The 8 Pros and Cons of Pillows on Accent Chairs

Pros and Cons of Pillows on Accent Chairs

Pillows are a staple of interior design, and ubiquitous in residential living rooms, casual coffee shops, and pubs, as well as work spaces and office spaces. The reason that pillows are found on accent chairs everywhere is because they bring a bold punch of color or pattern design to a space without a long-term commitment.

Some couches and chairs are pretty uncomfortable without a throw pillow or cushion, so these little accents sometimes serve as more than eye-candy. However, not everyone is a fan of pillows on accent chairs, and there are some very good reasons why. In this article, you will learn about the pros and cons of using pillows on accent chairs, and how to navigate through picking the right ones. 

Pillows Are Visually Impactful on Accent Chairs

Putting pillows on accent chairs is a non-committal decorative pick up that makes a huge visual impact in any room. Usually people choose accent chairs that blend well with the style and colors of the room. Adding pillows with “wow” is a quick way to change the colors and style of the room without committing to anything permanent.

  • An accent chair is sometimes a beautiful piece that is set in an area of the room where it tends to blend in 
  • To help the chair stand out and lend its beauty to the space, people often choose to add a cushion or two to the chair, and maybe even a little coordinating throw blanket
  • This changes an unobtrusive accent chair into an alluring, comfortable chair in a jiffy

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing pillows for a one-two decorative punch. First, the color should either blend with the color of the accent chair, or it should compliment the color of the accent chair. It can also sport a picture, embellishment, fringe, or pattern that either blends or compliments the accent chair.

When choosing a pillow that blends, this does not mean that the pillow has to match. It simply means that the pillow color is from the same family as the accent chair. For instance, if the accent chair is navy blue, then a pillow that blends would be anywhere in the deep true blues or blue-greys. 

A pillow that compliments the accent chair color will be in the opposite color family. Use this Adobe color wheel to easily see what the complimentary color families are. For the navy blue accent chair, the complimentary colors would be yellow. So a pillow in any shade of yellow from buttercup to goldenrod would be the perfect eye-popping match to pair with the chair.

Fun fabric patterns are also used to make the perfect accent chair pairing. If the chair is in a solid fabric, then choosing a pillow with a bold pattern in a complimentary color is a sure way to make the whole chair show up in the room. Patterned pillows are perfect for adopting an ever-changing design fad. When the fad is over, pick new pillow covers in the new fad pattern and keep riding the latest design current.

Pillows Get Tossed on the Floor

Oftentimes, pillows that are put on accent chairs often get tossed on the floor, the coffee table, the couch, and anywhere else when someone sits in the chair. Many people take this as a sign that the pillow is a bad idea. It may actually be a sign that the size or design of the pillow is not correct. 

The size of the pillow is crucial to finding a pillow that is supportive and lends comfort to the chair rather than taking comfort away. Here is the design rule of thumb for pillow sizes, according to Ariana Belle. The pillow should always be proportional to the size of the seat. 

  • Measure the width of the chair seat. 
  • Subtract four inches from the width measurement to get the bare minimum width of the pillow that should go on the chair. For easy math, a 20-inch wide chair seat should be paired with a pillow that is 16-inches minimum. This is the best size for a square or rectangle pillow. The rectangle would be measured on the long side.
  • Add four inches to get the maximum width that should go on the chair. The same 20-inch chair seat could be paired with a pillow that is 24-inches maximum. A 24-inch maximum sized pillow is ideal for a lumbar pillow.
  • The range of pillow size is a total of eight inches, allowing a lot of flexibility, but keeping designers out of the danger of choosing grossly undersized or ridiculously oversized pillows for the chair.

If the chair is not as supportive on the back as it could be, then finding a pillow in the right proportion will invite guests to use it as a support cushion rather than moving it off to the floor or another seat before they settle into the chair. It is a good idea to have a lumbar pillow in the maximum width on a chair that is not supportive for the lower back.

Pillow Covers Can Be Swapped out Easily

This is one thing that people love about adding pillows to accent chairs. The pillow covers can be easily swapped out, changing the look of an entire room in a few minutes. 

This is also an easy way to buy pillows that may not look great, but are very comfortable, and then change the look of them with almost no effort. Many people change out pillow covers seasonally along with other seasonal decor like door wreaths.

Pillows can be beautiful and totally unaffordable, especially for pillows with nice, supportive fillings such as a down fill. A great way to get around this cost and score some high-end pillow filling is to shop clearance bins and one-off stores such as HomeGoods. The key is to find pillows with zipper covers. 

These high-end pillows are often on clearance because the covers are ugly. If it has a zipper, the cover can be removed and the nice fill can be put into a new cover that looks great on the accent chair. The same can be done for a perfect pillow cover with crummy fill. Buy the perfect pillow cover and swap it onto a pillow of the same size with great fill.

When shopping for pillow inserts, buy a size that is two-inches larger than the zipper cover. This will require a little extra work to stuff the pillow into the zipper cover, but the result is a super fluffy and filled pillow that looks luxe instead of saggy.

For that extra designer magazine touch, do the “chop.” Do a little karate chop with the side of the hand on the top middle of each fluffy pillow. This brings the top of the pillow down a little in the middle and fluffs out the front a bit, while bringing the two top corners up. It is a little design hack that helps pillows look like they have more presence and a heavier fill. It gives cheap pillows that luxe down-fill look. 

Pillows Sometimes Stink

This is especially a problem for pillows in public areas, like coffee shops. They get used constantly, and they end up dirty and stinky. One way to mitigate this is to use pillows made of a washable outdoor fabric. It will repel dirt for a little longer and hold up better to constant abuse and frequent washing.

There are two reasons why residential pillows on accent chairs might stink. Firstly, because pillows are sometimes used instead of things like TV trays. They get soiled and all of that stuff stinks. Most pillow covers can be unzipped and washed. If the pillow cover has decorative trim, then turn it inside out before laundering or wash it in a mesh laundry bag. Follow laundering directions.

If the pillow cover can not be laundered, then it will have to be replaced. Stinky fabrics can ruin the pleasant smell of an entire home. While blankets and clothing can be laundered, fabric chairs, couches, and sometimes pillows can not be laundered. Couches and chairs can be professionally steam cleaned, but the pillows may have to be discarded for new ones.

The second reason that pillows on accent chairs might stink is because of the filling. Sometimes people pay a lot of money for “high-end” pillows that are down-filled, and the pillow ends up smelling like wet duck, or worse. This is because there is no middle ground when buying down fill. Buy goose down or do not buy down at all.

Down that is made from duck and other birds has a smell that a lot of people complain about. Also, some down products are mixed with feathers. Feathers have more of a smell than down does. If the down and feathers are not washed properly, they may have a smell. Finally, they should not be packed in plastic because this encourages microbial growth on the filling. 

These reasons narrow down to a single conclusion: when looking for a down filled pillow insert, choose goose down. This is sometimes mixed with other types of polyester fillings, which is fine. Down pillows are supportive and keep their beautiful, filled look for a long time. Give them a good sniff before committing to keeping the pillow inserts. They are worth the money in the long run.

Pillows Can Get Crazy and Fun

Pillows are a way to bring fun and whimsy to the room without changing up any lasting furniture pieces. Accent chairs with pillows can go crazy without taking over the entire room. 

  • Pillows with pictures are fun. From farmyard animals to memes, throw pillows can make a fun statement about the preferences of the household without causing a big redecorating project.
  • Keep in mind the proportions that should go in a certain chair. If there is a fun pillow that is much too small, then add it as a second pillow over a larger proportional pillow.

Pillows on accent chairs are also a great way to try out a certain color scheme in a room without committing to it on the walls. For someone who is considering adding red to a room, the accent pillows are a perfect place to start. It is easier to decide if it is a good long-term color decision after living with them for a while.

Fabric trims such as tassels, rope accents, big buttons, lace, shells, sequins, and any number of other fun trims can be tried out on pillows that are placed on accent chairs. Sometimes this little pop of style is all that is needed to finish off a room and bring all the various design elements together.

Ultra modern design is clean and simple, but patterns, textures, and loud colors are in. The only thing to avoid when creating a modern look is trim. Choose pillow edges that have close, tight seams rather than piping, tassels, or other trim. On the other hand, these trims will help to soften an overly harsh modern environment. 

Pillows Are Not Supportive

Many people complain that throw pillows are only to look good, but offer no real back support. This is largely true because throw pillows are sometimes too small to do any good, or are smashed down. 

These complaints can be fixed to a large extent by choosing pillows that are proportionally large enough to add support to the chair. The fill is another important factor. Supportive fill makes a pillow integral to an accent chair, while a flattened pillow is a detractor. 

It is important to keep pillows fluffy and full. This can be done by buying high-end pillow inserts, or replacing inserts once the fill begins to pack down. This will also keep the decor looking fresh, even if the pillow covers are not frequently updated.

For chairs that are really not supportive on the back, two lumbar pillows can work a miracle on the accent chair. Also, for those who can not get comfortable, a lumbar pillow across the bottom of the back and one running up the middle or along one side of the chair can offer supportive relief. 

Pillows Are Ugly or out of Style

This is a frequent opinion voiced by those who have bought the wrong pillows. Sometimes the pillow just does not look quite right, but it is hard to put a finger on what went wrong. Here are a couple of scenarios where pillows do more harm than good on accent chairs: 

  • Sometimes the color is off. If the shade of color is off, such as being a blue that has too much green in it to coordinate well with the chair, then it will not look right. This happens a lot when choosing pillow colors in stores with fluorescent lighting. Keep receipts and tag in case you need to make a return.
  • Problems with the pillow size or shape. There is an exception to this, which is shaped decorative pillows that are purchased for a reason. An example might be a horse-shaped pillow that is purchased for the appearance of the pillow, not as a proportional accent for the chair. 

Otherwise, there are two styles of pillows that are a bit outdated. Think twice before purchasing round pillows and bolsters. For vintage or period-themed furniture, these are great pieces to add style and support. For modern or updated themes, round pillows and bolsters are not often used. 

A good idea to practice before pillow shopping is to hunt around online for pictures from modern design magazines and websites to see what the latest pillow trend is before heading out to buy pillows. Just because they are in the store does not mean that they are a good purchase. There are always pillows available in every shape and style because there is always someone who will buy them, whether they should or not.

Using Pillows on Accent Chairs Is Upscale

Nothing says upscale like a gorgeous accent chair with a well-coordinated, tasteful, and proportionally sized throw pillow. Every design magazine and website features seating with multiple pillows. This is because when done well, pillows add a sense of luxury to every kind of seating. They provide comfort that is more than a simple necessity. They are a luxurious choice, and they upscale a room quickly.

There is no faster way to say trendy and luxury than with a single throw pillow that is well chosen. Learning to choose pillows for accent chairs, beds, and couches is a sure way for homeowners to upscale their rooms and give a sense of personal flair without hiring an interior designer. 

Do Accent Chairs Need Pillows?

Accent chairs do not strictly need pillows. Most chairs have padding that is sufficient to sit in the chair comfortably. However, to bring out the full style potential of accent chairs and to help them stand out in a room, they really do need pillows. Pillows are a design choice that brings luxe style and pizzazz to a room at a minimal cost overall, and with very little effort.

The elevation that throw pillows give to the mood, style, and atmosphere in a room greatly outweighs any cons that may be argued against having them on the accent chairs.



Hi there! I’m Alex, the one behind this website. I ran and operated a Local Furniture Store in Southern California. The store opened in 2010, during the “Great Recession,” It is still thriving today; however, I have dedicated my time to helping our online customer base. My primary focus is to help you with all your furniture & mattress questions.

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