

Hollie has fabulous taste and has a beautiful selection of throw pillows. However, if there’s a fabric you don’t see there, she can probably get it for you. And, she also sells designer fabrics by the yard.

 

But, there’s more.

 

For each throw pillow, Hollie has images of the pillows in a gorgeous room setting.

 

Stacie Flinner - via StuckonHue - throw pillows - Nobilis Tiger fabric

This room above is Hollie’s incrediblygorgeous living room taken by stylist, designer, and photographer Stacie Flinner. All of these pillows above are all on Hollie’s website. Isn’t that cool to show the throw pillows so beautifully in situ?

 

But, get this. She takes the same sofa and room setting and changes the pillows.

 

Stacie Flinner Stuck on Hue gorgeous throw pillows

 

Oh, I love this look too! This is a testament to the power of throw pillows!

 

Wait. Is that the Brooke 3-seat sofa from One Kings Lane? It sure looks like it! Those lamps look familiar too. Hmmm… I’m hoping to expand on this.

 

In the meantime, there are dozens of these gorgeous image like this on Hollie’s website. But, there’s even more! After each pillow, Hollie lists all of the coordinating pillows. So, there’s no guesswork.

In addition, you can order your throw pillows in Etsy style with no welting and a contrasting fabric on the back. Or, you can order the pillows with the facing fabric on both sides.

 

And, finally, Hollie also offers a variety of piping, welting, trims, and flanges, if you so desire.

 

Another terrific source that currently sells on Etsy, but also their own website, is Arianna Bell. In fact, Arianna Bell’s pillows coordinate with Hollie Rich’s.

 

Arianna Belle mughal-flower-blue-green-tika-dot-chinois-fret-sky-arianna-belleAbove are some pretty pillows from Arianna Belle.

 

One difference here is that Arianna Bell offers pillow inserts and will stuff the pillows for you. Believe me. It is not like putting a pillowcase on a pillow. Stuffing the throw pillows takes a lot of muscle.

 

And now, I hope that you’ll like this.

 

Below are numerous Laurel-curated pairings of five pillows in each row. 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.

 

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how to get perfect throw pillows every time

please pin to Pinterest for Reference

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, pillow, Etsy. Click and then, when the search page comes up, hit the images tab. They’ll all pop up. :]

xo,

Laurel-e1443573876689

 

PS: Please check out the newly updated Hot Sales!!!

 

333 decorating rules and tips you need to know

If you like this type of post and need more help with rules, tips, proportions in your living, dining rooms, bedrooms, entries, windows, etc. And you don’t already have it, please consider getting 333 Difficult to Find Rules and Tips You Need to Know

 

7th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2020 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Michelle Winter - August 30, 2021 - 9:06 PM

    In my designer youth, I scoffed at the price of throw pillows, until I decided to make them for myself. That’s when I realized that I couldn’t make an inexpensive quality pillow either! Dang. The things you learn in DYI land. Thank you for the extra tips!ReplyCancel

  • Nancy - August 17, 2021 - 4:17 PM

    I love the way all these pillows look on the sofas. Except for one problem. They leave almost no space on the sofa to sit on! Whenever I have had pillows arranged like this, either the guests are afraid to mess them up, and choose some uncomfortable little chair to sit on instead, or they toss them onto the floor or prop them up on top of the back of the sofa (if it is against the wall), so additional guests arriving just see a mess, not the perfectly arranged and positioned look that is good only for photo shoots! One other reader commented that this is why she has down-filled pillows, so they “squish” down, but I have all down-filled pillows as well, and it does not solve this problem. My latest solution to this has been – first of all, I stick to tight-back sofa styles to place multiple pillows on. I only have one pair of larger pillows on either ends of the sofa. The pillows then act essentially as back cushions and they don’t actually impede seating space.. Set into the corners, these can usually stay without guests throwing them off to make room . The other decorative cushions I ‘layer” in front of the two big ones are small enough so that they can either be pushed in between the seated people on the sofa, or even if they’re thrown aside by the seaters, they don’t make a mess in the room. Even with this solution, however, I feel like half my life is spent rearranging and re-plumbing up the pillows every time anyone gets off the sofa. Fortunately, it’s just me and my husband most of the time, but since my husband is genetically incapable of straightening up throw pillows, this is still a time-consuming daily activity for me!ReplyCancel

  • GL - August 16, 2021 - 4:25 PM

    Elizabeth K, I don’t have a website, blog, or any presence on social media, by choice. This is the only blog I’ve ever commented on! Creative? yes, but only a bit — because I enjoy doing things myself to get just what I want; terrifying? perhaps the first time — I didn’t leave a big enough opening and there were feathers all over the place, but I’ve got it down (no pun intended) to a simple art now. Photos? I’m only on number 2 (of 4), so none yet. I’ll try to see if there’s a way to get some photos to you later.ReplyCancel

  • Diana Bier - August 16, 2021 - 8:49 AM

    Great post, Laurel! Getting the throw pillows right is a very detailed and time-consuming part of the decorating. Just wondering about your client’s too-large throw pillows–how was it resolved? Did the fabricator have to re-make the pillows?ReplyCancel

  • Tara Kannon - August 16, 2021 - 2:03 AM

    H&M offers all-feather inserts for very reasonable prices. Their covers are nice, too.ReplyCancel

  • Roberta Mcleod - August 15, 2021 - 9:35 PM

    Lacefield Designs has wonderful pillows and you can customize.ReplyCancel

  • Catherine Burbank - August 15, 2021 - 9:15 PM

    Great post! In Real Life, throw pillows are like flower arrangements on dining tables…look gorgeous, but if guests want to move them to another table or on to the floor to see who they’re talking to, it’s a fail! So, if guests want to move one’s lovingly styled and arranged pillows to the floor to be comfortable, not good. Down pillows, or down/feather, are often squishy enough to be visitor friendly. I’ve gotten bed pillows from the Company Store (can I say that?) for replacing inserts for big throw pillows on a couch, and worked well. Bed pillows, well, all bets are off, visitors aren’t usually there, so toss them away when not useful! If visitors are in your bedroom, they are hopefully not paying attention to your throw pillows.ReplyCancel

  • Barb Ollivier - August 15, 2021 - 8:26 PM

    Thank you so much for such valuable information. I have been a subscriber for and always look forward to your posts.ReplyCancel

  • Susan - August 15, 2021 - 8:13 PM

    Laurel, I am SO VERY GLAD, you reposted your thoughts on throw pillows. For the past month, I have been struggling trying to find the right throw pillows for our sofa and a chair. Fabrics, sizing, formula for how many, etc. This post took me to a number of the Etsy’s you recommended and I FINALLY was able to assemble the correct number of pillows and fabric I love. I decided on Schumacher Citrus Garden Lime Trees in Lime, as well as Brunschwig Fils Les Touches Petal Pink and White. I think I have a winning combo, so thanks for your guidance and advice!ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth K - August 15, 2021 - 8:02 PM

    May I say that GL’s approach to pillow inserts is awe-inspiringly creative and also slightly terrifying ? Please post photos somewhere of the tapestry series !ReplyCancel

  • Kate - August 15, 2021 - 11:45 AM

    Laurel, I had pretty pillows and then I followed your advice and I stuffed them properly. Suddenly, I had GORGEOUS & COMFY pillows. Thank you for teaching us the details of design. BTW, how is your IG account? Did you get it back?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 15, 2021 - 1:29 PM

      Hi Kate,

      Thank you so much, Kate! I’m so glad that what I’ve said is helpful.

      It took me YEARS to learn all of this. And, let me add, they do NOT teach any of this in interior design school. I learned it on the job. This is why I very much recommend that most young designers work under someone for at least two years. Or, get my 333 Rules & Tips You Need to Know. It’s crammed with stuff they don’t teach in interior design school. lol

      I don’t have the account back yet, but the hackers don’t have it either. It’s under lockdown. I did receive a reset link. In Turkish – lol. That wasn’t the problem. The link was broken. So, I asked my super nice connection for another link. That was on Thursday and still no link. I’ll follow through on Monday.ReplyCancel

  • Maggie S - August 15, 2021 - 10:49 AM

    And if your budget is tight Home Goods has nice feather pillows for not a lot of money. They are not as nice as these of course …but good enough if your family likes to lay on your sofa pillows like mine do.ReplyCancel

  • Mary E - August 15, 2021 - 8:29 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    Thank you for sharing these sources for pillows. I usually make my own but I’m limited to the fabrics available at my local fabric store.
    I didn’t receive your latest post in my email this morning.
    I thought I would mention it.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 15, 2021 - 10:02 AM

      Thank you, Mary. Sorry about that. You should have the email very soon.ReplyCancel

  • Monica - August 15, 2021 - 6:30 AM

    Hey Laurel! Why didn’t this come to my email today? I get it every Wednesday and Sunday and am worried that after what you said happened to your IG account that something else has happened. Should I resubscribe? Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 15, 2021 - 10:01 AM

      Oh geez, no, it’s my fault. You should have it in your inbox very soon.ReplyCancel

  • GL - August 15, 2021 - 5:19 AM

    Interesting and good advice as always, Laurel. I’d add that one must remember to look at the pillows or fabric from a distance, and not close up — it’s the total effect that counts. (By the way, how are your Instagram woes working out?)
    I spend quite a bit of time (too much) looking at pillow combinations to see how designers create mixes that work, shapes, patterns. But I then set in and make them myself, including the inserts. So here’s a word for the champagne tastes on a beer income!
    I buy Ikea feather inserts, and feather-proof material, and cut open the Ikea product to re-use the feathers in my custom-sized insert. It doesn’t make much mess provided you leave a big enough opening to get your hand in easily. The opening can be machine-sewed together at the end, and the insert is more fully stuffed than the Ikea original.
    Fabric comes from a variety of sources, and I can put the pattern exactly where I want it. I’m currently making a series using a bargain piece of verdure tapestry-style Gobelin fabric with velvet side panels and backing, after admiring such items on blogs (e.g. Velvet & Linen; for the love of a house). Real antique tapestry scraps go for hideous prices, but I’m getting the look for less. Which reminds me, Laurel, what do you think of Rebecca Vizard’s pillows? or don’t you approve of the over-the-top style?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 15, 2021 - 8:13 PM

      Thank you so much, GL. That’s an immensely clever way to get a better fill for the pillow inserts!

      I’m not familiar with Rebecca Vizard. Hang on and I’ll take a look.

      Oh my, gorgeous! Some are a little on the formal side for my tastes, but these are definitely works of art!ReplyCancel