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Originally published June 14, 2013 at 12:01 AM | Page modified June 14, 2013 at 2:14 PM

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No end to pillow fight between the sexes

Decorative pillows are a focal point and add punch to any room.

Special to The Washington Post

How to use decorative pillows:

• Don’t overdo it.

Pillows add a big dose of style in a small package, but there is such a thing as too many. A general rule of thumb is to have three pillows per sofa. I like two square pillows, one on each far side of the sofa, and a horizontal lumbar pillow in the middle. It’s fine to have more than three pillows, but whatever you do, always have an odd number — it just looks better. Most square pillows range from 18 to 20 inches. I like the height of a lumbar to be about two-thirds the height of the sofa back, so if your sofa is 30 inches from the top of the seat cushion to the top of the back, your lumbar pillow will be 20 inches high. As for width, lumbars should be about the width of one seat cushion.

• Avoid round pillows.

I learned this from Todd Klein, who had learned it from his previous boss and mentor, Albert Hadley. According to Klein, his boss detested round pillows because they reminded him of old-fashioned pin cushions. Plus round pillows can look sloppy, particularly if they are filled with down, because they don’t have a straight edge to sit on. One more problem with round pillows: It is hard to make them out of a patterned fabric because it’s difficult to figure out where to cut the circle in the pattern.

• Pillows do need fluffing, especially if they are down-filled, but please don’t over-puff them.

You don’t want them to look perfect. I am also not a big fan of the “karate chop.” This is when you fluff the pillow, put it where you want, and then karate-chop the center of the top edge (you can see salespeople in furniture showrooms implementing this technique). It’s better to fluff the pillow, then, while holding the top two corners, toss it where you want it to go. If it doesn’t dimple in the fall, gently push in the middle sides, so that the pillow has a natural, relaxed look.

• The bed is a different story.

The number of pillows and how you arrange them can drastically change the style of your bed. For example, two standard pillows laid flat on a mattress have a much more modern and streamlined look than the more romantic pillow arrangement of my bed, with its two standard pillows standing behind two standard shams, and one decorative square pillow and one neckroll centered in front. If you want a bohemian look, loosely toss pillows of various shapes and sizes on your bed, making sure they are in different but coordinated designs. For a tailored look, start by propping two European shams up against your headboard, then add two standard pillows, then two boudoir pillows all centered in front of one another.

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Al Roker hates decorative pillows. I have lots of on-air footage to prove it. Several years ago on NBC’s “Today” show, I was giving the weatherman-cum-correspondent some decorating tips, including how to accessorize a bed with pillows.

As I explained that the layering of decorative pillows on your bed helps to create a focal point in the room, Roker seized the opportunity to vent about his relationship with his cushion-covered bed. He described a nightly war he waged with the many pillows that his wife, Deborah, insisted remain in place until bedtime.

His argument: Why would you want a bed laden with pillows, only to have to remove them nightly?

He does have a point, especially if you consider his crazy work schedule; a minute wasted on anything superfluous at night is a minute less of shut-eye. But for those of us who love decoration, there is nothing prettier or more inviting than a stylish arrangement of European squares and neckrolls.

Mind you, Roker’s pillow protests don’t pertain just to the bed. He is against decorative pillows of all types. Just the other day I had a pillow on a chair for a segment and he tossed it right off the set.

This got me thinking: Are others as bothered by pillows as he is? So I started asking around. My thoroughly unscientific search revealed that men don’t like pillows nearly as much as women do. No big surprise.

But there is a sort of science to the war on pillows: It has less to do with pretty and more to do with physiology. I’m 5-foot-2, and most sofas and chairs are too deep for me, so I need a pillow propped behind me to sit comfortably. A 6-foot-tall man doesn’t need the pillow, so for him it’s just a nuisance.

To round out my research, I called my friend Todd Klein, a male decorator who understands both sides of the dispute.

Klein confirmed my findings but offered this useful advice to make both sexes comfortable and happy: Use down-filled decorative pillows because they are softer and squishier, so a heavier body will sink into them. Also avoid using any bulky trim, beading or tassels, which will make the pillow uncomfortable to lean on.

In addition to comfort, you can’t overlook the fact that decorative pillows add punch to a room. Just as you can spruce up a dull dish with a sprinkling of parsley, you can transform and update your ho-hum sofa by tossing a colorful, patterned or textured pillow on it.

And like parsley, pillows are an affordable upgrade. You can get stylish designs for less than $25 from HomeGoods, Target or World Market. Of course you might need to restuff them with feathers, but once you do, you should be able to call a truce.


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