Design Recipes: Use pillows to boost your home’s look

Cathy Hobbs
Tribune News Service

For many interior designers, toss pillows are not only a secret design weapon, but also the icing on the cake. Instead of being an afterthought, toss pillows can and should complete a color story, serve as an opportunity to bring in graphics and texture, as well as serve as a prominent design accessory.

What’s hot? What’s not?

Confused how to display pillows? Well, you are not alone. Displaying pillows properly does require some thought and planning. Some general rules of thumb to keep in mind:

Be sure to start from the back and work your way forward.

Organize your pillows by size, with the largest pillows in the back and the smallest pillows in the front. A cascading layout in which the heaviest concentration of pillows is in the center and then the display becomes thinner on either end remains a popular trend.

What is especially en vogue right now is the use of pillows that are all the same height. Instead of using a series of pillows that are high and low, pillows that are all the same height and even the same color is a current popular trend.

Where to begin?

How you arrange pillows can help make or break a room. Whether you like a looser look or one that is more rigid, it is helpful to have a plan.

First, sort all of your pillows by color, then by size. Experiment with different combinations. With sofas, it is OK to have an odd amount of pillows on one side, or the opposite if you prefer a more symmetrical look. One habit people often adapt is the desire to display pillows the same way every time they need to redress their pillow display, so having a method and routine will help create a cohesive and consistent look.

Go bold

Pillows are considered to be portable design, meaning you can take them wherever you want. So why not have a little fun? Use toss pillows as an opportunity to introduce bold patterns and textures such as faux fur or metallics, and if you don’t like the look you can always try another space in your home.

Pillow talk

The bedroom is one of the most common spaces where people want to display toss pillows. One popular trend is to dress a bed only using decorative pillows and place “sleep” pillows in a closet or under a bed, only to be used at night. In general, there are no rules. Beds are large, and as such, this is an opportunity where you can display a larger amount of pillows and not overwhelm. In general, two to three decorative toss pillows work well on a twin bed, five to six pillows on a full or queen bed and seven to 10 for king-sized beds.

Looking to create a more traditional look? Here are tips for dressing your bed for success:

■ Determine how many rows of pillows you wish to have (one to two rows works well with twin beds — three max, three rows are ideal for full, queen and king-sized beds).

■ Begin by positioning your large decorative pillows first, placing them against your headboard (20-by-20 inches or 24-by-24 inches are good sizes). You can either have just two or enough to extend across the length of your headboard. Solid colors work best in this row as this row serves as the anchor for the pillow display.

■ Next row up, go a size or two smaller, such as an 18-by-18-inch pillow size. In this middle row, you can mix pillows of different colors and textures.

■ For the third row (the front), make a statement. One or two pillows perhaps in an interesting shape or material will help make your pillow display shine.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design and home staging expert with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Contact her at or visit her website at