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Things to Know About Throw Pillows

You’ve heard the term, you’ve seen them around, but what are throw pillows exactly? For new homeowners, interior design rookies, or anyone looking to add a splash of color to their space, learning the ins and outs of decorative throw pillows can be intimidating. 

What are the best pillow fabric types? What are throw pillows used for? Why are throw pillows called throw pillows? There are so many questions about types of decorative pillows, and luckily, we’re here to answer them all.

We’ll cover everything you need to know about accent pillows, so you can be an expert decorator in no time.

throw pillows used for

What’s the Deal With Throw Pillows?

Throw pillows are a staple of the couch, bedding, and living room decor. They add coziness and comfort to any setting. But, of course, they also introduce a beautiful decorative touch

But what exactly are they?

A throw pillow is just another term for an accent pillow. They’re often smaller than standard bed pillows, have a removable cover, and come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. 

If you’re trying to craft a comfortable seating arrangement, accent pillows are non-negotiables. We mean, can you imagine sitting on a pillowless couch? No, thanks! They work perfectly as lumbar support, extra head support while sleeping, or even as an outdoor pillow — given that it has the correct durable fabric covers

But throw pillows don’t only serve functional purposes — they also tie a room together. So whether you want to add a pop of color to the neutral tones in your space or contrast a geometric pattern with a simplistic embroidered pillow, it’s the perfect opportunity to express your creativity. 

So if you want to curate a collection of throw pillows for aesthetic reasons or to accompany your midday nap on the couch, they’re must-have items. 

How Did Throw Pillows Get Their Name?

types of decorative pillows

By now, you’re likely wondering: “Why are throw pillows called throw pillows?” And the answer is simple. It’s because that’s what you do — you throw them. 

Maybe not literally anymore, but that’s how they were intended to be used. You casually throw these pillows on the couch for some extra character and comfort. The same logic follows for throw blankets. You just toss that pom pom blanket on the back of your chair to create that laid-back boho vibe.

However, these days, people are much more intentional with their throw pillows. Now, it’s less of a casual throw and more about strategic placement to make an eye-catching masterpiece out of those toss pillows. 

Types of Throw Pillows by Material

best fabric for throw pillows

How are you supposed to know the best fabric for throw pillows with so many options to choose between? Well, there isn’t just one answer to that question. Each textile has unique advantages that set them apart, but also some not-so-great aspects. Of course, it all depends on what you’re looking for in a pillow. So let's dive into various throw pillow materials and what makes each one so unique. 

  • Cotton. Cotton is one of the most widely available throw pillow materials — and for good reasons! Is it the best fabric for pillows? Possibly. This plant-based textile is gentle on the environment, generally affordable, and oh-so-comfortable. It has a neutral texture that works well with any style. Plus, cotton comes in various grades, finishes, and thread counts. You can get any kind of cotton throw pillow covers you want! 
  • Velvet. Looking for a fabric that oozes luxury, velvet is the textile for you. That soft, plush texture boosts cozy, lavish vibes, especially perfect for the winter months. It’s inviting, warming, and simply gorgeous. Balance this dreamy material out with smooth silk or breezy linen. 
  • Satin. Glossy, smooth, and shiny: all traits of satin pillows. While satin is a synthetic material that’s a cheaper alternative to silk, the difference is less detectable with throw pillow covers. Your guests will never see the dull flip side of the fabric when it’s hidden inside. A dream! 
  • Silk. Silk is without a doubt one of the best natural materials for pillows. It’s highly durable and essentially the peak of luxury. Made from the fiber created by silkworms, this textile is known for its quality, smoothness, and moisture-wicking properties. These designer pillows are fantastic for a good night’s sleep but are they worth the hefty price tag for a throw? That’s up to you! 
  • Faux fur. The texture is a key element of design. Any great setup involves contrast and what better fabric to use than faux fur? This fluffy, funky material brings liveliness to any room without adding bright colors or busy designs. Faux fur isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re into it, all you need is a touch! 
  • Leather. Leather straddles the line between a rich, tasteful type of fabric and an organic, neutral one. Whether you’re aiming for a rustic-chic vibe or an elevated, classy look, you can find a leather pillow to match. Of course, leather isn’t cheap and holds ethical controversy. Luckily, vegans and animal lovers can choose a faux leather cushion cover instead! 
  • Wool. Wool often gets a bad reputation for being scratchy and uncomfortable — but that isn’t always true. High-quality wool is a top-tier material. Just look out for less processed ones to avoid the itch! It’s also not just a winter textile. Though it’s warm and cozy, wool can take on so many forms — it’s not all cable knit pillow covers. 
  • Polyester. If you’re looking for a tough, long-lasting fabric, polyester is your friend. It’s wrinkle and stain resistant, it holds its shape and maintains its color for life. In fact, it’s frequently blended with other fabrics to enhance durability. Did we mention it’s cheap too? The downside is that a polyester is a form of plastic, meaning it’s pretty harsh on the planet. 

Types of Throw Pillows by Shape

types of throw pillows

The best thing about throw pillows is that you don’t have to choose just one! There are many types of throw pillows, and luckily, you can incorporate each shape into your home. You don’t have to pick just one. In fact, it’s best to have an array of shapes and sizes. Here are some possibilities for you to consider. 

  • Square. Square pillows are classic. They’re a timeless design choice that seamlessly fits in with any room in any home. You can think of square shapes as neutrals — they work with everything. If you’re going to choose one form, make it this one. Then, play around with different square sizes for some variation and dimension. Voila! 
  • Rectangle. Rectangular pillows work wonders for decorative purposes. Their long form draws the eye across the space. It’s the ideal shape to place on a small chair or to bridge a gap in the middle of a couch. And the best part? Lumbar pillows make fantastic support for anyone with back pain. It’s like a two-in-one deal! The rectangular shape is a definite win. 
  • Round. In an arrangement of primarily square and rectangular pillows, a round pillow form goes a long way. This shape may seem plain at first, but circular accents create an exciting contrast. And it doesn’t need to be complex! A simple pattern, solid color, or textured material round pillow cover is enough to add a gorgeous pop to your spread. Do you want to go all out with it? Choose bright colors and bold patterns — just use them sparingly. 
  • Box. The secret to a perfect throw pillow spread? Dimension, dimension, dimension. Even just one box pillow can give you some much-needed depth. These shapes are exactly what they sound like: a square cushion that’s thicker than most, creating a box-like form. If you have a deep-seated sofa or sectional couch, you’ll want to pick up a few of these. 
  • Bolster. Most people don’t have bolster pillows in their collection. Still, we say, why not? Sure, they may be primarily found in hotels, but don’t you deserve that level of luxury in your own home too? Think of them as a lumbar shape yet cylindrical — almost like a tube. Use a bolster anywhere you’d place a rectangular one to switch things up a bit. 
  • Novelty. Pillows can come in any shape and size. Really, any. That’s where novelty throws come in. Do you have a specific love for cherries or hearts or seashells? How about donuts or cacti or frogs? Yup, you can find a novelty pillow shaped like any of those! It’s tricky to work these into an elegant throw arrangement, but they can add some cutesy fun. 

Tips for Using Throw Pillows as Design Elements 

Throw pillows aren’t just about materials and shapes. There’s so much more to it! Follow these tips to create a flawless pillowscape that will leave everyone who sees it speechless. Let’s get to it! 

  • Choose an invisible zipper. Picking a throw pillow cover with a hidden zipper is a simple way to take your collection from fun to fabulous. It may be a minor difference, but these types of throw pillows are so much more elevated and elegant than others. Plus, you reduce the risk of your zipper getting caught on other pillows or materials when it’s concealed by fabric. What could be better?
  • Incorporate some texture. Shapes, sizes, and color aren’t the only ways to add depth to your space. Playing around with texture also does it! Mix simple, natural pieces with funkier, “out there” accents like fur, leather, velvet, or knit covers. Even if it’s not something you’d usually choose, it can look marvelous against more low-key textiles. It’s a treat to the eye! 
  • Play with shape and size. It’s no fun to have an entire spread filled with pillows of the exact same dimensions, even if they’re of different colors and patterns. Change it up! Mix in an oversized throw pillow with a round or lumbar pillow insert. Incorporate variety into your setup for the most aesthetically pleasing layout possible. 
  • Don’t be afraid of color. A little color never hurt anybody, right? If you’re a neutral-lover, introducing bolder accent colors can be intimidating. However, a little brightness goes a long way. Choose a color scheme and experiment with it! Look for patterns with details in your tones of choice, or pick a pillow in a solid shade. It's up to you! 
  • Maintain consistency. Maintaining a sense of consistency within your design is crucial to crafting a beautiful arrangement. This goes for your color palettes, patterns, materials — everything. Select a few elements and ensure they tie in with your pillow spread and the entire room. Maybe use the same design in different colors or choose the same shape in varying sizes. Use groups of three (or at least odd numbers) for a foolproof aesthetic. You’ll be golden! 
  • Swap out the covers. The great thing about throw pillows is that most have removable covers. Not only does this make cleaning super easy, but it also lets you adjust your decor seasonally — or whenever you feel like it. Does your space feel boring? Change a few pillow covers! The little things make a difference in decor, and this can add the liveliness you need. 

Final Thoughts

Throw pillows are beautiful, functional accent pieces that elevate your decor to the next level. Flex your interior design muscles by playing with materials, shape, size, color, and more to craft the pillowscape of your dreams. All it takes is a little creativity! 

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