How To Choose Throw Pillows

Throw pillows are an easy and low-cost way to redecorate your living room. They are also an opportunity for you to tap into your inner artist and create a “pillowscape” with all the shapes, colors, patterns and textures that an almost limitless variety of pillows bring to your décor.

It is a time to throw caution to the wind! You don’t have to worry about making a mistake, as you might with a large and expensive purchase. If a pillow doesn’t work in one place, it may in another. Or it is easy enough to pick up and take back to the store.

As wonderful as that “limitless variety” may be, it can also be daunting. Here we offer some insider tips to help you relax and have fun while creating a new look with the simple addition of throw pillows.

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What are the Different Shapes and Sizes of Throw Pillows?

  • Square pillows are the most common shape. Standard sizes are 16-, 18- or 20-inch (40cm, 45cm and 50cm), but smaller and larger pillows are available.
  • Rectangular (lumbar) pillows usually measure 12″ x 18″ (30cm x 45cm); 12″ x 20″ (30cm x 50cm); and 14” x 22” (35cm x 55cm), but there is a wide range of sizes available.
  • Round pillows are used less frequently (which makes them more interesting). Standard round pillow are 14” (35cm) in diameter.
Square White Polyester Blend Soft Hypoallergenic Throw Pillow Insert
Blue Square Polyester Blend Quilted Throw Pillow
Rectangular Cotton Geometric Lumbar Pillow
Round Polyester Blend Floor Pillow
Green Heart Polyester Blend Throw Pillow

What Are the Most Effective Ways to Use the Various Shapes and Sizes of Throw Pillows?

  • As a general rule, an odd number of throw pillows makes for the most pleasing arrangement: three for smaller sofas and five for larger ones.
  • The symmetry of an even number of pillows is neat and clean and works for a more traditional décor.
  • Use different sized pillows to create an interesting arrangement, for example, larger pillows in the corners of the sofa, smaller ones as you move toward the center.
  • Use rectangular and round pillows for an unexpected and/or whimsical touch.
  • For a large overstuffed sofa, a sectional or a more casual one, such as in a family room or sun room, larger pillows look best.
  • Modern, streamlined furniture need smaller sized pillows.
  • A few large throw pillows is a much more engaging look than a mishmash of small ones.
  • There is such a thing as too many pillows, for instance, if you need to move them to sit down.

How Do You Know What Colors to Use?

Pick an Anchor Color First

Find a color that is “popping” around the room, perhaps in the upholstery, carpet and ottoman—and that you love, of course. There is your anchor and, usually, the color of your largest throw pillow(s). From there, you go to the complementary or analogous colors for the other pillows.

  • Complimentary colors bring out the best in each other. They are directly opposite to each other on the color wheel. Basic complements are blue and orange, red and green and yellow and purple. But there are many variations. Apple green, for instance, is a complement of rose pink. Light blue a complement of tangerine. Mauve a complement of gold.

  • Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel, which means that they are very similar to each other but different enough to make a quiet, sophisticated contrast. You will find many exciting combinations on the color wheel—ones that you may never have thought of: yellow-green and yellow, blue-green and blue, red-violet and violet.

Red Microsuede Polyester Polyfill Throw Pillow
Blue Square Cotton Polyester Throw Pillow
Yellow Cotton Blend Throw Pillow
Green Faux Fur Polyester Blend Throw Pillow
Orange Square Polyester Blend Throw Pillow
Purple Square Polyester Blend Throw Pillow

Use Three Colors

Choose three colors that pop out in the room and use them in your pillows for a cohesive design. Here are three successful color combinations, but only if they work in your overall color scheme:

  • Dark blue, deep red and pink
  • Deep red, orange, hunter green
  • Magenta, violet and golden yellow
Polyester Blend Cow Hide Print Throw Pillow
Black White Polyester Blend Throw Pillow
Red Orange Purple Cotton Floral Pillow
Navy Blue Soft White Rectangular Cotton Pillow
Pink Polyester Blend Velvet Pillow

How to Decorate with Patterned Throw Pillows?

Don’t think of it as difficult, think of it as adventurous! Plus we are going to make it easier for you.

Pick out a large pattern that contains “your” three colors. Then a medium-sized pattern (stripes work great for this) that contains one or two of those colors, then a small subtle pattern also with one or two of the colors. Here are a few pattern mixes to try:

  • floral pattern, geometric pattern, solid color
  • checkered pattern, ticking stripe, twill
  • animal pattern, basket weave, damask

A variation is to use a busy pattern, a simple pattern and a solid color. The busy pattern should be the largest pillow or the one that is front and center, since it will dictate the tone of the arrangement. Plaids and stripes work well as simple patterns.

Each pattern needs to stand out from the others. Too many like patterns compete with each other and cancel each other out. Your eyes do not know where to look. A large pattern, medium and small make an attractive and balanced arrangement.

How Important Are the Fabrics to a Pillowscape?

The fabric can make or break your throw pillow design. You want your throw pillows to fit in with your décor, your lifestyle and the ambiance that you want to create. The fabric of the pillows is as much a design element as the shape, size, color and pattern are.

  • Cotton is very practical. It holds up well, is easy to wash and may be the best choice if you have young children or if Rover or Tigger has already claimed that sofa.
  • Linen is durable and easy to care for when blended with cotton or synthetic fibers. For a very long time, we have associated linen with summer. It works just as well in the winter in medium-to-dark colors.
  • Velvet is classic and regal in bold jewel tone colors. It is more appropriate for winter.
  • Chenille in some weaves resembles the look of velvet but with a smooth surface or a chunky one. It goes best with a vintage theme.
  • Corduroy is soft like velvet but sturdier. The thicker the wale, the bolder the statement. If you want to mute the wale, use a dark color corduroy.
  • Silk is durable and luxurious and feels cool in the summer and warm in the winter. When used in jewel tone colors, silk absolutely glows.
  • Wool is soft, warm, cozy. It is perfect for the colder months or any time of year for a special nook of your own.
  • Faux fur gives a plush, luxurious look. It also is soft, warm and cozy.

What Kinds of Trim Look Best on Throw Pillows?

Trim adds a finished look to your pillows. The best part may be that you can buy pillows with trim or you can add your own trim to throw pillows that have become “ho-hum” or because you want pillows that are unique. There are countless varieties of trim. Here are only a few ideas:

  • A braided trim is rather “upscale” looking. On the right pillow in the right décor, black braid is very sophisticated. Braided trim comes in narrow to wide, plain to fancy. Just be sure that the braid doesn’t outshine the pillow.
  • A fringe trim dresses up a décor as well as gives your pillow depth. A fringe may be flat or it may have tassels or pom-poms. Perfect for boho, country and traditional arrangements.
  • A ribbon or bias tape trim frames the pillow in a contrasting color. Ribbon trim comes in textures such as satin, mesh and lace.
  • A flange trim is a strip of fabric that runs around the edges of the pillow, increasing the size of the pillow. It works best in a more formal décor.
  • A double tassel fringe trim is ornate and elegant. Tassels hang down at two different levels.
Rectangular Polyester Blend Polka Dot Pillow
White Gray Polyester Blend Deer Pillow
Ivory Square Natural Jute Throw Pillow
Faux Leather Polyester Blend Square Decorative Throw Pillow
Square Acrylic Polyester Polyfill Throw Pillow
Cotton Polyester Polyfill Buttons Throw Pillow

What Type of Pillow Insert Is Best?

It mostly depends on how you are going to use the pillows.

  • Polyester inserts are inexpensive. If your throw pillows are for looks only, use polyester.
  • Down/feathers combo inserts are more expensive, but they are more luxurious. If you want comfy and cozy pillows to curl up with, you want down/feather inserts. The most deluxe inserts are 25% down/75% feathers, but 5% down/95% feathers inserts are soft and plush and cost considerably less.
  • Synthetic down inserts are available for people who are allergic to feathers and for vegans. The polyester microfiber fill is soft and fluffy like down, and the inserts cost less than the down/feathers inserts.
Cream Navy Pale Blue Cotton Polyester Polyfill Pillow
Geometric Cotton Rectangular Blend Pillow
Rectangular Eco Fill Cotton Pillow
Red Black Polyester Blend Pillow
Red Square Polyester Blend Throw Pillow
Green Red Polyester Polyfill Linen Pillow

Quick Tips

Yes, that is a lot of information. You may be feeling as overwhelmed as when you started. Not to worry. We have for you a “cheat sheet” of sorts—the main things for you to keep in mind when shopping for or arranging your throw pillows.

  • Simply think “three” – three colors, three sizes, three patterns.
  • Use that color wheel that you will have in your pocket or purse.
  • Be open to different fabrics.
  • What is inside matters. Be sure you are getting the insert that suits your needs.
  • Allow the pillows to “speak” to you as you arrange them. Once you gain experience, they will practically tell you where they should be. Have confidence in your ability to be creative.
  • Relax and enjoy the process. You are not allowed to stress over throw pillows!