The Great Throw Pillow Debate: How Many Pillows Are Too Many?

You're either Team Pile 'Em High or Team Keep It Minimal. There's no middle ground.

Melissa Smrekar's Dallas Living Room with Crane Wall Panels, Green Velvet Sofa, and Soft Pink Walls
Photo: Heather Halbert

From the front door paint color to the tile backsplash in the kitchen, there are countless opportunities to show off personal design preferences throughout your home. Most Southerners will agree that throw pillows, too, are an easy and cost-effective way to let your style shine. But when it comes to how many is the right number to toss on the sofa or prop against the headboard, you'll find a house divided.

Like sleeping with a top sheet, there's technically no right or wrong answer for how many throw pillows belong on a sofa or a bed—but people have such strong thoughts that they may just convince you that their takes are gospel truth. Here, we tapped six experts for their throw pillow opinions. Read on to decide what team you're on: Pile 'Em High or Keep It Minimal?

Let the Pillows Speak for Themselves

"A formal living room often stands alone as the home's one pristine sanctuary amidst the chaos of daily life," says Dallas tastemaker Melissa Smrekar. "For this reason, I favor loading the sofa with enough throw pillows to convey the silent message that one should not make themselves too comfortable here. The sheer volume of pillows articulates, 'This is where we sit to open presents on Christmas morning and Christmas morning alone.'"

Exercise Restraint

"There is definitely such a thing as too many throw pillows," says Susan Crater, president of legacy textile brand Sister Parish Design. "We would suggest never having more than four on a three-seat sofa!"

Raleigh, North Carolina, designer Niki McNeill Brown agrees. "One shouldn't have to move pillows out of the way in order to sit comfortably," Brown. "The amount and style of the pillows should be proportionate to the sofa or bed. For example, a full-size bed should never have six decorative pillows in addition to the standard two used for sleeping. That's just too much!"

Give Guests Options

"More is more, less is a bore," quips Nicole Letts, who curates a maximalist treasure trove of antique and vintage finds for her online Grandmillennial Shop. "My 82-inch ecru English roll arm fits six 20-inch pillows snugly. They have vibrant Schumacher patterns, so they jump off the white and camouflage stains. Plus, guests can choose their level of comfort by adding or taking away pillows as needed."

Don't Break Even

"We're all about throw pillows on sofas as a way to inject personality into room," says Dallas interior designer Jean Liu. "How many pillows does the trick depends on the size of the sofa, but in general, we think the magic happens between 3 or 5 pillows. We prefer to stick to odd numbers. In terms of how many is too many, if you have to move the pillow to sit down comfortably, there are too many…at least in our book."

Make Them Count

Just as Smrekar is an advocate for more volume on the sofa, she's got the cush level down to a science when it comes to throw pillows on a bed. "There, my calculation is strictly mathematical," she notes. "Two quality pillows per person for sleeping, one show pillow per person for aesthetics, and one throw pillow per bed that ties it all together and says, 'That'll be all' in Miranda Priestley's voice."

Always Leave Room for One More

"Whatever the 'big' pillow choices (two, three, euro, boudoir…), I always love a needlepoint pillow to top it all off," says Jamie Meares, who carries playful ones in her Raleigh, North Carolina-based online shop, Furbish Studio. "Cheeky sayings make you smile and guests are always guessing where you scored such a charming find."

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