Throw Pillows 101: Inserts and Covers

Looking to decorate with throw pillows? Read on for all the tips on inserts, covers, storage, and more!

neutral fall decor: casual elegant living room | Maison de Pax

As a work-from-home, homeschooling mother of four, I love systems. They are like my bread and butter and sanity and survival all rolled into one! And, trivial though it may sound, how I use throw pillows is no exception.

I recently received several requests for throw pillow help from readers, so I thought now might be a good time to share my basic system, tips for choosing inserts, the best places to buy pillow inserts, and more.

Decorating with Throw Pillows

First and foremost, though, why throw pillows? Do I need throw pillows? Are throw pillows necessary? Won’t my children just throw them all on the floor? Yes, probably. 😉

mid century modern leather chairs and sectional | Maison de Pax
mix of velvet, linen, and patterned throw pillows in living room – see the full space

But I do have four reasons why I love throw pillows in home decor:

  1. Throw pillows are such a fun way to layer color, texture, and pattern into your home. 
  2. They can be an inexpensive way to change up your style from time to time. 
  3. Decorative throw pillows are an easy way to bring in a touch of seasonal decor.
  4. They bring comfort and coziness to your furnishings.

Plus, read on for tips on doing all these things efficiently and affordably!

Ultimately, decorative pillows are far from essential to life, but they can add visual interest your chairs, sofas, sectionals, and beds. They allow you to purchase more neutral furniture for your living room or bedroom, but to change up the accents as your style develops. Plus mixing patterns, mixing and matching sizes, and adding a pop of color can be fun.

How to Style Throw Pillows

I actually began writing this post and it ended up so long that I’m going to save this portion for a separate post. I’ll be sharing how to arrange throw pillows on a sofa, how to decorate with throw pillows on a bed, how to use throw pillows on chairs, and more. 

Comment below if you want particular help with styling throw pillows and I’ll be sure to add it to that post!

This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my full disclosure.

The Secret to Throw Pillows

Now comes the obvious question: how to store throw pillows. If you are using throw pillows in living rooms, bedrooms, and more (and changing them up from time to time), where do you store the extras?

Here’s the best rule to my system: buy quality pillow inserts and then simply replace covers.

In other words, only buy as many inserts as you need for the furniture you have and collect covers only for replacements. Covers are easy to store folded on shelves, layered in bins, or hung up with hangers like this to avoid the need to iron later!

Throw Pillow Inserts

Inserts matter.

Here’s a little secret: the insert tends to be more important than the cover in giving a throw pillow a look of quality. Expensive covers with cheap inserts will look like cheap pillows, but inexpensive covers with quality inserts will look expensive and be more functional.

In other words, the best throw pillows all begin with a quality throw pillow insert.

Efficient decorating ideas: fringed throw blankets. Find out which accessories are most versatile in your home! #efficiency #budgetfriendly #budgetdecor #decoratingideas #accessories #homedecor
throw pillow combination for bed: two large decorative pillows and one lumbar – see the full space

What size to buy for Throw Pillow Inserts

Here’s another little secret: always buy inserts that are 1-2 sizes larger than your pillow covers. This will give you nice, full pillows that hold their shape better. In most cases, I purchase inserts that are 2″ larger than the cover, for example:

  • For an 18 x 18″ pillow size, use a 20×20″ insert
  • With a 20″ square pillow cover, use a 22″ square pillow insert
  • For a 22″ square pillow cover, use a 24″ square pillow insert

Throw Pillow Insert Filler Materials

There are four main filler options for throw pillow inserts:

  • down feather pillow inserts*
  • cotton pillow inserts
  • polyester pillow inserts

*Typically, the higher the percentage of down, rather than feathers, the higher the price. Feathers can feel like down but are more likely to come out of the pillow. I like to find ones that meet in the middle of price and quality.

My favorite inserts for indoor throw pillows are down inserts. If you or anyone in your family has allergies, though, then you’ll want to look for premium hypoallergenic (usually cotton or polyester) inserts. I use the same down feather inserts for square decorative pillows and lumbar pillows.

For outdoor throw pillow inserts, you’ll need polyester so they won’t mildew.

Where to Buy Throw Pillow Inserts

The key is to find the right filler material and size! Here are a few of my favorites:

Where to Buy Throw pillow covers

This is where it gets really fun! Linens, velvet, bold patterns, weaves, printed cottons, leather, wool, faux-furs, embroidery, tassels… The list of fabrics and trim for cushion covers is basically endless. 

neutral fabric sofa: deep double chaise with linen slipcover | Maison de Pax
neutral linen sofa with decorative throw pillows: striped, block print, and patterned – see the full space

I imagine that some of these sources will seem obvious, but some might surprise you. Whatever your style: traditional, transitional, modern, bohemian, classic, colorful, neutral – there are beautiful throw pillow covers available.

I have also been asked why are throw pillows so expensive? The truth is, prices will vary a lot: anywhere from $2.99 to $299… and everywhere in between. Fortunately, throw pillows are one of the best areas in your home to mix high and low (one of my all-time favorite decorating principles) because you truly can find quality at all price points. 

Here are a few of my favorite sources for throw Pillow Covers:

Amazon – No surprise there. It takes some wading through the options sometimes, but the selection and prices can truly be incredible, plus perks like free shipping and returns with Prime is great. I am loving these plaid ones and these textured ones that I added to my sofa this winter. See my favorite Amazon pillow inserts and covers in my storefront here.

Christmas decorating ideas: wood vase with cedar clippings
throw pillow covers from Amazon for holiday decorating – see the full space

Pottery Barn – They have loads of quality classics as well as beautiful colors and patterns. I have used this one in multiple locations in my home and at the ranch.

american antique wood headboard with crisp white linen bedding and velvet pillows | Maison de Pax
mixing solids and patterned pillow covers – see the full space

West Elm – PB quality with a more modern flair. I especially love some of their playful patterns for kids’ rooms. And West Elm Kids has some adorable options, as well.

H&M – Surprised? Their pillow covers are my favorite for inexpensive options, especially for solid color pillows. I have their velvet ones in multiple colors and their linen blend ones are another staple in my home.

giant gray sectional with navy and gray pillows
inexpensive pillow cover options – see the full space

Studio North – They make beautiful pillow covers in a wide variety of sizes. You can even order fabric samples beforehand if desired. I have used them recently for some client projects and love the wide selection of quality fabrics.

Etsy – For custom or vintage pillow covers, Etsy is a wonderful option. I particularly love the vintage turkish rug patterned pillows like we used in my girls’ bedroom at the ranch.

antique twin beds with modern lamps and rustic dresser | maison de pax
beds with vintage kilim pillows – see the full space

Rejuvenation – These can be a little pricey, but the beautiful fabrics – silk, wool, and Italian velvet – are simply stunning. I especially love some of their classic, elegant patterns for accent pillows.

McGee and Co – Another higher-end option, but it’s hard to beat their textured neutrals like this lumbar pillow. And they do soft, elegant patterns well, too, like this blue and white cover.

Target – To get the look for less, try Target! You can even get Studio McGee’s Threshold line there, which is a great budget alternative. Pillows at Target usually include the inserts (which I don’t love), but as long as there is a zipper, it’s easy enough to dispose of the insert and use a down insert instead.

IKEA – Need another budget option? IKEA has some great basics, including a beautiful cotton velvet cover and some cute neutral striped pillow covers (I love that button accent!).

World Market – I especially love their outdoor throw pillow collection, like this fun textured neutral and this Sunbrella fabric lumbar pillow.

black rocking chairs with black and white throw pillows | Maison de Pax
black and white patterned outdoor pillows – see the full space

Throw Pillow FAQs:

I try to answer common questions to save you the trouble of asking. 😉 But if you have any more, feel free to comment below!

Can throw pillows be washed?
As a mom of four, I have been forced to explore how to clean throw pillows. One thing I love about this system is that it allows you to wash your pillow covers because you can zip them off. Are throw pillows machine washable? Many are, but always always read the washing directions on the cover, as those will differ based on your material.

Did you know that most pillow inserts are machine washable, too? Even the down feather filled ones. Again, check the washing instructions, but typically speaking washing them on delicate with low suds detergent will work. Hot water will help kill dust mites, and an extra rinse cycle can be helpful to be sure the detergent is fully removed. 

Can throw pillows go in the dryer?
You can tumble dry most inserts on low, but you may need to dry them twice. This is recommended to ensure they are fully dry since damp pillows can lead to mildew. For covers, be sure to check the washing instructions so you don’t accidentally shrink them.

How many throw pillows on a couch?
I am planning to address this in my post on “how to style throw pillows,” but suffice it to say that I like to group 2-3 pillows in the corners of sofas (it kind of makes a cozy little nest that way). Therefore, the number of pillows for a sofa should likely be a max of 6, while a corner sectional could have a max of 9.

Where to buy throw pillow inserts?
See above for my favorite ones!

How do you make throw pillows look good?
Remember that tip about using a larger insert than cover? That will help your pillows maintain their shape. A quality down feather (or down alternative, if you have allergy problems) that is a little larger than the cover will provide a fluffy, elegant shape.

What do I do if they don’t sell just the cover?
I mentioned this above, but I wanted to be sure to clarify: just be sure that the pillow insert is removable. Most pillows that come with inserts (like at Target, for example) have inexpensive polyester inserts. If the pillow cover has a zipper, allowing you to replace the insert, then you can upgrade (and upsize) the insert to maintain your system. Then donate the extra one!

tan leather sectional with mid century modern feel | Maison de Pax
leather sofa with mixed throw pillows – see the full space

In summary, here’s my process:

  1. Use high-quality down feather inserts (indoor) or polyester (outdoor). Purchase only as many as you actually need for use in your home.
  2. Collect pillow covers that you love! Mix solids and neutrals with a few fun patterns and seasonal options. 
  3. Store the pillow covers not in use in your linen closet (or wherever works for you) so that you can change them out when it’s time for a wash or the mood strikes.

I hope you found this helpful! It’s a small thing, but the sustainability of a system and the smile that beautiful throw pillows bring to my face – not to mention the forts my kids inevitably make out of them 😉 – makes it worth it.

everything you need to know about throw pillows

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  1. I love throw pillows! The Mr. calls me the Queen of throw pillows. (He just doesn’t get it…lol). While all of your source suggestions are great, my go to stores are Homegoods, Home sense, Marshall’s and TJMaxx. They have many quality, down and feather designer pillows. Should one come polyester filled, I swap it out with another insert. I often wind up with too many inserts and often give away or toss them. I used to keep everything and storage was problematic. Storing covers vs. pillows=a lot more storage! I keep a few extra as I sew covers to coordinate with bedding.

  2. I hang my pillow covers on those stackable skirt hangers—no wrinkles and takes very little space.

      1. Thank you for your consideration. You have great style and know-how to blend colors and textures well.

  3. Great post! You had some source suggestions that I did not know.
    Years ago when I bought furniture I loved to buy chairs or sofas with patterned fabrics that I loved. I have though, seen the light!, and have found that if you get more neutral large pieces, you can change the feel easily with great pillows and throws.
    That also allows you to exchange furniture between rooms easier, especially if you move often and end up with your basic rooms of different sizes and shapes 🙂
    Thank you for another great article

    1. Yes! While patterns are beautiful, those large pieces are expensive to replace! Have fun with pillows and accessories.

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