Design Dilemma: Pillow Talk | Home Design Find

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Design Dilemma: Pillow Talk

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Often underrated as a design vehicle, pillows can make a pretty dramatic difference in any room. A room with a neutral couch and rug can suddenly go from bland and boring to trendy and fresh, just by adding a few zappy pillows. And when you think about it, because  pillows can be so easily changed out, they are often the one place in a room where we can express our hidden passions. Maybe you really wanted a zebra print rug, but were afraid to make the investment. Compensate with zebra pillows.

Here’s what you need to know when choosing this important design tool:

Use pillows to introduce a missing element into a room. This is perhaps the biggest overlooked secret of choosing pillows. Here’s how it works: Let’s say your room is built of solid pieces — armchair, couches, rugs — then use pillows to introduce pattern. If the other elements of the room are neutral, use throw pillows to introduce color. If you’ve got all smooth textures in a room — leather and chrome, let’s say,  add a flokati or nubby knit  pillow. If you’ve got a lot of pattern in your room, introduce a solid. The point is to balance out your room with whatever it needs to make it feel complete. Sort of like cooking a really good stew.

Use more than two and use odd numbers. One pair of throw pillows on a couch has a way of looking stiff. Using three helps avoid the stiff and naked look. Using an odd number of pillows on the couch similarly keeps a room from feeling too formal.

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Layer patterns. The days of matching pillows are over. These days, you can achieve an eclectic artsy look by mixing patterns and colors. When you do so, look to mix large-scale prints with smaller patterns for contrast. In the photo above, different patterns and colors help loosen up a staid herring bone-patterned couch, giving the room a fresher, hip feel. The floral pattern is larger and bolder than the print of the rose-colored pillow.

Set a mood. Pillows are your chance to introduce whatever exotic feel you might want a room to have but couldn’t indulge elsewhere for practicality’s sake. So if you love African antiques, but couldn’t afford to buy them, throw an African mudcloth pillow on your couch to bring in an ethnic feel. Maybe you wanted to go very feminine but were afraid of too much floral and pink lace. Feel free to throw a floral pillow on your couch.

Good quality is nice, but over-the-top expensive isn’t. A nice-quality pillow will last longer and look better. But contrary to design advice that you will find elsewhere, we don’t think it makes sense to sink a lot of dough into a pillow. Yes, we’ve seen some pretty cool $300 designer pillows out there in patterns that are chic and beautiful. But what happens tomorrow when that pattern begins to look dated? The beauty of a throw pillow is that it is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to change the feel of your room. Don’t ruin it by spending big money on pillow that you’ll feel should be behind a glass case when you get it home.

Don’t do too much of a good thing. If you have to move the pillows to sit on the couch, you’ve got too many.

Use pillow inserts and rotate the covers. If you like to change the look of your room periodically, buy high-quality pillow cushions and get covers that can be zipped off and changed when the desire arises.

Don’t forget comfort. Yes, throw pillows can look cool, but they should not just be a fussy affectation. Get throw pillows that are comfortable enough to rest your head when stretched out on the couch, or that can support your back while sitting. Invest in pillows you can throw on the ground and use as extra seating when necessary. A pillow should have a function too.

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One comment so far to “Design Dilemma: Pillow Talk”
  1. Sally@DivineDistractions Says:

    Really an informative post. I think your readers will really take pillows and their impact in a room seriously. I'm going to use your points with clients too. Thanks

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