Decorator Pillows: Tips and Ideas

bird needlepoint pillow

Decorator Pillows: Tips and Ideas

Plenty of Pillows

Pillows might be the easiest accessory to add interest, texture, color and seasonal colors to your rooms. They are a favorite of professional home decorators and do it yourselfers alike. Pillows come in a a variety of patterns, sizes, and prices. You can pick some up at your local boutique or at your home dec warehouse store. Or you can make your own with ease. Pillows can change the look of a room, a bed, a sofa or chair in a moment. What could be better?

What are decorator pillows?

Decorator pillows, sometimes called throw pillows, may come with a sofa or chair, but usually are added to easily change the look of your room. The ease in just changing a pillow makes them a perfect item for seasonal updates. So lighten up in the summer, add something cozy in fall colors for autumn, a little red, green or metallic that’s perfect for the holiday season and pastels or bright fresh colors make your room ready for spring.

How many decorator pillows should you put on a sofa?

There are two approaches to deciding how may pillows you want on a sofa.

  • Do you like symmetry? Add an even number of pillows at each end.
  • If you don’t want pillows just on each end, choose an odd number; three or five work well. Put larger or matching pillows in the back, then add one special centerpiece. This is a nice way to add one more elaborate (and maybe more expensive) pillow to a grouping.

The easiest way to add pillows to your sofa while keeping it simple is to just add one in each corner. They won’t get in the way and provide a finishing touch. You can add from there, two on each end looks pretty. If the sofa is deep, place them all along the back. Layer sizes and shapes with bigger pillows to the back. If your sofa is deep, the pillows provide back support so you can lean back and still have your feet touch the floor. If the sofa is not deep, you will want to limit pillows to those that are small or fairly flat. The nice thing with pillows is that you can easily experiment and see what looks and feels best to you, little commitment is needed!

What size of decorator pillows should you use on a sofa / couch?

The size of the pillows depends upon the scale of the sofa. So if you have an overstuffed large couch with a high back and rolled arms, you can accommodate large pillows and perhaps several layers. If your sofa is a small loveseat, you will want smaller pillows, or limit the pillows to the sides of the piece. See what looks right to you, then have a seat and make sure it feels good as well. Remember, form must follow function. To be sure it works, the grouping needs to pleasing to the eye and feel good too! You want to be be able to use your seating area without unloading a bunch of pillows.

Decorative pillow ideas for your couch

On this smallish loveseat in a sitting area, the pillows add the color to the room. Because folks usually sit on either end, a pillow in the middle works. The black and white pillows are really indoor /outdoor from a big box home dec store. The red and yellow silk pillows are repurposed from another room. Then the newest addition is the linen elephant in the middle. I found a bolt of linen in a reuse store and loved it! Made tablecloths and this fun pillow. The tassels in each corner are homemade too and add a finishing touch! For more ideas and how-to, see below to make your own pillows.

Elephant pillow

This is a deeper sofa, so two pillows on one end work well. The bright colors add a punch to the room. These pillows have a one and a half inch flange and reverse to black and white houndstooth.

Decorator pillows for chairs

Follow the same guidelines for chairs as for your sofa. One of our favorites for a chair is a round lumber pillow, shaped a bit like a sausage, a lumbar feels great in the small your back while adding a bit of interest to a chair. If the a chair is a bit deep and you feel as though your feet dangle, a plump pillow behind your back feels just right and looks good too.

This pillow was made from a repurposed piece of needlepoint found at an estate sale. The background is a black and beige checked silk, with a fabric sample and some trim. So it feels just right in this classic chair.

What is the best way to dress a bed with pillows?

Based on the size of your bed and your willingness to add and remove the pillows when you make and turn back the bed, you can decide how many pillows look and feel right.

Pick the layers of pillows for the size of your bed.

  • For a twin bed, a regular bed pillow in a sham that matches the bedspread, then layer with one square Euro sham, and smaller pillow for an accent. Three pillows in different sizes and shapes make a nice composition and finishes the bed.
  • For a full or queen bed add matching shams as the foundation, then add color with two more shams in a coordinating color. and a smaller pillow in front. In this case the shams came from the bedlinen department of your favorite store and the coral embroidered one was a little more expensive, but really add the needed interest and texture. Finished, the bed has two sleeping pillows, with two layers of pillows in decorative shams, and one special pillow for interest.
  • For a king bed, use king sleeping pillows and then place three square Euro shams or king pillows in decorative shams across the bed. Again, layer as many as you (and your significant other) like!

Beware, because sometimes couples have very different ideas about pillows!

What is the best material for pillows?

Choose from the following to best meet your needs.

  • Down: The most luxe of all fill types, down is warm, light, and a top-notch insulator.
  • Down-Alternative: Created with synthetic or natural fibers to mimic the feel of down, these pillows are hypoallergenic and tend to be more economical than down.
  • Memory Foam: A thick, sponge-like material that molds itself around the contours of your head and neck.

What size pillows do I need?

Next choose the best size(s) for your beds.

  • Standard: 20″ x 26.” A twin bed fits one standard, a full or queen fits two across, and a king fits three.
  • Queen: 20″ x 30.” Though these pillows also use a standard pillowcase, they’re a tad longer and also fit two across on a full or queen bed.
  • King Pillow: 20″ x 36.” These extra-long pillows fit inside king pillowcases, so they work best in pairs across king beds.
  • European Square: 26″ x 26.” Great for leaning against when you’re reading in bed, these sizable square pillows use euro shams.

Why are decorator pillows so expensive?

Decorator pillows in boutiques are often in limited supply because they are made of speciality fabric and may be embellished by hand. Or the artist may make one of a kind items. Go to the fancy boutiques and treat yourself, or just go for there for great ideas and then either make your own from scratch, or find a similar pillow from a discount store and add a the special details that make a boutique pillow pricey. You can also find some reasonably priced pillows online.

Decorative pillows can be expensive because they are like the jewelry on your furniture or bed. Sometimes the pillow is the accent that brings it all together. Because they are relatively small, it can be a place to splurge. It is a place to add texture- think sequins, fur, or richly embroidered fabric.

Where do you buy supplies to make your own decorator pillows?

You can find supplies in places that sell fabric or home decorator goods. All you need is fabric, perhaps some trim and a pillow form or stuffing!

  • Decide if you will buy all new materials or recycle needlepoint, embroidery, or a special fabric you found.
  • Will the front and back will be the same? Will you need backing fabric if using something vintage?
  • Decide on the size you want.
  • Do you want to use a pre-formed insert or stuff it yourself?
  • How about trim? If you want it, then choose cording, ruffles, fringe, etc.
  • Decide if you want a zipper, a flap or to just sew it closed.

Armed with a vision and measurements, head out to find your supplies. They can be found in chain fabric stores or in speciality upholstery shops, or even on-line.

pillow flange
Pillow with a flange

How do you make your own decorator pillows?

For inspiration, here are ideas from other makers with instructions:

upcycled needlepoint pillow

Decorative pillows from old needle point

Crewel Embroidery Pillow ReUse

Decorator pillows from crewel embroidery

Big Ruffle Pillow

Decorative pillows with ruffles

stenciled pillow

Here’s an idea to stencil on plain pillows

I heart you pillow

Personalized decorator pillows for holidays

Can you clean decorator pillows?

It depends…. If the pillow has a zipper, remove the insert, then analyze the fabric.

  • If it seems washable, and you are willing, take a chance, wash in your washing machine on the delicate setting, then lay flat to dry. Before washing, use a pre-treatment on spots, if needed.
  • If you don’t trust it to the washing machine, then try spot cleaning or washing by hand. A little carpet cleaner can often do a good job. If you block the back of the pillow by placing a folded a towel in the pillow cover, then you can clean the cover with minimal excess water.
  • If the pillow cover is not removable, the best way to clean is with a gentle cleaner and as little water as possible. Try fabric wipes for ease and effectiveness.
  • Because pillows with lots of embellishment often do not wash well, use them in places where they are less likely to get dirty and need cleaning.

Have fun with your pillows!


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