The "Pillow Chop" Is One of Interior Designers' Signature Moves—Here's How to Get it Right
Picture this: You're putting the finishing touches on a room—be it a living room or bedroom—and something feels a little, well, incomplete. It doesn't make sense. You carefully selected a cohesive color palette, sourced furniture that is proportional with your footprint, and sprinkled in a hefty dose of accessories. So, what gives? As small as it may seem, simply chopping your throw pillows can transform your space from "not quite" to "just right." "The pillow chopping trend started in the 1980s and became popular again a few years ago," explains Molly Torres Portnof, an interior designer and the owner of DATE Interiors. "I like to think of it as that extra step after fluffing your pillow—it's done to make pillows appear fuller and a bit more structured."
Believe it or not, the pillow chop's comeback spurred an industry-wide debate: to chop or not to chop. Turns out, many people in the design industry prefer their pillows au naturale. "[They] should be held tightly in the bottom corners and vigorously shaken and fluffed," notes Michael Cox, a designer and the owner of Foley&Cox. "An elegant, rounded 'crown' on the face of the pillow is the goal."
But, according to Torres Portnof, chopped and un-chopped pillows can live comfortably under one roof. "I focus more on how much we should be chopping our pillows," she explains. "The answer is: less than you think. Not chopping pillows at all can leave pillows feeling boxy and flat. Over-chopping them feels way too formal and unwelcoming. That's why I prefer a 'soft chop' instead of a deep indentation." For the best results, follow Torres Portnof's three easy steps: First, shake your pillow out. Then, fluff it by taking the ends and gently squeezing in and out. Once the pillow is properly fluffed and full, softly indent the top with the side of your hand.
Of course, there's plenty of room for interpretation. If you like the drama of a crisp indentation, add some more muscle to your motion. Once your pillow is chopped to your liking, feel free to place it on a chair, sofa, or pristinely-made bed. And, while chopping your pillows is a relatively straightforward task, Torres Portnof says it's important to shake up the direction, size, and severity of your indentations. "There's nothing inviting about a sofa filled with multiple razor-sharp, karate-chopped pillows," she shares. "Instead, while fluffing your pillows, pick a few to softly chop. This will look and feel much more natural."
Still firmly on team "no chop?" Consider a subtler, softer alternative. "I'm more of a 'light taps on each side' fluffer. This gives the pillow body—then plop it in place playfully and adjust as necessary," explains Los Angeles-based designer Kelly Martin. "The 'chop' feels produced and sharp to me, when I think pillows should be soft and airy in the space." So, with the right moves, you could very well find a happy medium in this polarizing debate.