House & Home

July 18, 2014

Change up your decor with throw pillows

Three Kansas City designers demonstrate how the personality of a room and even a simple white couch can be changed dramatically with different throw pillows.

Shake up the sofa with a simple switch in throw pillows. That’s the motto of Alejandro Lopez, owner of Alejandro Home Design in downtown Kansas City, who uses unique pillows to give a room instant personality and life.

“Throw pillows give you the chance to add a touch of who you are in your house,” said Lopez, who boasts his own collection of couture throw pillows and creates custom pillows for clients wanting to select their own fabrics. “Style shouldn’t be determined by a big box store when you can design or make your own throw pillows. There are millions of fabric choices out there that don’t cost a lot of money.”

Jen Hurst, owner of, calls herself a sidekick to supermoms, and her gigs often include helping with home and nursery design on a dime. Hurst’s clients usually request functional and family-friendly home updates that reflect and accommodate around-the-clock schedules. Enter throw pillows.

“If I spent $200 on a throw pillow, my kids would spill yogurt on it that day,” said Hurst, who is a mommy of two preschoolers. “I am just not in the phase of life where expensive home accessories are an option, but throw pillows can be such a quick fix for an old couch, chair or bed, and they are so easy to make yourself.”

Hurst, a DIY enthusiast, recently revamped an old pillow insert with a cover she created from remnants of a drop cloth.

“I originally painted a fun print and made a table runner out of the extra material, and when I was done with that, I cut it up and made a black diamond pillow,” Hurst explained.

Megan Heimbaugh is the assistant sales manager at Scandia Home & Terrasi European Collections. The Country Club Plaza store offers throw pillows in luxe fabrics with a variety of design embellishments. Heimbaugh has an eye for selecting the right pillows to enhance other details in a room, such as using metallic pillows to reflect the hardware on side tables and accessories.

She, Lopez and Hurst were thrown into a throw pillow challenge at Alejandro Home Design in an effort to see if a simple pillow switch could set the style of a room. See how their trendy choices might make a difference on your sofa at home.

Sophisticated shine

Heimbaugh piled on four fluffy pleated pillows from Nancy Koltes’ Shimmer line. Their bit of sheen complemented the contemporary sofa and setting of the room, and their hues of flax and oyster resonated with other metallic accessories, along with the area rug. The pillows seemed playful and cozy because of their size, but the understated shine of the fabric gave the room a glamorous flair.

“The simple design and metallic shimmer of the pillows add a touch of sophistication without being overly serious, a bit like a glass of champagne,” Heimbaugh said.

Heimbaugh used four pillows in her arrangement but said two or three metallic pillows on a similar sofa would work just as well.

Dramatic black

Contrast is key in room design, and black and white often play starring roles. The neutral, off-white backdrop in the room was ripe for a punch of black from pillows by DGI, Heimbaugh explained.

“Every room needs just a little bit of black for drama,” Heimbaugh said. “The leafy designs add an organic touch that softens the angles of the very contemporary furniture.”

Heimbaugh added that the placement of a lumbar pillow between two larger pillows bolstered the sense of decorum and balance in the formal room.

Tranquil retreat

At Alejandro Home Design, Lopez likes to surround himself with beautiful things, even in the details.

“I am from Spain, and I love bringing a bit of the Mediterranean into a space,” said Lopez, who placed several Alejandro Home Design pillows with names like Turquoise Swirl, Pale Blue Strings, City, and Solid Turquoise in the contemporary space to create the serene sense of an oasis. Lopez created the pillows using fabric from Kravet.

He added a cozy cashmere blanket to further enhance the feel of comfort in the space. The mix of modern, colorful fabrics on the pillows made the room feel airy and alive.

Urban safari

“Sometimes throw pillows just need to be fun,” Lopez said, referring to the look he called “an urban safari.”

Lopez used six pillows in a variety of prints and patterns to infuse a playful vibe in the once stark space. The mix included prancing zebra pillows from Scalamandre; natural wave pillows made of fabric from Zinc Textile’s Penthouse collection and bronze stripe pillows from Scalamandre fabric. All but the Scalamandre pillow were made by Lopez for the Alejandro Home Couture Collection.

The neutral tones in the pillows pair well with other colors and accessories.

“This is a fun twist for a room with a combination of different patterns,” Lopez said. “It can go from spring to fall easily and fit in almost any room.”

Lopez said clients shouldn’t be afraid to mix and match throw pillows because the different combos yield distinctive looks that can serve as talking points and personality clues.

“There are literally millions of choices with throw pillows … millions,” Lopez said.

Affordable eclectic

Hurst put a “mom-spin” on her look for the throw pillow challenge, selecting easy, comfortable and budget-friendly styles with minimal frills and fuss.

“For me, decorating can be overwhelming because there are so many options to chose from,” Hurst said. “In an effort to narrow it down, I try to focus on things that are important to me, like staying local, keeping things affordable and making sure the items I choose are functional.”

Hurst went with the popular 2-2-1 philosophy when setting up throw pillows, placing two square pillows on each end of the sofa anchored by a rectangular lumbar pillow in the center. The first pillow she chose was a Kansas City pillow that she found at the General Store in downtown Overland Park. It looks like it has been stamped with a postal mark from 1853.

“Nothing says local like a pillow with your city name on it!” Hurst said with a laugh.

She continued her hunt for inexpensive finds at Home Goods, looking for throw pillows that would add depth and texture to her eclectic couch collection. To complete her design, Hurst used a needle, thread and a remnant of fabric for a quick DIY project that jazzed up an old pillow form.

Resources, Scandia Home & Terrasi European Collections, 501 Nichols Road, 816-753-4144, 1701 Main St., 816-421-1030

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