Ahhh, pillows. Aside from painting a room, Gentle Readers — which I maintain is the best, most cost-effective way to change a space dramatically — pillows can have an unparalleled impact on a room.
But what size? My clients and I do crazy custom pillows all the time, but there are some standard sizes and uses that are handy to know.
Euro pillows are 26” square. They’re BIG. You put one on a Twin bed, two on a Queen or Full bed, and three on a King bed.
20” pillows are great for large sofas and beds.
18” pillows are the most normal, common size. You can’t go wrong.
16” and smaller gets a little tricky. They’re not as ubiquitous anymore; they can look puny. Exception: a single “special” small pillow amongst others. Needlepoint, different fabric, etc.
Lumbar pillows are rectangular and are often used on comfy chairs when you don’t want to obscure the upholstery. They’re very handy. If you’re pillow-averse, placing a single lumbar – say, 30” wide x 15” high – in the center of a sofa is the very least you can get away with in terms of adornment.
Bolsters are low tube-like pillows usually seen on the sides of a daybed or in front of square pillows on a regular bed. They’re not used often, so you don’t need to waste any brain space on them if you don’t want to. Cute story: I was explaining to our dear friend and illustrator, Tania Lee, that we wanted to depict a bolster with striped fabric, and she asked, “long-ways, or Lifesavers?” You can’t get more descriptive than that.
A final thought, which sounds obvious, but I have to remind myself to do this: move your pillows around. Not just within a room (from sofa to chair), but, say, from family room sofa to primary bedroom. Or move one pillow to a bedroom and its twin to the living room. You see what I’m saying. Always start with what you have — as long as you still love it ;)
Annie Elliott Design is based in Washington, DC, with additonal offices in St. Michaels, Maryland and Middlebury, Vermont. Annie’s design work and insights have appeared in numerous local and national publications, including HGTV Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Washingtonian Magazine.