Perfectly Appointed Pillows

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A few weeks ago I talked about well appointed curtains (here) so today, I’m furthering that discussion to help you create or buy the perfect pillow!  To me, pillows are like the jewelry to your couch, bed, or chair and they should be as perfectly appointed in detail as the rest of your furniture, if not more so.  A beautiful pillow can completely change the look and feel of not only your bedding or furniture, but of your entire room.  I look at a pillow like a finishing tool in a space no different than any accessory and I believe no space would be complete without great pillows, right?!  So today I’m going to show you (whether you’re having them custom made or buying them ready made) what details to look for in the perfect pillow and my personal preferences in the details of how to have them made.

So, I don’t sew but my love for good fabrics runs way deep and throughout the years as I’ve moved from place to place (with my husbands job) one of the first things I’ve always done is to find a good seamstress.  I’ve always had a hard time finding exactly what I want ready made so to me that’s always meant taking matters into my own hands.  This means that over the years I’ve learned a lot about good vs. bad custom made pillows (for my self and for clients) and here are the top 5 things I look for in a good pillow cover (custom or ready made):

  1.  Self or contrasting cord – That’s the piping around the pillow…it finishes the pillow off nicely and gives it that custom made feel/look
  2. Rounded corners (no pointy dog ears) – Rounded corners give a more finished look so that you don’ have floppy/pointy corners that won’t be filled in by the insert
  3. Sized down 1″ so that insert fills it up nicely – I have my pillow covers made 19″ sq for a 20″ insert, for example.  Most good retailers size down 1 inch to give you that full affect I’m talking about here
  4. Hidden zipper – Look for either a pocket for the zipper to hide it or the cording will camouflage the zipper somewhat
  5. Great fabrics – I prefer linen, cotton, or velvet or just great quality fabric in general to accomplish a really nice pillow

Here is an example of that ever so important self cording and the rounded corners I was telling you about.  A self cord (or welting) is just a fabric covered piping sewn into/around the pillow cover to finish it off.  This can be done in the same fabric or a contrasting fabric as you will see further below.  The piping can be done in different sizes but I prefer a small, simple cording that is approx. 1/4″.Schumacher Chiang Mai Dragon Fabric for Perfect Pillows-6

Schumacher Chiang Mai Dragon Fabric for Perfect Pillows-4

Schumacher Chiang Mai Dragon Fabric for Perfect Pillows-5

Here is example of that hidden zipper.  There is nothing worse on a pillow cover than seeing the zipper so with the cording/welting, or a pocket to hide the zipper, this takes care of that problem.  This is usually a sure sign of a well made pillow cover.How to make a great Chiang Mai Dragon pillow_

How to make a great Chiang Mai Dragon pillow_-3

Pottery Barn washed navy velvet pillow

Here I’m holding the cording back so that the zipper is revealed.  Additionally, your zipper should also always be a complimentary color to your fabric.How to make a great Chiang Mai Dragon pillow_-2

I use a particular Etsy Shop called Southern Shades to make all of my custom pillows.  Patti is the owner and her attention to detail is unmatched.  She has all of the latest and greatest fabrics and the quality of her pillows will finish off a room like no other.  She will even make them in custom sizes, use your own fabric, and/or even order a requested fabric in for you when possible.  Here are a couple of examples of pillows she has made for me (along with the previous photos) that are just perfect for my home and my client’s homes.  I get tons of questions on Instagram about my floral pillows so I’ve sourced them for you here.  The newest addition to my pillow collection are these black and white beauties for this spring/summer.Chiang Mai Dragon Kelly Wearstler channels pillows-2

The black and white pillow cover here is a perfect example of a contrasting cord.  This means that the cording isn’t done in the same fabric as the pillow cover but it’s done in a contrasting fabric that blends with the pillow fabric.  When I had this pillow cover made by Southern Shades, I requested the contrasting cord so that it would pop against my natural linen couch, and to break up all of the white.  Patti is always so helpful at honoring requests like this when possible!Chiang Mai Dragon Kelly Wearstler channels pillows

Make a great Kelly Wearstler channels pillow_

I also purchase pillow covers from time to time from Pottery Barn, West Elm, and a few other stores I love.  For my spring/summer pillow collection, I recently found this washed navy velvet pillow cover that has all of the attributes above to suite my pillow pickiness, and for a pretty dang good price and free shipping…can’t beat that with a stick, right?!  Pottery barn usually has all of their pillow covers and inserts on free shipping as well.  I love that this one has a small flange (to finish it off nicely) and a hidden zipper.Schumacher Chiang Mai Dragon Fabric for Perfect Pillows-2

Navy velvet how to make a great pillow1

Pottery Barn washed navy velvet pillow

Schumacher Chiang Mai Dragon Fabric for Perfect Pillows

chiang mia dragano kelly wearstler channels fabric pillows

In regard to inserts…again, I buy all of my inserts from Pottery Barn or West Elm (depending on the size I need) and I don’t use down but I do use their synthetic down which feels and works just like down, but better in my opinion.  They seem to hold their shape better for me over time but I think over all it’s a personal preference as to which you prefer.  I never use a poly fill insert as they are not moldable/shapable and over all just don’t make your pillow cover look as nice as it could (should!).


To chop or not to chop?  The latest word on the street from Better Homes and Gardens is NOT to chop but here again, I think it’s a personal preference!  I chop most of my decorative pillows but sometimes I don’t and it just all depends on the application.  For example, I don’t chop my euro shams or especially my standard and/or king shams.Dwell Studio Blossoms Fabric Kravet Continuum how to make a great pillow_

Also, on my bed pillows I have them made with a simple 1/2″ flange because if the flange gets much larger than that it gets too floppy for me.  If you prefer a more feminine style pillow cover for bed pillows with ruffles or something similar, then that is something different all together and in that case the flange might be larger.Dwell Studio Blossoms Fabric Kravet Continuum how to make a great pillow_-3

Dwell Studio Blossoms Fabric Kravet Continuum how to make a great pillow_-2


Please let me know if you have any questions as I always love to help where and when possible!  And thanks as always for stopping by ZDesign At Home this week!  Hope to see you back next week for a fun summer living room tour with some of my best blogger buddies:)

Xoxo, Bree

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  1. So I’m glad that you had a post on pillows because I need some help! I currently have a leather sofa, loveseat and chair all in our family room of our townhome.(this was my husbands furniture from before we met so we are using it until we move because it is all too chunky and its too dark. )But I have such a hard time with my pillows. How many should I have on each for this one room and how many should be of the same pillow??? I feel like I have a mess of pillows. Any suggestions???

    1. Hi Audra! Sorry for the delay in getting back to you on this…it is really hard to say without seeing the space however, I would say to keep it light on the pillows (I love pillows but I’m not one to go pillow crazy in any space). Maybe just 3-4 max on the leather sofa, 2-3 max on the loveseat and 1 in the chair at the most. You can mix and match to your hearts desire but on a couch it’s always nice to have two of the same at each end, no matter how many you have filling in the middle. I hope some of that helps and thanks for stopping by the blog, and for commenting:)

  2. Bree, I could read your tips every day. I absolutely love learning from you! I’ll admit, I have never had a custom made pillow; now, I must. I will feint let be checking out your pillow source; thank you for sharing!

    1. Kelley!! Thank you so much for your kind words and thanks for stopping by the blog!! Love you to pieces sweet friend!!! Xoxo 🙂

  3. Bree!!! This is such a great post. I especially love that you address the “chop or not to chop” question. I do both and it depends on my mood, so I can’t advise that, but your words are perfect! xoxo

    1. Thank you so much, Jen!! Isn’t it funny how we know when to do what with the chop or no chop, lol!! Thanks for stopping by and for commenting sweet friend!!:)

  4. Hi Bree,

    Thanks so much for all the tips, they are SO helpful! Question- do the euro shams on your bed have rounded corners as well? Or do you stick with regular corners in addition to the 1/2 inch flange? Absolutely love your house, it’s STUNNING!!

    Thanks 🙂


    1. Hi Stacey! My euros are square corners but they were made by someone different than the lady that makes my pillows now. For shams I think the square corners are fine though. I mostly prefer the rounded corners on my decorative couch pillows…just don’t like those corners to be empty and then get floppy if that makes sense. Thanks for the sweet comments about my home and thanks for asking! Always happy to help and I hope to see you back soon:)

  5. Hi Bree,

    I’m about to order from Southern Shades, probably similar or same pillows that you have since we have similar colors! I’m wondering about sizes—do you have all the square pillows in the same size or are some an inch or so larger? I have a short sofa, a day bed, and a chair so I was thinking square pillows and maybe a couple of lumbar. I have all grey furniture and walls and a round marble coffee table in the middle, so loving the plum and navy along with the floral—not sure about the leopard. Just trying to figure out how many of each and sizes. Thanks so much for any help!

    1. Hi Lucy, I try to use different sizes for example…the ones on the far right and left on a couch are usually a 20×20 and then the ones in front of that are graduated down to an 18×18 and then I try to throw a lumbar size (more of a rectangular shape) into the mix if I have room. I hope that helps and I’m so glad you like my pillows! And I understand about the leopard…it’s not for everyone and took me a while to warm up to it but it has turned out to be a fabulous neutral that goes with anything. Maybe someday:) Thanks so much for commenting and for following along!! Xo

      1. Thank you! Would you suggest if I get two pillows in the Chiang Mai fabric that only one has the dragon? Patti says she can use an area of the fabric that doesn’t have the dragon. So I was thinking one with dragon and one with just the floral area. But I’m not a designer so I don’t know if they should be the same!

        1. I think that’s just fine Lucy! I have 7 of them (yes I know, that’s a bit crazy) and the front and back is different on most of mine. I’m so excited you will be getting these pillows…you’ll love them!!!

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