Add Panache with Pillows

They may be featherweights, but as decorating tools, accent pillows pack a powerful punch and can instantly give a room loads of panache. Time and again I’ve seen the right pillows take a nothing room and make it fresh and fabulous. You can do the same in your home by trying these three simple steps.

I like to reinvent my living room on a regular basis. I don’t get a roomful of new furnishings or paint the walls a new color. I simply switch out the accent pillows. This little switcharoo, performed during the changing of the seasons, is a super simple and cost-effective way to keep this key room looking fresh. If you want to do the same, here are the three simple steps I follow when working in my own home or with customers at the Nell Hill’s stores. (I’m excited to announce that Nell Hill’s amazing accent pillows are NOW available  through Nell Hill’s Online!)

Step 1: Find Fabrics You Love

Picking out the blend of colors, patterns and fabric styles for your accent pillows is a personal pilgrimage. There is no one right approach or combination, except the one that makes your heart jump for joy. Some people want a mix of timeless classics that will never go out of style. Others want to embrace the latest trends, with the freshest and newest colors and patterns. Some like a muted, tone-on-tone palette, while others want an electric mix of zesty colors and robust patterns. I really enjoy helping Nell Hill’s customers come up with fabric combinations they love, because it’s a blast to see their faces light up when we hit the bull’s eye.

To find a picture-perfect pillow combination for your home, first evaluate the style and color palette of the space and the furniture where the pillows will sit. If there is already a lot of pattern and color in the furniture or room, I’d recommend keeping the pillows pretty neutral. But neutral doesn’t mean boring.  You can use lots of different fabric textures, styles and trims to give the pillows personality.

If the room and your furnishings are neutral, then the sky is the limit for your pillows. You can keep your pillows neutral, in keeping with the room. Or, you can use the pillows to introduce contrasting color and pattern. If you want to try bold new colors and patterns, go for it. When it comes to picking upholstery fabric, I always play it safe because furniture is so expensive you want to cover it with a fabric you won’t get tired of. But I am fearless on my accent pillows, often pulling together three completely different fabrics on one pillow.

When I design a grouping of pillows, I like to create balance in the fabrics so they work wonderfully together, complimenting each other, not competing. To strike this fine line, pay attention to the size of the patterns. If you have a big pillow with a bold, large pattern, then pair it with pillows in solid fabrics. If you pick a smaller geometric pattern, then you can mix it with a larger plaid or floral.

At Nell Hill’s, we are selling lots of pillows made from contemporary, graphic patterns.  I love this fresh new look so much, I’m even adding graphic patterned pillows to my traditional living room.  I started with navy, apple green and marigold accent pillows. This spring, I’m going to work in a pillow or two in the bright, happy coral color that is so popular this season.

Every morning, I sit with my coffee and do a stare down of my living room, trying to figure out how to weave in some exciting patterns and wild pops of color and still keep the elegant feel I want in this room. I’m bringing home swatches of the new fabrics we’re carrying at Nell Hill’s Briarcliff to see which of these bright, happy, sophisticated textiles will be the winner.

Step 2: Create Configurations that Work

Once you pick some fabrics that make you smile, it’s time to determine the number, size and shape of your pillow mix. The size and scale of the furniture you are adorning will give you boundaries, and your personal taste will let you know how full or sparse to fill in within those boundaries. Some people like their sofa decorated with a number of pillows in different sizes, while others want just a few.

At Nell Hill’s, we’ve found that 24 inch square pillows are the perfect pick for standard sized sofas (21 inch pillows just look too dinky for our tastes). Here’s a pillow combo I love and use over and again when I design sofas for customers: Place a set of matching 24 inch square pillows on each corner of the sofa. Then put a standard sized pillow (20 inches by 26 inches) in the middle. Finish off with a pair of smaller rectangular pillows (14 inches by 22 inches) against each arm of the sofa.

If that’s too many pillows for you, put a matching pair of 24 inch pillows in each corner, then place a matching pair (in a contrasting fabric) of 21 inch square pillows in front of them and call it a day.

If your sofa is unusually deep or the back is very high, you might prefer to go with a 27 inch square pillow.  In fact, you might need a row of them against the back of the sofa to fill in the space and allow you to touch the floor.

Step 3: Fill ‘Em Up Right

The secret to success in creating a lovely pillow is to use a high-quality fill. At Nell Hill’s, we’re sold on fills that are made from a mixture of feathers and down because they are soft and dense and can make even inexpensive readymade pillows look amazing. In my experience, you can use less expensive fabrics and still have a beautiful pillow – we do it all the time at Nell Hill’s, where our decorator fabric is as low as $15 a yard. And, I’ve found that even if you make a pillow out of a top-of-the-line fabric but use a lower quality fill, the pillow will look scrawny and shapeless or too hard. If you have to scrimp someplace when doing a custom pillow, scrimp on the fabric and use a high quality feather pillow form.

Next Week … Sometimes a room needs a big statement piece to give it star quality. Find out how to pick one for your spaces.

P.S. Don’t miss a bit of Nell Hill’s news – stay up to date on my favorite finds, new arrivals at the stores and all our special events by checking the Nell Hill’s Facebook page every day. You don’t have to have a Facebook page yourself to look in on the fun, but if you’re already on Facebook, “like” us today!