How To: Pick Out Throw Pillows

updated Mar 28, 2020
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Is there a twelve-step program for addiction to throw pillows? Maybe we’ll start one. It’s gotten pretty bad. In fact, we’ve had to place a moratorium on them for the calendar year (here we come, 2010!). But for now, in an effort to ease our withdrawal and at the risk of co-dependency, we thought we’d share with you some things we’ve learned about choosing the right pillows for your home…

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

A great pillow can truly make a room feel complete, but a bad one—or even an excess of good ones—can throw off the balance of color and texture you’re shooting for. So how to choose? Hopefully these six little tips will help…

Don’t be afraid to layer your patterns. We love the look of several pillows with different prints in the same room. If you tend to favor bold, graphic prints, choose one or two pillows with a more subtle pattern (or delicate, line-drawn shapes) to tone things down.

Choose prints that include neutral colors. Part of why the ever-popular Thomas Paul pillows (like our octopus) are so versatile is that his bold graphics are always paired with cream or another neutral color, bringing them down to Earth.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Choose pillows that provide some contrast in texture. Consider the texture of your furniture—if you’ve got a leather sofa, try a nubbly linen or soft velvet pillow. For a mohair couch or chair, maybe go with a smooth brushed cotton. Detailing, like quilting, embroidery, or fringe, can also provide an interesting interplay of textures.

Examine pillows for quality. There’s nothing worse than a lumpy, misshapen throw pillow; it sticks out like a sore thumb, especially if the fabric has any sheen (calling attention to the lumps). Fluff the pillow several times in the shop (ignoring dirty looks from salespeople) and look for protruding feathers. (Even high-quality pillows will lose feathers eventually, but this really shouldn’t happen right away.) If you’re in love with a pillow with a poor-quality insert, you can always buy it anyway (if the price is right) and replace the insides.

Know your limits. This may sound like lip service coming from a confessed addict, but there is such a thing as too many throw pillows. On a very large sofa, three will work, but we think most couches look best with just one or two. A good rule of thumb: if you have to move them to sit comfortably, you’ve got too many!

Go with your gut. This might seem obvious, but it’s important—we think shopping for pillows is a bit like shopping for jewelry… there are lots of pretty choices, but the one that’s worth buying will really grab your heartstrings. Since good-quality pillows are often expensive, it’s a good idea to take some time to decide, just as you would before investing in jewelry.

Help us live vicariously—do tell! How do you choose pillows? Do you have your own rules?