Style at Home: Add panache with pillows


A new year is upon us, and that means fabulous new fabrics we handpicked at market are finally arriving. With new textiles comes fresh bedding, upholstery and so many exciting pillows that I feel like a kid in a candy store. I am always switching out my throw pillows in my living spaces and adding so many to my bedroom I am surprised my husband can still make his way under the sheets each night. To this day, when we order pillows, we keep in mind Mary Carol Garrity’s three rules of pillow panache. Take it away, Mary Carol! — Katie Laughridge

They may be featherweights, but as decorating tools, accent pillows pack a powerful punch and can instantly give a room loads of panache. Time and again I’ve seen the right pillows take a nothing room and make it fresh and fabulous. You can do the same in your home by trying these three simple steps. I like to reinvent my living room on a regular basis. I don’t get a roomful of new furnishings or paint the walls a new color. I simply switch out the accent pillows. This little switcharoo, performed during the changing of the seasons, is a super simple and cost-effective way to keep this key room looking fresh.

1. Find fabrics you love

Picking out the blend of colors, patterns and fabric styles for your accent pillows is a personal pilgrimage. There is no one right approach or combination, except the one that makes your heart jump for joy. Some people want a mix of timeless classics that will never go out of style. Others want to embrace the latest trends, with the freshest and newest colors and patterns. Some like a muted, tone-on-tone palette, while others want an electric mix of zesty colors and robust patterns.

To find a picture-perfect pillow combination for your home, first evaluate the style and color palette of the space and the furniture where the pillows will sit. If the furniture or room already has a lot of pattern and color, I’d recommend keeping the pillows pretty neutral. But neutral doesn’t mean boring. You can use lots of different fabric textures, styles and trims to give the pillows personality. If the room and your furnishings are neutral, then the sky is the limit for your pillows. You can keep your pillows neutral, in keeping with the room. Or you can use the pillows to introduce contrasting color and pattern.

If you want to try bold new colors and patterns, go for it. When it comes to picking upholstery fabric, I always play it safe because furniture is so expensive you want to cover it with a fabric you won’t get tired of. But I am fearless on my accent pillows, often pulling together three completely different fabrics on one pillow. When I design a grouping of pillows, I like to create balance in the fabrics so they work wonderfully together, complementing each other, not competing. To strike this fine line, pay attention to the size of the patterns. If you have a big pillow with a bold, large pattern, then pair it with pillows in solid fabrics. If you pick a smaller geometric pattern, then you can mix it with a larger plaid or floral.

2. Create configurations that work

Once you pick some fabrics that make you smile, it’s time to determine the number, size and shape of your pillow mix. The size and scale of the furniture you are adorning will give you boundaries, and your personal taste will let you know how full or sparse to fill in within those boundaries. Some people like their sofa decorated with a number of pillows in different sizes, while others want just a few. We’ve found that 24-inch square pillows are the perfect pick for standard-sized sofas (21-inch pillows just look too dinky for our tastes).

Here’s a pillow combo I love and use over and again when I design sofas: Place a set of matching 24-inch square pillows on each corner of the sofa. Then put a standard sized pillow (20 inches by 26 inches) in the middle. Finish off with a pair of smaller rectangular pillows (14 inches by 22 inches) against each arm of the sofa. If that’s too many pillows for you, put a matching pair of 24-inch pillows in each corner, then place a matching pair (in a contrasting fabric) of 21-inch square pillows in front of them and call it a day. If your sofa is unusually deep or the back is very high, you might prefer to go with a 27-inch square pillow. In fact, you might need a row of them against the back of the sofa to fill in the space and allow you to touch the floor.

3. Fill ‘em up right

The secret to success in creating a lovely pillow is to use a high-quality fill. We’re sold on fills that are made from a mixture of feathers and down because they are soft and dense and can make even inexpensive readymade pillows look amazing. In my experience, you can use less expensive fabrics and still have a beautiful pillow. I’ve found that even if you make a pillow out of a top-of-the-line fabric but use a lower quality fill, the pillow will look scrawny and shapeless or too hard. If you have to scrimp someplace when doing a custom pillow, scrimp on the fabric and use a high-quality feather pillow form. – Mary Carol Garrity

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