One can never have too many pillows!

– Linda Applewhite

Pillows are like actors. They each have their role to play in whatever ensemble they are part of, and their talents are endless! Color, pattern, shape and texture combine to offer something for every taste, whether you are looking for opulent sophistication, homespun earthiness, whimsical playfulness, exotic edginess, and everything in between. The sky’s the limit when it comes to adding these star players to your home production.

Pillows galore line a concrete bench in a loft in San Francisco's SoMa district.

With a little choreography, pillows collaborate beautifully with other players on the stage of your choice – beds, sofas, loveseats, chairs, benches, lounges, and settees to name just a few. I’ve always relied on pillows to do everything from change the entire character of a room to add the finishing touch to a completed creation.

Pillows Provide Support  

Large vibrantly colored pillows provide structure and comfort on this low back antique sofa.

And pillows are not just pretty faces in the room. They also provide comfort and support to your furniture or space where needed. In the image above, voluptuous 36” square pillows are functional as well as decorative, adding structure to the unusually low back of an antique sofa. Without them, it would be impossible to sit or recline in comfort.

Pillows can provide complementary and contrasting fabrics to the furnishings they adorn.
Pillows can provide complementary and contrasting fabrics to the furnishings they adorn.

Close up, the compatible plaid, polka dot and floral fabrics entice one to sink into the combination of furry dots coupled with straight and curved lines. The raspberry red and pale-yellow elements in the three fabrics work in concert to make the sofa inviting, despite its eccentric yet charming lines.

Kidney Pillows  

This kidney pillow gives comfort and pizzaz to the vintage English chair.

A mainstay in the world of pillows is the kidney pillow, which fills the empty space where seat and back cushions meet and support the lower back. The 14” x 18” pillow above adds design elements that harmonize with the trim secured with bronze nail heads on both arms and above the wooden base below.

Tight back chairs typically need kidney pillows for support.
Tight back chairs typically need kidney pillows for support.
Furniture and pillow fabrics should relate.

Tight back chairs and sofas are particularly in need of kidney pillows to provide comfort without a back cushion to rest against. I like to construct relationships between chair and pillow fabrics that repeat one another in some way, which is soothing to the eye.

Contrasting Fabrics

Combining simple with elegant.
Combining simple with elegant.

Pillows also offer the opportunity to combine contrasting fabrics, such as this matte cotton linen stripe paired with a glossy gold polka dot. The tassels at the edges of the pillow add a luxurious touch to the country French fauteuil with its rustic walnut frame.

Pillows and Art

Pillows and art.

Our fluffy pillow friends can also make a strong design statement alongside artwork. The cerulean and lime green pillows with geometric zigzags, stripes and circles enhance this Spanish painting by Navarro Vives. A chorus of geometric shapes and similar colors make the pillows and artwork sing.

Pillows in Uneven Numbers

Sophistication and whimsy.
Sophistication and whimsy.

I’m a big believer in odd numbers when it comes to accessories. In my aesthetic, two pillows placed symmetrically at either end of a long sofa look contrived and uninspired. This ornate settee sports a collection of three pillows in concert through colors they share. Yet their designs of stripes, florals, toile, dots and checks make individual statements. All three reinforce the strength and drama of the black and white animal print.

Pillows Add Texture

Contrasting textures with complementary colors.

Though small in size, pillows gift our senses and homes with infinite touches of sensual textures. These two pillows, piled over a rustic thickly woven textile covering this overstuffed chair, add harmony with their delicate terra cotta and gold embroidery. To further define the leaves and fronds in the fabric, a subtle creamy fringe lends substance to enhance the artful design. In addition, applied flanges, cording, ruffled and pleated fabrics, and ribbon complete these works of art.

Mass Produced and Custom Pillows

Even as a puppy Toby loved pillows.

There are many sources out there of pillows for any budget. I have found good looking and reasonably priced pillows at many of the national home retail and discount stores. Always ask for the store’s return policy, so if the pillows don’t work when you get them home, you can return them for a refund or exchange.

If you are lucky and talented enough to know how to sew, or know someone who does, the world of pillows is at your feet. Fabric and craft stores offer fantastic varieties of fabrics, trims, button, ribbons, and all kinds of notions from which to create your own custom pillows. The pillows you design will express your unique eye for beauty and harmonize perfectly in your home. Get ready for a standing ovation!

For the love of pillows,

Toby and Linda Applewhite
Showing 4 comments
  • Kirby

    A feast for the eyes! The patterns & colors are just plain exciting!

  • donna

    I love this pillow digest and it just makes me miss your TV appearances more. I wish you would do a lifestyle show.

  • Lynn

    Always a treat to revel in your color palette, Linda! Pillows are so much fun and easy to change out. Do you use pillows outside too? There are some fun choices that are weatherproof now.

  • Liz Nichols

    You have a great talent for mixing patterns and colors beautifully. Not only are your example photos aesthetically pleasing, but there’s a happiness about the total appearance.

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Lead image for Linda Applewhite's Blog titled Birds