Designers Share Their Expert Advice on How to Style the Best Throw Pillows
Plus nine picks by Team Domino to help get you started.
Published Oct 15, 2021 1:07 AM
Domino is no stranger to a good throw pillow. Our Style team is always on the lookout for new drops, though chief content officer Kate Berry’s covetable collection is an inspiration to all. And we love the designer directive to switch up shams every season to keep things fresh. Because why not? Your sofa or love seat is just the foundation, and bringing in color and texture by way of pillows is one of the quickest (and least expensive) ways to keep your living room looking chic.
Consider this our “obsessions of the moment” list. It’s by no means the be-all and end-all of the best throw pillows. Below is a mix of editor and designer recommendations that includes not only long-term staple investments and statement splurges, but budget-friendly beauties that are just as durable. (Not surprisingly, a few of Berry’s own even make an appearance.) And yes, we also included styling advice. Happy layering!
- The striped one: Morrow Soft Goods Ines Throw Pillow
- The printed one: Leif Cecily Block Print Pillow
- The velvety one: West Elm Lush Velvet Pillow
- The gingham one: Heather Taylor Home Mini Gingham Pillow
- The scalloped one: Carly Home Scalloped Pillow
- The affordable one: IKEA Hildamaria Cushion Cover
- The solid one: Elsie Home Raw Solids
- The floral one: Lisa Corti Ghirlanda Acid Green Organza Pillow
- The linen one: Jenni Kayne Linen Pillow
Our Shopping Checklist
Size and shape: The most common throw pillow sizes are 16-by-16 inches, 20-by-20 inches, and 22-by-22 inches (as well as 14-by-20 inches or 14-by-24 inches for lumbars). The most versatile option? According to designer Lauren Meichtry, owner of Elsie Home, you can’t go wrong with a 22-by-22-inch throw pillow. “It can stand alone on a chair, sofa, or bed, yet can also be paired with a small lumbar pillow without looking like there is too much going on,” she offers.
And though she likes to stick to tried-and-true rectangles and squares, different shapes have definitely gained popularity of late. Designer Breegan Jane loves incorporating round pillows, and our own associate style editor, Julia Stevens, has her eye on the Floca Macaron cushions from Hale Mercantile Co. “There is something about incorporating an arch with a straight line at varied heights that makes for more of a dynamic look,” shares Jane. “You can see examples of this in cityscapes or even automobile design.” Her best advice is to mix things up—throw in a bolster or pair a round pillow with a square one. Combine tall and wide pillows. And if all else fails? “Go oversize,” she says.
Cleaning and maintenance: “I recommend selecting throw pillows with removable covers so you’re able to wash or dry-clean them,” says Meichtry. This, she explains, is key to extending the lifetime of your decorative pillow covers. Just give the tag a quick glance to check if you’re able to toss the insert in a machine or need to give it a scrub by hand. Hanging covers or putting them on a low tumble dry are the safest ways to avoid any shrinkage from occurring.
Filling types: There are plenty of pillow insert options, from down feathers to polyester fibers, but the standard according to the designers we spoke to is actually a combination of goose and down, or duck and down. “You might see a range of mixes, but a standard fill is 10/90, meaning 10 percent down and 90 percent feather,” explains Meichtry. “We have found this is the best formula for a comfortable yet sturdy pillow.”
For a hypoallergenic option, consider a synthetic like angel hair, which Meichtry describes as a high-quality, silky polyester that’s designed to retain its fluffiness (because, let’s be honest, a gorgeous exterior is only as beautiful as its plush interior).
The Striped One: Morrow Soft Goods Ines Throw Pillow
There are all kinds of stripe styles to choose from—a superthin pinstripe, a wide broad stripe, or a combination—but when it comes to putting the look on a pillow, this pick is associate design editor Kate McGregor’s all-time fave. “As an aspiring minimalist, it’s hard for me to find throw pillows that aren’t either too saturated or too patterned,” she shares. “The Ines injects subtle color by way of thin (yet wide) stripes. Not to mention it’s incredibly soft and cozy.” Choose between two contrasting concoctions inspired by earthy tones found in nature—taupe and lilac or peach and camel. Bonus: Products made by Morrow Soft Goods prioritize clean energy on the supplier side, use cold-dyed linen, and are certified Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex and the European Flax.
The Printed One: Leif Cecily Block Print Pillow
Based in Brooklyn, Leif is a lifestyle/home goods shop that knows a thing or two about block printing (we also adore its similarly styled napkin sets and tablecloths). But according to Stevens, is there anything sweeter than delicate florals on a watercolor-like background? This rosy block print features teeny flowers on cotton that makes our editors smile.
The Velvety One: West Elm Lush Velvet Pillow
After a few years, West Elm’s velvet throw pillows still look brand-new in deputy editor Julie Vadnal’s Brooklyn apartment. “I’ve spent a lot of time on my sofa the past year, and even after being squished and tossed around a bunch, they haven’t pilled or ripped at all,” she says. The likely reason? They’re covered in a faux fiber blend of 75 percent rayon and 25 percent nylon, complete with a linen-cotton back and zipper closure. Velvet is also Berry-approved; you can spot custom-made citrine cushions at her place, and she’ll bring them along on photo shoots, too. “They fit just as well in a modern home as they do in a traditional home, never failing to add that extra hit of vibrancy,” she says. Snag a set of two 20-by-20-inch pillows for $74 (or keep tabs on this one, as it’s often on sale for half the price), and try a little drama with its best-selling copper, plum, and dark moss colorways. But take note: These covers are dry-clean-only, so no tossing them in the washer at home.
The Gingham One: Heather Taylor Home Mini Gingham Pillow
When it comes to checks, plaids, and stripes, we always look to pattern-mixing professional Heather Taylor. While gingham may be in the spotlight lately thanks to a revival of cottagecore, it’s a classic print that plays well with others and always has a place in our heart. The sweetest detail of this particular piece is its ruffle trim, a signature staple of country homes. But when paired with a bold print or velvety fabric, it will give even a more modern space a bit of je ne sais quoi. The mini print looks great on the 20-by-20-inch size, and each pillow, handmade in Chiapas, Mexico, is stuffed with 100 percent natural duck down and feathers that lend it a sturdy look and plush feel. Though we can’t take our eyes off the baby blue, the brand did recently launch new fall colors in nutmeg and sienna.
The Scalloped One: Carly Home Scalloped Pillow
Speaking of decorative edges, Carly Home’s scalloped pillow covers are hand-cut and sewn in Los Angeles. Designed by Carly Blumberg, the atelier’s signature frill has also enjoyed its recent time as a trend to watch (we particularly love the look in kids’ rooms). With this cover you can add a hint of whimsy, and with a range of solid colors to choose from—we have our eye on the forest green, mulberry, and paprika—it’s a breeze to mix and match with these muted, delicate offerings. Made from linen (a natural material featuring hollow fibers that are durable and long-lasting), the larger cover, at 22-by-22 inches, features an invisible zipper. Pair with a simple stripe for a preppy look or a bolder pattern to lean into eclectic vibes.
The Affordable One: IKEA Hildamaria Cushion Cover
This cushion cover is less than $5—yes, you read that right—and the insert is even cheaper at $3 a pop. In other words, it’s a certified steal. Keeping up with your pillow game can be a bit burdensome to your wallet (trust us, we know), but Vadnal shares that “trying out this stripe is a low-risk way to switch things up without going broke.” Toggle between indoors and out with this inherently strong cotton cover that’s machine washable. It’s broad stripe may be reminiscent of summery beach loungers and umbrellas, but we’d argue the simple design can easily take up permanent residence on your couch all year long.
The Solid One: Elsie Home Raw Solids
Named after her grandmother, Meichtry’s shop, Elsie Home, is a collection of lovely textiles made with active families (think: kids and pets) in mind. The Solids is a part of her Coastal collection, but the denim-look linen front and neutral cotton back offer the best of both worlds. This pillow provides a raw, natural color appeal with a hint of texture from the fabric, which is handwoven in India and later transformed by Elsie Home into a pillow cover. But what we especially love is Meichtry’s attention to detail, and not just when it comes to design. “At Elsie Home, we only offer sustainable down pillow inserts,” says the designer. “While we follow the 10/90 duck down formula, we source our materials from a facility that adheres to the responsible down standard, which ensures the ethical treatment of animals.”
The Floral One: Lisa Corti Ghirlanda Acid Green Organza Pillow
From Italian textile brand Lisa Corti—a favorite of John Derian’s—this isn’t your grandma’s floral print. Stevens describes it as an “unapologetically bright linen decorated with traditional block-printed florals,” and you’ll want to tap this unexpected combination of subdued olive and bright pink for a punch of personality. A bit smaller compared to the rest of the items on this list, the 18-by-18-inch pillow is 100 percent cotton and includes an insert. Stevens’s styling suggestion? “I’d splurge on a few, and then balance it out with some solids,” she says.
The Linen One: Jenni Kayne Linen Pillow
Former Domino cover star and fashion designer Jenni Kayne first launched her home collection back in 2017, and since then her throw pillows have achieved staple status in our homes. Though her stripes are unsurprisingly sleek (hello, pinstripe of our dreams), the simple linen cover is an overall best-seller for good reason. The fabric is a nod to Kayne’s own minimalist style, and it only softens over time, making it a go-to for years to come. Choose between six easy-to-pair-with colors with a subtle steam stitch along the bottom half for a bit of visual intrigue. A bottom zip closure and 100 percent cotton lining holds things together in a large 24-by-24-inch format.
Q: Where’s the best place to buy cushion inserts online?
It’s important to note that most of the options on this list require a separate insert purchase. Fear not, you can buy pillow inserts pretty much everywhere, but Jane swears by Walmart. “The store offers them in a ton of different shapes and sizes,” she notes, and they’re incredibly affordable, to boot. Otherwise designers tend to source their inserts from the same place as the covers for a perfect fit. Meichtry does, however, have a hot tip—couch pillow covers are measured when flat, without the insert, so always opt for filling that’s 2 inches larger. For example, she’ll pair a 22-inch insert with a 20-inch cover for optimal fluff. For lumbars, though, she says it’s generally safe to stick to the same size.
Q: What are your tips for mixing and matching throw pillows in different colors and patterns. As in: Where do I start?!
“We love to mix and match different textures and patterns to bring character into a space,” offers California-based designer Lindye Galloway, who prefers to start with a neutral sectional or love seat and then accessorizes with throw blankets and pillows to bring in different colors or materials (or both). For Jane, it’s always easiest to steer clients (and friends!) toward a color wheel. “Pick colors in a triangle or straight across from each other. Doing so will give you complementary combinations that will be pleasing to the eye,” she notes. “If you are a fan of neutrals like I am, you can easily mix and match cream, gray, white, and black with wild abandon.”
Meichtry’s method is a bit more technical—asymmetry is the answer, so she places pillows in odd numbers. On a sofa, for example, she’ll use three pillows in one corner: two squares and one lumbar. For extra-large furniture you can pile pillows in the middle, too. “Focus on mixing, not matching,” she advises. “You don’t want your pillows to look like they came with the sofa.” Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to tap six different prints to achieve a curated look, but do keep it visually interesting at each end. Aside from pattern, this can be a mix of anything, even fabrics, like linen versus velvet.
Q: On average, how long should a quality throw pillow last?
“A high-quality throw pillow could technically last a lifetime,” says Meichtry, who stresses that you just have to take good care of it, whether that’s washing or dry-cleaning the cover, and—perhaps most important—placing the inserts out in the sun every now and then to kill off dust mites.
- Tamam introduced its first fabric collection—five hand-block prints inspired by the Ottoman Empire’s detailed ceramic tile designs—last month for the fall and winter season that our editors have their eye on.
- Another great velvet option you shouldn’t sleep on is CB2’s leisure pillow. Our commerce content director, Sophie Miura, has had hers for three-plus years and still loves them as much as when they were brand-new.
- We love the thought behind Utopia Goods’s cushion covers—all of which are hand-illustrated in Sydney—as they honor Australia’s threatened wildlife and botanicals.
The Last Word
According to Meichtry, throw pillows for sofas, chairs, and entryway benches—you name it—can instantly bring warmth and comfort into your home. Though there are endless pairing possibilities (not to mention available options on the market), just think of your pillows as the ultimate finishing touch to a design—or jewelry for your room.
How We Vetted These Products
Every product in a Domino guide meets these criteria:
- They blend form and function. We believe the best-designed products reflect your personal style and are a joy to use.
- They’re expert approved. In addition to our team of editors, we tap a range of designers, makers, renovators, and all-around knowledgeable people to share their intel.
- They’re endorsed by people who actually own them. We pay close attention to real reviews to know that they pass the test IRL.
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