Throw pillows often seem like an unnecessary extra, but they are sometimes the glue that holds the whole design scheme together. And while you might find ready made pillows that fit the bill, sometimes custom pillows are the best way to get exactly what you need.
I know the whole throw pillow thing is controversial – some people feel that they are in the way and take up too much space on the sofa….and sometimes, they would be right. This picture is probably what they are imagining when the subject of throw pillows comes up and it IS IMO too many pillows. This is a furniture showroom though, so maybe they just’t don’t want people sitting on the sofa…
BUT at least 2 or 3 on a sofa adds a nice accent and can be functional too. They can be used as a headreast if you lounge on the sofa, or behind you if your sofa is deep – this is especially helpful so that a wide range of heights can use the sofa without feeling like Molly on the Big Comfy Couch?!
Custom or not, there are a few things to look for in quality pillows
What’s inside: Down inserts an inch or two larger than the pillow cover, make the most luxurious, plump pillows that can always be fluffed to look like new. Polyester batting or foam will flatten out and you will have sad, useless, pancake pillows in no time. If you find a retail pillow that is perfect but has a filling of batting or foam, simply replace the innards with a down filler and it will up the quality immediately!
Zippers: While not necessarily an indication of quality, a zipper does allow you to change the pillow covers if you like to redecorate frequently or want to add some seasonal flair to your pillow collection. AND pillow covers are easy to store, so you can have a whole wardrobe for your pillows if that is your thing!
Matched patterns: Fabric patterns should match at the seams and generally from pillow to pillow if you are doing more than one in the same pattern (there are exceptions to this “rule”, though).
Trim details: Edges can be self-welted or contrast-welted or flanged with mitered corners or pleated corners. For more traditional pillows, fringe or tassel trims can add pizzazz. Buttons, pleating, decorative braids, tapes, and banding are all details that make an ordinary pillow into something special.
These are some of the custom pillows we have done for clients:
How to Style a sofa with throw pillows
Size matters. The pillows should be in scale with the furniture. On a normal size sofa, 20” pillows are about right – 18” or 22” could also work, but smaller than that starts to be too small unless they are used to supplement the larger pillows. On an oversize or extra deep sofa, stay on the larger side.
Vary the sizes and shapes. For example, an average 7’ sofa might have two 20” squares with one 18” layered in front of one. A long or extra deep sofa might have as many as 5 with 2 large squares, 2 smaller squares and a rectangular shape in the middle. A large L-shaped sectional might have 3 pillows of varying sizes and shapes at the corner and two pillows layered on each end.
Vary the patterns and textures. A solid color texture behind a patterned pillow almost always works, but mixing patterns is an art - they must be complimentary, with some element that ties them together like a common color and the pattern scale and type needs to be different. For example a small geometric mixed with a larger scale floral. Stripes mix well with nearly everything so they are nearly foolproof.
NOTE: When you buy a sofa, it will almost always come with 2 throw pillows. If it is an option, pick a complementary fabric for the pillows. If it isn’t an option and the pillows will be in the same fabric as the sofa, use them elsewhere and buy different ones for the sofa!
Phoebe Howard is the epitome of refined taste and always does throw pillows right like in this sea captain’s house below where she layers a pattern on top of a solid on a printed sofa for relaxed sophistication.
And here the pillows with a subtle pattern and stripe detail provide a whisper of color on the white sofa. Also, aren’t those drapery panels with the scallops on the leading edges just gorgeous??
Or this beautiful execution by Suzanne Kasler, another paragon of taste and style, where the pillows echo the colors in the printed draperies on the neutral sofa upholstery. Notice the red pillows have contrast welting in blue that echoes the blue pattern in the accent pillows.
This cozy library by the incredibly talented Mark D. Sikes, uses a masterful mix of patterns.
Sometimes the pillow fabric is the starting point for the whole room as was the case in this living room we did. The client really liked orange and aqua and we found this wonderful textured stripe she fell in love with, so we used it for the pillows and picked complimentary furniture fabrics to work with it.
Expect to pay $150-$250 and up for a quality custom pillow. Between labor, filler, fabric(s), and trims, the costs add up. But they are a wonderful place to use a very expensive fabric that would be a budget buster used on a larger scale like for draperies or upholstery where many yards are required. Beautifully designed and detailed pillows are really artwork for your room.
Here is a link to down inserts if you want to revive or upgrade pillows you already have. Measure your pillow cover seam to seam and order a slightly larger insert for a plump, luxurious pillow!
Ready-made pillows are widely available as well, of course. They can range in price from bargain basement to as much as high end custom, BUT they can be ordered with the touch of a button so they provide fairly instant gratification! Below are some I like with interesting textures and patterns at a wide variety of prices (click on the image to see details and pricing). I am a sucker for embroidered patterns and touchable textures so these are some of my favorites!
*Please note that this page contains affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase, I might make a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Wishing you successful pillow hunting!