Style: Pillow pairings to perk up a space

Mary Carol Garrity
Tribune News Service

I love the changing of the seasons. One of my favorite rituals as the cold months fold into warm, and back again, is to switch out the accent pillows on my sofa, chairs and bedding. In a few weeks, I will unzip my heavy weight plaids and replace them with lightweight florals and stripes. And just like that, my living spaces will feel new for spring.

This spring, you can give your sofa, chairs and bed a quick pick-me-up simply by tossing in some new pillows. Pulling together an assortment of pillows that is arresting, but not overwhelming, is lots of fun. Kristen, one of our designers, shares our secrets:

Try new pillow sizes

Life is too short to not experiment with an assortment of beautiful pillows, Kristen says. Start by pulling together a variety of pillow shapes and sizes to add to the visual interest of your furnishings.

We weave together different pillow sizes when we design groupings on upholstered furniture and beds. We love them all, from neck rolls to bolsters. But our four gold-standard sized pillows find their way into most of our designs: 21-by-21-inch squares, 24-by-24-inch squares, 14-by-22-inch rectangles and 16-by-30-inch rectangles.

Design tip: No matter what size pillows you pick, insist on using great pillow fills. I am not exaggerating when I say that it makes all the difference in how your pillows look, feel and last.

Mix up the color palette

Kristen says, “People ask us all the time what the rules are for mixing colors in pillows. Happily we tell them, ‘There are no rules! Do what looks good to you!’” All of us have a different CQ (color quotient), which can change room to room, season to season. For example, in my bedroom, I like soft, neutral pillows year-round. In my living room, I opt for richer colors that sport a bit more pattern, like plaids. Determine your own CQ for the space where you want to add your pillows, then follow your inner compass.

Any color you love is in right now. Blues and greens are still a favorite for many, and people are mixing together all different shades of these two nature-inspired classics.

Be bold patterns

Like color, everyone is different when it comes to the kinds of patterns they love, from stripes so muted they present as a solid to high-octane florals. Pillows give you an opportunity to experiment with new looks. “Do not be afraid to try new things, because if you don’t like it, you can just zip off the case and try something else,” Kristen says.

We call this process pattern play. We experiment with different patterns, in different colors, and different styles, until we come up with a winning combo.

If you have a traditional home, like I do, and want to give it some new energy, consider adding pillows in remade timeless patterns. Check out the photo above: houndstooth check, an age-old beauty, gets a makeover with an oversized pattern and fresh color. It’s new traditional, Kristen says: brighter, happier, more fun. Another of our new fabric crushes? Traditional floral patterns done in bright and bold colors.

Mix trims

The secret to a custom look in pillows is to use a unique trim. We don’t ever self-cord our pillows because we don’t want them to look like they just rolled off the assembly line. Instead, we like to give each pillow we make its own personality with unique trims and finishes.

There are so many ways you can finish a pillow with a tape: Run the tape across the top and one side, on the top and bottom, or boxed in on all four sides. Similarly, when finishing the edges of a pillow, you can do a straight cord. Or you can do a flat flange with mitered or pleated corners, a knife pleat, a ruffle, or a fringe, like pompoms.

No matter what your bliss, create pillows that bring your vision for your room to life.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at She can be reached at .