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How To Choose Throw Pillows For Your Bed

How To Choose Throw Pillows For Your Bed

It was Monday evening and we had just put the kids to bed. I needed to pick up some ingredients for my mom group’s potluck the next day (and a few other things) so naturally, I hopped in the car and off to Target I went.

There’s something about walking around those calm aisles on a weekday night without your kids in tow that is life-changing. Maybe I was avoiding drywalling my kitchen, or maybe the magic of that bullseye blinded me, but shortly after I got there…I blacked out.

I bought 15 throw pillows. FIFTEEN. Nobody needs 15 throw pillows at one time (but if you do, can we be friends?). I brought them home, sheepishly told my husband I would return most of them, and proceeded to play around with them on the bed.

It was a perfect evening.

After a few trials and errors, I narrowed it down to three: the textured cream one (similar, similar, similar), the goldenrod one (similar, similar, similar), and the green one (similar, similar, similar). The leather one I already owned. I think layering pillows can be kind of tricky – you can’t get too matchy-matchy, and it’s easy to mess up scale, patterns, etc.

I tend to err too much on the side of neutrals and end up with a very boring color palette, but I finally stepped out of my comfort zone this time. 15 pillows to choose from meant I was going to get this right! Here are some of the things I kept in mind.

Pillows on a bed

Vary The Shapes

Target and other big box stores used to stock square pillows pretty much exclusively. Finding a rectangle or bolster would have been really difficult. But good news! Times have changed!

Monday night, as I was walking those calm, quiet aisles, I saw pillows of all different shapes: round, bolster, square, rectangular, cushion-style, etc.

If you’re having trouble picking pillows for your bed, and things are looking a little too matchy-matchy, consider swapping out one or two for a different shape.

The green pillow on my bed is there to break up the square shape from the pillows behind it. It tricks your eye into thinking there’s more variety there than there really is.

Layer Different Sizes

While the basic sizes of the three ‘feature’ pillows (the leather, cream, and yellow) are all the same, they are resting on much larger king size sleeping pillows. When you’re choosing throw pillows for your bed, remember the sleeping pillows are your foundation – they count, too!

The golden rule is to layer largest in the back to smallest in the front, and to decrease the number of pillows in each layer. For example, we have six king size sleeping pillows in the back, three square throw pillows in front of those, and then one small green rectangular pillow to finish it off.

Think of it like grouping your extended family for a huge family portrait – you need to see everybody’s faces!

Also…avoid anything smaller than 18″ (unless it’s a lumbar). That’s the size of most throw pillows in the big box stores, and it’s definitely the smallest I would go. Anything smaller than that starts to get dwarfed by the objects around it.

Pillows on a bed with a grey blanket

Scale Should Differ When Layering Multiple Patterns

Patterns scare people. I sometimes see these gorgeous Jungalow-esque homes on Instagram and all over Pinterest, but wonder how anybody can put ALL those patterns together. It all comes down to scale. I chose to go with slightly more muted patterns in our bedroom, so they don’t really compete with each other.

But if you are wanting something bolder, make sure the scale of each pattern differs – you want to pair big bold patterns with smaller patterns to make sure it doesn’t look too busy. Choosing throw pillows for your bed doesn’t mean you have to choose calm, serene tones – do what makes you happy!

Textured Pillows Aren’t Like Textured Walls

I hate my textured walls SO much. I grew up in Kentucky, where everything is smooth, so when we moved to Texas I was shocked to learn that ALL the walls are textured. It makes patching things a nightmare! And while I can’t WON’T embrace texture on my walls, I’ll definitely embrace it on my pillows.

Even if you want to stay completely neutral, you can add a ton of depth and interest to your bed with throw pillows of different textures. I know it’s something that’s hard to see through a computer/phone/tablet screen, but the four throw pillows I decided on all have different textures.

The leather is smooth and quilted, the cream has pom poms and embellishments all over it, the yellow has a subtle soft berber carpet type pattern (but in a good way), and the green is a buttery velvet. They all work together to give a ton of interest to the grouping.

Side view of pillows on a bed

Mix Up The Color Palette

I’m super guilty of going too neutral – at one point, every single item in our home was either white, grey, navy blue, or some sort of wood tone. I was afraid to commit, but that meant my home was…boring!

I’ve taught myself to enjoy color more over the past few years, and I really enjoy the direction my preferences are going. I think I might even paint the wall behind the bed a deep, saturated color someday soon!

While neutral is definitely a good choice for things that are harder to change (like your sofa, light fixtures, backsplash), throw pillows are cheap and easy to change out.

It’s a great place to play with color a little more. I actually came home from Target with a plethora of colors, which made the layering process so much easier. Sometimes you have to see the different combos in the space to actually decide.

Looking for a way to brighten up throw pillows you already have? Check out my post where I talk about everything you need to know about fabric paint!

Loud Personalities Need People To Listen

Have you ever had that friend that ALWAYS needed to be the center of attention? They had a lot of very dramatic things happen to them all the time? Yeah, me too.

Those friends are fun, but they need someone to listen to them. They need someone to hold them up – to support them. They don’t do well when paired with another loud personality…they want to be in the spotlight!

Choosing throw pillows for your bed is kind of like choosing friends. If you fall in love with a really ‘loud personality’ pillow, make sure its friends are there to support it, not compete against it.

That doesn’t mean you can only have one pillow with a brighter, bolder feel, but it does mean you have to be a little more thoughtful as to what goes around it. Kind of like planning a party around your ‘dramatic’ friend – you want to make sure there isn’t another loud personality there that your spotlight pillow will clash with.

Overview of pillows on a bed with a grey throw

Bed In A Bag

I’ve totally bought bed-in-a-bags. They are convenient, affordable, and everything matches without much thought. But the look that you get from them tends to be too matchy-matchy…and frankly a little stuffy. I think there is definitely a time and a place for them, but if you ask me? You’ll always get a more custom look with buying and layering your own.

Bonus: Size Matters

I am on a personal mission to change the world over to king-size sleeping pillows. I don’t know about you, but the little gap on the sides of the mattress when you use queen-size pillows makes me sad. It’s a space that just wants to be loved by soft, cushy pillows, but instead, it’s lonely and empty. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Enter: king-size sleeping pillows. They are a little longer than the traditional size and fill in that lonely little gap. Oh, and it doesn’t matter at all if you don’t have a king-size bed…they fit everything from a twin to a California king.

One last tidbit- if you are fancy enough to buy pillows that come with just the cover (generally higher quality pillows…I have a few and LOVE them), then you’ll need to purchase an insert.

There are all kinds of inserts, but the biggest thing to know is that you need to size up at least 2″. If it’s a 20″ pillow, you’ll want at least a 22″ insert, or it’ll just look a little sad and droopy.

Overall, choosing throw pillows for your bed is a low-risk/high-reward kind of decorating decision. There aren’t hard and fast rules (every single one of the above suggestions can be broken), and there are SO many options.

If you blackout at Target and buy wayyyy too many, make sure you tell me. I’d love to not be the only only one.

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Kim Miller Weber

Thursday 28th of March 2019

Your bedroom looks so calm and peaceful. I LOVE white bedding that you can use as a base and change out the pillows and accessories seasonally (or whenever Target gets new stuff!). Thanks for the inspiration.


Thursday 28th of March 2019

One of my very favorite tips is white bedding! If only I could get my dog to wipe her paws before jumping up! Thanks for reading!

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