How To Pick the Perfect Pillow, According to Interior Designers

Pillows can be great for sleeping or decorating with—especially once you have a few of these expert ideas in mind.
Pillows can be great for sleeping or decorating with—especially once you have a few of these expert ideas in mind. / petrenkod / iStock / Getty Images
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Tossing and turning over picking the right pillows to spruce up your bedroom? Rest assured, you’re not alone. Whether you’re trying to create an aura of relaxation in the boudoir or find something more supportive than your current set, the best pillows can help you feel cozy while you catch some shut-eye, no matter which sleeping position you favor.

“Bedrooms are one of the rooms in which we try to let our clients’ personal preferences drive our ideas and design,” Jillian Hayward Schaible, co-founder of Susan Hayward Interiors in Milton, Massachusetts, tells Mental Floss. “This is such an intimate space in the home, and it is so important to understand how it is going to be used and whether they would like the room to feel soothing or more energizing.”

According to Brittany Farinas, creative director at the Miami-based interior design firm House of One, choosing pillows can also be one of the more fun parts of decorating, although she generally advises against using more than five in a given area. “Too many pillows can overwhelm the space,” she says. Instead, Farinas recommends putting “your largest pillows on your bed or larger surfaces you have,” then tossing any smaller ones on a chair or chaise.

For more insight into how to shop for pillows—and transform your favorite rooms using them—check out these expert tips down below.

Pillows 101: Shopping and Decorating Tips To Keep In Mind

Stumped for where to start? “Determining the function of the pillow will dictate what size, shape, and material would be best suited for the space,” Hayward Schaible says. If you’re shopping with comfort in mind, Hayward Schaible recommends avoiding pillows that feature beading, sequins, or other rough fabrics. Conversely, if you're struggling with back or shoulder discomfort, a desk chair pillow that offers plenty of lumbar support would be ideal. “There are so many options for pillows, and it is so important to feel the support of the cushion as well as the material of the fabric—this will really pull the design together and make your choices both beautiful and functional,” she adds.

But comfort and support aren’t the only factors that go into pillow selection. “Nothing adds interest or personality like a pillow. It’s art for the sofa or bed,” says Nancy Boughton of Nancy Boughton Interiors in Andover, Massachusetts. She recommends using color and texture to add a pop of personality to each one you choose, an approach echoed by Shoshanna Shapiro, owner and principal designer at Maryland’s Sho and Co. “Always mix textures and patterns so your pillows have interest, dimension and style,” she says. For bold looks, Shapiro generally likes to “mix one strong pattern with [a] solid, or two soft patterns,” but avoids putting two extremely eye-catching designs together, as it could overwhelm the room’s overall aesthetic.

When choosing pillows for clients, Shapiro notes that she always asks for any preferences they might have, and if they have allergies—another important element to keep in mind as you consider what to buy. “We love to use feather/down but check with clients based on allergies,” Shapiro reveals. “If they have allergies, we have our seamstress custom make a fill mix of shredded memory foam, latex and polyfill. This combo feels the most like down [because] you can chop [it] and it won’t go flat over time.”

6 of the Best Pillows To Buy Now

1. Best for All Kinds of Sleepers: TURMECOWE Goose Down Feather Pillows, Set of 2; From $29

TURMECOWE Goose Down Feather Pillows, Set of 2 on a white surface.
TURMECOWE Goose Down Feather Pillows, Set of 2 / TURMECOWE / Amazon

Boughton recommends you invest in decent pillows for your style of sleeping. Whether you’re a side, back, or stomach sleeper, this set of two—each of which is made with filling from grey goose feathers—could be a terrific option, because they’re designed to give your head, neck, and shoulders extra TLC. As an added benefit, they come with 100 percent sateen cotton pillow covers that are machine washable for easy upkeep.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Great for Lumbar Support: Baskin Cotton Striped Lumbar Pillow; $55

Baskin Cotton Striped Lumbar Pillow on a chair.
Baskin Cotton Striped Lumbar Pillow / Dakota Fields / Wayfair

Designers agree that lumbar pillows are great for the bedroom, and even on chairs. They can provide great support and also a dash of personality—case in point, this tasseled cotton beauty. It’s handcrafted and features a striped geometric design, plus you’ll get the pillow insert with it (so you won’t have to search for one that fits into the removable cover).

Buy it: Wayfair

3. Best for Larger Beds: Cozy Bed European Sleep Pillows, Set of 2; $17

Cozy Bed European Sleep Pillows, Set of 2
Cozy Bed European Sleep Pillows, Set of 2 / Cozy Bed

For a king-sized bed, Mary Patton of the Houston-based interior design firm Mary Patton Design likes to layer four sleeping pillows: two stacked on each side, then topped with a king sham. She then adds Euro shams in front of the two pillow stacks. These comfy Euro pillows fit the bill and can be used for sleeping or for decor purposes; they even come with a microfiber cover.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Best Textured Decorative Throw Pillow: Kelly Clarkson Home Interlude Cotton Pillow Cover and Insert; From $33

Kelly Clarkson Home Interlude Square Cotton Pillow Cover and Insert
Kelly Clarkson Home Interlude Square Cotton Pillow Cover and Insert / Kelly Clarkson Home / Wayfair

When it comes to decorative throw pillows, Paula Gaull of New Leaf Redesign in Marblehead, Massachusetts, is another designer who likes to use different types of fabric and consistencies. “Mixing in different textures is a good way to stick with a monochromatic or neutral palette, but still add some visual interest,” she says. This throw pillow from Kelly Clarkson Home is available in a variety of colors (including neutral hues) and has a sleek, minimalist look to it, but offers a little panache, thanks to its side tassels. Want to make it look even better on your bed or chair? Boughton recommends giving each pillow a “karate chop” at the top to “change the shape and [so] it feels more upscale/dressier.”

Buy it: Wayfair

5. Great If You Love Faux Fur: Cheer Collection Shaggy Throw Pillows, Set of 2; From $35

Cheer Collection Shaggy Throw Pillows, Set of 2
Cheer Collection Shaggy Throw Pillows, Set of 2 / Cheer Collection / Amazon

Another thing that Gaull likes to do is mix in faux fur or velvet with embroidered, knit, or macrame pillows. This set of two plush, overstuffed pillows could be a great investment if you’re looking to follow her lead. Available in 12 colorways and three different sizes, they’re great for layering and can add a shabby-chic vibe to your home.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Best Splurge Buy: Rose Hallmark Floral Round Throw Pillow; $27

Laurel Foundry Modern Farmhouse Rose Hallmark Floral Throw Pillow on chair.
Laurel Foundry Modern Farmhouse Rose Hallmark Floral Throw Pillow / Laurel Foundry Modern Farmhouse / Wayfair

Functionality matters when it comes to pillows, but sometimes, it’s nice to have one that’s just pretty to look at, too. This round floral pillow is available in a rainbow of colors and offers an affordable and cozy choice for a farmhouse bedroom.

Buy it: Wayfair