A Throw Pillow Shopping Guide
Throw pillows, sometimes referred to as decorative pillows or couch pillows, are a staple for most design-conscious homes.
Due to the immense variety of colors, fabrics, shapes, and sizes available on the market today, throw pillows are the perfect solution to bring creative palettes, textures, and functionality to any room in the house.
With so many options, it can be difficult to know where to start. And many find themselves asking questions familiar questions such as, "which sizes should I buy?" and "how should I arrange them?".
The devil is always in the details and while it doesn’t need to be a stressful or difficult task to find the perfect throw pillows, there are some things homemakers and design enthusiasts can take into consideration. That’s where we come in.
Throw pillow sizes and shapes: an overview
Throw pillows come in all shapes and sizes.
Anyone with children has probably come across their fair share of pillows in the shape of Disney princesses, cute farm animals, or cartoon spaceships. While those may be great options for the little ones, they may not quite tie the room together or act as viable design-friendly sofa pillows.
In terms of typical design and decor, there are four common shapes for throw pillows: square, round, bolster, and lumbar.
The square throw pillow
Sometimes referred to as a Euro pillow or Euro sham, a square throw pillow is…well…in the shape of a square. It is the most common style of a throw pillow.
A square throw pillow usually comes in the following dimensions:
16 x 16 inches
18 x 18 inches
20 x 20 inches
22 x 22 inches
That said, smaller and larger options may also be available.
Round throw pillows are less common than their square counterparts. They are usually used as accent pieces.
Round pillows usually measure between 18 inches and 22 inches in diameter, making them similar to square throw pillow sizes.
Bolster pillows are long, skinny, and cylindrical. They are sometimes used for providing a place to rest arms or are used to fill negative space in a throw pillow arrangement. They are the least common type of throw pillow.
The common dimensions for a bolster pillow are:
6 inches in diameter, 12 inches long
7 inches in diameter, 20 inches long
You may also find longer, thinner bolster pillows to cover the length of a bed.
Lumbar pillows are similar to body pillows and in some cases, the two can be used interchangeably. While body pillows are generally considered strictly functional, lumbar pillows can be used for support or for decoration.
Lumbar pillows are long and oblong. Common lumbar pillow sizes are as follows:
10 inches x 20 inches
12 inches x 20 inches
12 inches x 40 inches
14 inches x 22 inches
While you may find body pillows in other shapes, such as J-shaped or U-shaped, lumbar pillows are generally only found in the simple oblong shape.
Inserts and pillow covers
Most throw pillows come with a removable cover. Removable covers are useful in the event of a spill and for general pillow hygiene.
While throw pillows do not need to be washed as often as bed pillows, keeping them clean can help prevent allergy attacks or pesky dust mites.
Most throw pillows come as one unit -- the insert and the pillowcase or cover. If you need to replace the cover or insert, you can find both items sold separately.
Pillow inserts should be 2 inches larger than the pillow covers to keep them from sagging. If your throw pillowcase is 20 inches, for example, look for a 22-inch insert.
What size throw pillow is best
How do you know which size throw pillow is the best? The short answer is that it depends on your needs and preferences. While there are some general recommendations when it comes to choosing the right throw pillow size.
Before choosing a throw pillow size
There are important factors to consider as you decide which shape and size of throw pillows will work best in your space.
Are you looking for couch pillows or throw pillows to decorate your bed? Do you have a small, love seat-style couch or a giant sectional sofa?
The size, style, and depth of your furniture affect the size and number of throw pillows you need. Smaller pieces of furniture require fewer pillows, while larger pieces can accommodate a hodgepodge of pillows in a variety of sizes.
Different sized beds are traditionally adorned with a different number of throw pillows, also affecting which pillow size is best.
Purpose of the pillow
Some throw pillows have both form and function, while others are merely for decorative use.
If you need a throw pillow for extra support or cushion, you may need a larger, more sturdy pillow than something that's just for accent or decor.
When it comes to functionality, pillow size may also be considered alongside the quality, durability, and ability to care and clean the pillow cover.
Creating layers with a throw pillow arrangement is a common practice, especially on bigger pieces of furniture.
Layering can create a cohesive look, giving more opportunities to utilize color and contrast. If you're on the minimalist end of the design spectrum, however, you may choose to shy away from layering as it can create a cluttered, overwhelming look.
It's important to think about design preferences and how many pillows will be added to a piece of furniture or space. Since layering usually requires different pillow sizes, having a plan for layering is important for determining the perfect throw pillow size.
Throw pillow sizes for different types of furniture
There is no hard and fast rule book to dictate which throw pillow sizes must be used depending on the type of furniture you have.
In some cases, pillow sizing can intuitive. For example, a small armchair is not likely to look good with two 22-inch square pillows with a 12-inch by a 40-inch lumbar pillow on top.
Having some ideas in mind can about which size pillows are common with different types of furniture can be helpful. We've compiled some options and examples:
Small sofas or love seats
Option #1: One large (20 or 22-inch) square pillow in each corner. Add a smaller (18 or 20-inch) square throw pillow layered in one corner.
Option #2: One large (20 or 22-inch) square pillow in each corner with one smaller square pillow (18 or 20-inch) and a small lumbar throw pillow (14 inches by 22-inch) in the middle.
Option #3: Four similarly sized pillows (18 or 20-inch), square or round, across the entire back of the sofa.
Large sofas, nooks, or benches
Option #1: One extra-large (22 or 24-inch) square pillow in one back corner, paired with a smaller (20 or 22-inch) pillow in the front. Repeat in the second corner, including a small lumbar throw pillow (16 by 20-inch) to create a triad.
Option #2: Two extra-large square (22 or 24-inch) pillows in each corner. Four smaller-sized (18 or 20-inch) square or round pillows along the back. Add a small lumbar (16 by 20-inch) in the middle.
Option #3: Combination or variations of options 1 & 2. This is an especially great option for a sectional sofa, which are large and can accommodate a variety of sizes and layering.
Option #1: A single lumbar throw pillow (fitting the back of the armchair).
Option #2: A large (20 or 22-inch) square pillow.
Throw pillow sizes for the bed
Throw pillows are a common addition to a well-made bed. They provide a boost of elegance, design, and comfort while lounging. The ideal throw pillow sizes for the bed depend on the type of bed and the customary number of pillows for that bed-size.
Twin. A twin bed is generally made with one standard bed pillow and adorned with one or two throw pillows. A 22-inch square throw pillow usually does the trick, with an optional smaller lumbar pillow to layer.
Queen or Full. Queen and full beds are generally made with two standard queen bed pillows, two extra-large (24 or 26-inch) square pillows, two large (20 or 22-inch) square pillows, and a central small square or lumbar pillow.
King. King beds can be adorned with a total of ten or more pillows. A properly made king bed usually includes four standard king pillows, three extra-large (24 or 26-inch) square pillows, two small (18-inch) accent pillows (square or round), and a lumbar throw pillow.
Making the most of your throw pillows
Throw pillows are excellent for decorative purposes. Anyone from expert decorators to interested creatives can take advantage of the variety that all the shapes, sizes, and designs can afford.
A throw pillow can also be a functional addition to your couch, armchair, or bed.
When shopping for the perfect throw pillow, finding the right size is important, but it would be a mistake to overlook other important elements such as filling, fabric, and color or design.
Filling and fabric
Especially when it comes to the potential functionality of a throw pillow, it’s useful to think about the material used for stuffing and the fabric used for the pillow cover. High-quality materials will last longer, look better, and be easier to care for.
A standard throw pillow is usually stuffed with one of three common fillings: polyester, down, or foam.
Polyester filling: Polyester is a synthetic filling and is often the most affordable option. Polyester is a good choice for pillows that are for decorative purposes only.
Down filling: Down is the softest and most luxurious filling option and also the most expensive. Down is a good option for pillows that will get a lot of use and that require longevity. For those with down allergies, many down alternatives provide the same quality, but with the benefit of being hypoallergenic.
Foam filling: Foam filling provides the best support and is a great option for lumbar or body pillows and bolster pillows. Since foam filling holds its shape, it also is a good option for round pillows that need to stay in prestine shape. Foam filling does have the downside of being heavily processed with harsh chemicals.
The fabric used for a throw pillow cover is incredibly important for how it looks, but also how it feels and how long it lasts.
Throw pillows are covered in a variety of fabrics, the most common being cotton, linen, wool, velvet, and faux-fur.
Cotton: Cotton is one of the most popular materials used in clothing and bedding -- and for a reason. Cotton is durable, breathable, and easy to care for. It also comes in a variety of colors.
Linen: Linen is a fabric associated with summer. Linen is a light and airy fabric, which gives a cool and casual look. It is also highly breathable and relatively easy to care for material. Linen-clad throw pillows are often found in a variety of neutral colors.
Wool: Wool is a material that is commonly used during the cold, winter months due to its heat-trapping properties. Wool is naturally stain and wrinkle-resistant. While wool is a versatile and durable fabric, the texture and design are usually associated with winter.
Velvet: Velvet is a common fabric used to provide a warm texture and accent to your living space. Velvet can be a difficult fabric to care for and may not be the best option for households with animals or small children.
Fur & Faux-fur: Chances are you have come across a fur or faux-fur throw pillow in the last decade. Fur-clad accent pillows are incredibly trendy and add instant texture and luxury to the room. Real fur fabric is expensive, difficult to care for, and could be controversial. Opt for a faux-fur alternatively for a similar look and feel, but with more peace of mind.
Layering and arranging
Throw pillows add a lot to the decor of the room -- so much so that sometimes, that is their only function. Equally important to the type of fabric, is the design and color of the fabric and how it plays off the room and other pillows. While design trends come and go, there are a few timeless ideas that can immediately help to create an elevated look.
Prints and Colors
Ornate prints can help tie together your furniture with the theme or decor of your room. Common prints include floral, paisley, animal print (including fur prints), illustrations, or geometric designs.
Not all of your throw pillows need to have the same prints, but it’s important to think about how the different designs will play off of each other as you arrange your pillows.
Experiment with different scales and sizes on the fabric designs (such as pairing a large chunky design or single illustration with a smaller, more intricate design).
Solid color throw pillows are a fantastic compliment to print designs and should be considered an essential addition to any throw pillow collection. Solid colored throw pillows can be bold or neutral -- or better yet, a combination of both.
For solid colors, draw from the color palette of items already in the room. This could be the walls, carpet, mantel details, or art pieces.
Mixing and matching sizes and shapes
The way you arrange throw pillows on the couch or bed can make a huge difference in how well they look together.
When arranging and layering pillows, it’s considered best practice to pair a large pillow (placed in the back) with smaller pillows (placed in the front).
When experimenting with three or more throw pillows in one location, it’s generally a good idea to incorporate other shapes as well (such as a lumbar or round pillow).
Chopping your pillows
Chopping refers to the technique of creating a crease or “chop” at the top of a throw pillow. Traditionally, the pillow chop was used to showcase the comfort and fluffiness level of the pillow.
Chopping your throw pillows can still create the same sense today, making a couch seem warmer and more inviting. That said, whether or not to chop throw pillows is completely down to personal preference.
Throw pillows are an incredibly versatile, fun, and vibrant part of any household. While it may seem overwhelming to decide, plan, and purchase your throw pillow set-up, it can also be incredibly fun and rewarding. If you are just starting your journey or simply looking to level up, Mellanni can lend a hand in finding the right throw pillow for you.
Check out our versatile throw pillow insert sets which come in a variety of sizes and are stuffed with 100% virgin grade polyester fiber.
Our 100% vegan faux leather pillow cover is a design must-have. Trendy and timeless, it is also easy to care for and durable, perfect for every household.
Happy throw pillow hunting!