Although there are no strict design rules, here are some tips to help guide you in selecting the right pillow size. Keep in mind that measurements are always based on the size of the pillow cover when it is measured flat before stuffing. You can read more about how pillows are measured here.
When you are choosing square pillows, the first thing to consider is the scale of the chair, sofa or sectional that you are putting them on. Large, deep sofas and sectionals will generally require large throw pillows. These might range from 22 inch square to 26 inch square depending on your sofa or sectional. However, it is also important to consider the height of the back of the sofa. Large pillows can look out of place on a low-back sofa and may detract from the lines of the sofa which are so often a key design feature of modern, low profile sofas. One exception is when you are using your throw pillows as the back of the sofa. If your sofa does not have supporting back cushions, then you may want to use larger pillows to create the sofa back.
Measure the height of the back of your sofa and use that as a guide for your pillow size choice. For deeper, low back sofas, consider layering your throw pillows with a combination of smaller square pillows and rectangular lumbar pillows. This gives you and your guests the flexibility to nestle more comfortably among a larger number of pillows. If the sofa is deep with a high back, then you can really have fun with larger pillows and you will have even more options to layer smaller square or rectangular pillows in front of them. When you are layering square pillows, try to scale down the front layers enough so as to allow the back layer of pillows to still be visible. For example, if your back pillow is 20 inches square, try a 17 or 16 inch square pillow in front. If you only layer down to an 18" you may find that you are covering up too much of the back pillow. Stepping down in size also give you the ability to create more even back support.
17 inch to 20 inch square pillows are the most common square pillow sizes as they tend to be a good fit for most standard size sofas. On smaller love seats you may want to keep to 18 inch and smaller so as not to reduce seating space too much. The same guidelines apply to stand alone chairs. A deep, high back lounge chair may be the perfect spot for a larger 22 inch pillow, but rarely would you want to go any larger than this with any stand alone chair. Just as with your sofa, be aware of the seating depth, arm rest height and back height and use these measurements to guide you.
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