Decorative pillows offer more than throwaway style

DESIGN LINE

January 22, 1995|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Throw pillows or decorative cushions, or whatever you call those squishy bits of upholstery, can do a lot to enliven a dull room. Although they're no longer inexpensive, they still repay the investment -- with added interest.

The pillows don't have to be flamboyantly colored to brighten a somber scene. Gold, olive or even black and white can help soften the starkest scheme. In fact, any neutral color will make a starchy white setting feel at least a bit more relaxed.

Similarly, pillow coverings can do a lot to improve the look of an uninspired seating piece. Fabrics and designs such as damasks, tapestries and silk with fringes and decorative cord are capable of diverting attention from the tired old sofa on which they lie.

But what about a sofa that's already covered with some colorful floral design? Choosing pillows can be difficult in such circumstances, since the seating piece is already making a bold statement. The response often takes the form of a few tiny pillows that are made of the same fabric as the sofa covering and that derive their color from one part of the fabric pattern.

That's certainly a safe solution, but it also undercuts the whole purpose of adding pillows. They may as well not have been used at all if they can barely be discerned as decorative elements.

Large floral patterns can in fact be mixed quite successfully with stripes, checks and plaids -- even with other kinds of florals. It's usually better if the scale of the pillows' pattern contrasts clearly with that of the sofa covering -- it should be either a lot larger or much smaller.

The colors of the pillow and the sofa also don't have to match. A blending of colors can work extremely well, particularly when a contrast is established between the textures as well as the patterns of the sofa and the pillows.

If the patterns and trims are to be in scale with the furniture on which they're placed, then the pillows probably cannot be bought "off the rack." But fun and satisfaction may be had by scouring fabric shops for just the right materials.

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