Most interior designers agree that a distinctive choice of pillow goes a long way toward enhancing a good decorating job. Yet, the profusion of pillows is so great, and the possibilities so limitless , that it would be easy to get caught up instead in a kind of pillowmania that clutters and confuses.
To sort things out, we called on a few top designers and makers to check out trends and to learn some of the whys and wherefores of correct pillow placement.
"Pillows are wonderful tools for repeating a color or a pattern at strategic points in a room, and are an often overlooked element in decoration," says Lloyd Barling, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers in St. Louis. "I often use them as 'signature statements' to express a certain quality in a room. So I'd rather see people buy two very nice pillows than a half dozen mediocre ones. I don't believe in having to fight your way through the pillows in order to find a place to sit down."
New York designer David Briggs says: "Don't line pillows up to look like sergeant majors marching with military precision along the back of the sofa. Allow them to look more casually arranged and more inviting so that they appear to say, 'Sit one me. Touch me. Pick me up and perhaps steal an admiring glance at me before squeezing me up to tuck comfortably under your elbow.'"
A pillow should always be analogous with the object upon which it sits, Mr. Briggs continues, so that the total image is smooth and not jarring. He terms "jarring" the sharp contrast of an off-white sofa decorated with big bright red pillows. Instead, a pillow should flow into its background through some relationship of tone or design context.
Decorative pillows are bigger and softer these days, Mr. Briggs says. And since the profile of modern sofas is getting lower, the pillows used on them help define their scale. oth Mr. Briggs and Elizabeth Matthews, another New York designer, believe in using pillows that are graduated in size, both to give visual variety and to offer guests the opportunity to adjust them to their own proportions. And both agree that the specially made needlepoint or other needlecrafted pillow is usually a personal bit of handiwork that deserves special attention and display. Such a pillow, whether made by oneself or by a friend, should be arranged so that it stands out as a little work of art unto itself. It should be a small piece de resistance in a room, and delight the eye as well as spark the conversation.
"Decorative pillows, generally, should always contribute to the overall color scheme of a room and never fight with other objects, particularly not with the paintings and other works of art," says Miss Matthews, whose personal prefer ence is for big, tidy, simple pillows that are fat but soft.
She thinks the lace pillows that are now in vogue look best when placed against such fabrics as silk, satin, and velvet. Miss Matthews advises that sculpture pillows, such as those made to resemble animals or people, should be placed where their silhouettes can be enjoyed, not buried under clusters of other pillows.
Flo Tauber and Craig Carrieri, who design all the pillows they sell at their Pillow Salon, at 238 East 60th Street in Manhattan, confirm that larger pillow sizes, like 24-by-24 or 26-by-26 inches, are definitely "in" as far as the decorator crowd is concerned.
"Our pillows, which retail from $75 to 1,000, are fashioned chiefly of Oriental silks, including Japanese obis and kimono fabrics, many of them glinted with gold and silver threads," says Flo Tauber. "We are only doing things with clean, smooth lines."
But you don't have to pay a fortune to get an interesting pillow that adorns your room with class and character. Barbara Cartland, the British romance novelist and stepgrandmother of Princes Diana, has designed an array of "Decorating With Love" pillows for Riverdale, including one called Bonnie Prince Charlie.
London designer Tricia Guild has put together appliqued accessory pillows from her own country fabrics. Or you can choose from Laura Ashley's quaint print pillows, Marimekko's bold graphic prints, or homespun applique and patchwork pillows by country-furnishing enthusiast Mary Emmerling. There are also designer pillows by such names as Angelo Donghia, Ava Bergmann, and Gloria Vanderbilt.
Craft shows and craft shops all over the country are the places to look for hand-woven, hand-painted, and tie-dyed pillows that are one of a kind and unique.