It’s Time to Stop Karate Chopping Your Throw Pillows, Says One Home Stager

published Jun 9, 2022
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Credit: Julia Steele

Truth time: I never followed the trend of karate chopping the tops of throw pillows before displaying them on a couch or bed. To me, it makes them look like defeated pillow people throwing their arms up in surrender, and I simply won’t condone aggression toward home decor.

I prefer to gently plump my pillows. Call me old-fashioned, but I actually like to use my throw pillows to recline while reading or watching TV, or perhaps under my head for an occasional cat nap. For me, a karate-chopped pillow just looks awkward and uncomfortable — the very opposite of what pillows were created to be. 

So imagine my delight when Cheryl Eisen, the founder and CEO of Interior Marketing Group, an award-winning staging, design, and marketing firm for luxury properties, told me the karate-chopped pillow trend “is over.” Her preferred technique? A gentle chop on the top of the pillow — you’re not going for a black belt here — followed by a smoothing of the pillow’s “ears.” The result is “a subtle crease, so it doesn’t look like it came right off the store shelf,” she explains. 

“I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with throw pillows,” Eisen says. (Same!) “Sometimes they’re just what a room needs to finish the design, and yet sometimes they’re overwhelming.” Here’s a look at her strategy for including throw pillows in the spaces she designs.

Credit: Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

Aim for asymmetry.

Don’t feel the need to place the same number of pillows on each end of the sofa, Eisen says. You’re not aiming for perfect pillow symmetry, though you should still attempt to strike a balance elsewhere throughout the space.

For example, in a recent home design, Eisen and her team arranged two pillows of different sizes on the left side of the sofa, keeping the right side empty. To fill the space visually, they placed a vase on the right side of the coffee table that was in front of the sofa. “The whole room was balanced because of that, and it didn’t look overly staged,” she explains.

Keep to the same color palette.

Throw pillows are indeed wonderful accents for furniture, and they can be colorful if you want them to be. However, Eisen recommends keeping them in the same color story or color palette that is represented throughout the rest of the room. 

Eisen and her team designed one space that had a large piece of modern art done in orange on display. They chose throw pillows in various shades of orange, including rust, brick, and mustard. The color scheme continued throughout the room with other elements, including a vase and even a coffee table book — talk about attention to detail! “Now there’s cohesion without feeling forced,” she says. 

Try to relax with your pillow placement.

Are you a firm believer that throw pillows are meant to be admired and not actually used? It’s your space, your rules. But know that there is no rule that says your pillow tops have to look “like the ears of a nervous dog” as Hadley Keller of House Beautiful once eloquently described karate-chopped pillows. It’s time we put the trend of combining martial arts with interior design to bed.