Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Dichotomy of a Pillow: To Chop or Not to Chop

That is the question! I've read hundreds of blog comments, dozens of blog posts, magazine articles, book footnotes, and even listened to advice from television decorators who weigh in on what seems to be a rather controversial decorating dilemma; when it comes to pillows: to chop or not to chop, that is the question!

I gather ideas for blog posts a number of different ways. And this post was inspired by a conversation that I had on instagram with my friend Joan of fortheloveofahouse. Joan posted this photo:

In her beautiful barnroom, pillows chopped and flounced about on the linen slipcovered sofa. The offender, sweet sweet Ella:

Ella is just one of many of the blogosphere's decorating dogs, but Ella shares a relatively uncommon trait ... she loves to chop pillows ... something she and her blogging mom don't see eye to eye on. I however, do chop my pillows, so together with Ella, I figured I'd advocate for pillow choppers everywhere by writing this post! 

The truth is, there are many degrees of choppedness, yes, I just made that word up - choppedness. Defined by the Artie and Ella First Volume Dog and Human Dictionary as: CHOPPEDNESS noun: the state of being chopped. "That pillow is in the fifth degree of choppedness." I have done my best to categorize and define them below.

The Half Chop
The half chop is what most of us see and appreciate, when in favor of the chopped pillow. It is a moderate level of choppedness. The half chop is noticeably chopped, with a polite crease in the center. This is easily achieved by first taking the pillow by the ears, slamming it against your closed legs (to fluff) then replacing on the chair or sofa, and giving a light tap in the middle of its head. Here are some published examples of the half chop: 

Leslie Dunn & Ann Tighe

Phoebe Howard

Jill Goldberg

Phoebe Howard

 Heiburg Cummings

Leta Austin Foster

Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Sally Wheat

Munger Interiors

Carrie Hayden

The Side Chop
The side chop is a little less common, and therefore confusing to some ... even chopped pillow enthusiasts, but it is my favorite karate move when dealing with rogue pillows. To perfect the side chop, you must first fluff your pillow (by any means necessary) and then use both hands to symmetrically chop at its sides, thereby trimming the fat off the pillow and giving it a plump and desirous hourglass shape. Here are some published examples of the side chop:  

All Jeffrey Bilhuber

Marco Meneguzi

Ryan Brown

Thom Filicia

Suzanne Rheinstein

Barclay Butera

The Pillsbury Poke
The Pillsbury poke is what many pillow chopping addicts do when attempting to quit the habit of chopping their pillows. They first fluff the pillow, place it in the corner of the sofa or chair, eyeing it intently as if missing something. Then they re-fluff, and give it the half chop. Determined to quit their chopping ways, they re-fluff, leave the room ... and run back in to give the pillow a poke. Here are some published examples of the Pillsbury poke.

Jane Moore

Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Brooke Giannetti

Phoebe Howard

Miles Redd

The WWF Full on Body Slam

This, my dear pillow chopping friends, is what even we avid pillow choppers avoid. This is the defcon 5 of choppedness. The WWF full on body slam pillow chop was created as an activity to reduce stress by Dr. Phil. Visualizing the person who has caused you grief, harm, or cut in front of you while in line at IKEA to buy your 20x20 down inserts for $4.99, you take your forearm and slam it into the pillow, narrowly stopping before tearing the whole thing in half. This, is how a true ninja assassin would treat their decorative accessories. Here are some published examples of the WWF full on body slam:

Barclay Butera

Bunny Williams

YAWN Design Studio

Michael Taylor

Barclay Butera

Eileen Kathryn Boyd

Ryan Brown

Barclay Butera

Laurie Pearson

The Soldier
The soldier is what the pillow chopping protesters have lined up on their sofas and chairs, prepared for decorating battle. These pillows are fluffed, but not in any way altered by an astute decorating hand. In fact, it likely takes longer for one to perfect the soldier, tightly fluffed but never pinched, poked, or chopped! Here are some published examples of the soldier:

John Saladino

Cullman and Kravis

Michael S. Smith

Charlotte Moss

Jan Showers

Phoebe Howard

Vicente Wolf

As you can see from all of the beautiful rooms above, ultimately, this is not a matter of taste, it's a matter of discretion. You either like the look of a chopped pillow, or you don't. It does not mean that you're stuck in an era of decorating that has long passed, or that you are less of a decorator than someone who prefers the soldier (no-choppedness) pillow look. It simply means you agree with me ... and Ella, and I think that puts you in pretty good company.

No pillows were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Posted with granted permission from Ella (and Joan)

Avoid the lines at Ikea - buy your pillow inserts at Amazon.

And please remember to vote for Color Outside the Lines now - February 12th for Best Writing on a Design Blog for the 2014 Design Bloggers Hall of Fame Awards. Read the full post here, or click here to submit your ballot! 


  1. As a non-decorator, maybe I just don't get it. What's wrong with having a non-chopped, square pillow? Is there a law against it or something?

    1. You, of course, are completely correct! Non chopped, square pillow is completely correct! Where did you come from ? Some lovely place! Those chopped pillows drive me insane! I grew up in Pasadena...and now live in Montecito.....I sound like I am bragging ; it is just that all this dreadful McMansion stuff started happening ...Bravo to you!

  2. i am a full on half chop. love it, no reform for me. it makes the feathers look fluffed and when i go to use the pillow already a nice nook for my head or elbow. the half chop also looks great in photos if the space is appearing online or in magazines etc.
    i think it makes a difference for the people who don't use feather inserts as the synthetic pillows are non-choppable, however after a few months of use you will be "chopping them" into the garbage.

  3. All your examples are noteworthy, Artie. It does depend on the pillow fabric and the style of the room, but I like the half chop and/or the side chop. The best thing about down/feather inserts is you can chop or not, depending on your mood that day, and they always look good!

  4. As long as the pillows don't look like rabbit ears because they are 'over-chopped', or like they have been sat on and left deflated, it works for me.

  5. Artie!!! You did this topic great justice! Love all the pics. Before I read the post I was going to say I "punch" my pillows (to fluff and form) but now I'll have to say I "Pillsbury Poke" as I have a pillow identical (color/fabric/size) to Brooke's in her linen chair and it always looks poked exactly like that! The pair on the bed under the full body slam are hysterical! Ella was at it again this week, even knocking two off the sofa in her attempt to get the perfect chop!! Fun post!
    xxojoan.... and ella!

  6. Half chop and down inserts always!
    The Arts by Karena

  7. This is funny, Artie. Other than the real estate agent in Million Dollar Listing a few years ago that obsessively chopped the pillows at this open houses, I never really paid attention to it. I think I prefer a "soft break" like the leg of a properly hemmed trouser more than any kind of chop. The hard chop is pretty severe and makes all the pillows look like cartoon characters, I think. Love all the photos though.

  8. I guess I am a choper of sorts. I cannot stand the look of soldiers at attention. Hilrious post!,

  9. I am up to late to read the other comments! So I always have an opinion!

    The one and ONLY CHOP EVER ALLOWED is the "dog chop" by the real dog on the real sofa!

    (please never say couch........please never say drapes)

    Pillows should not be overstuffed......they are comfy......please keep this alive!


  10. My friend Mitchell Owens......says....."nomenclature alert" never "couch! never "drapes"!~

    I hope this will spread far and wide! He is the style head at Architectural Digest@

    These things do matter! "drape" is a verb! (it drapes well) Drapes cover a coffin!!

    Curtains is what is at windows! (perhaps draperies( much better curtains! 'just "google if you don't trust me!!"

    "Drapes" are completely ick!!!

  11. I agree with Steve, I like a soft break. (I also agree with Penelope about curtains and sofas. but that battle is a more difficult one.) My Bella agrees with Ella that any chop will do as long as she is comfortable. Only down will do for her. Loved this post, Artie.

  12. Hate beyond belief the fake chops. But whatever Ella does is fine with me.

  13. Well this was an interesting post. I prefer down pillows never purchase or have anything else custom made period. I like the half break or the side chop which I starting using after seeing Barclay Butera's use of the technique. No break at all appears stiff to me. And that's my two cents.

  14. This post made me LOL. I absolutely am a half chopper, sometimes combined with a middle chopper. For me, the ultimate goal is to make the pillow look relaxed, not chopped. The Miles Redd & Sally Wheat rooms absolutely get me every time. Perfection in my book.

  15. LOVED this Artie and so well done. Appropriate too that you introduced Ella, as their styling was once described by those in the sewing circle as 'dog-eared' which was an absolute no, no. Also, they were referred to as accent cushions and not pillows. How times have changed! ☺ With that said; my preference is an ever so slightly chop and an occasional poke with an encased down/feather insert. -Brenda-

  16. Victoria and Home Before Dark are my absolute favorites.

    there you have it!

  17. I really want to send you photos of when our dogs "make a nest" of our pillows!!@ Seriuously 18th century tapestry pillows; people are "shocked"! I say....."they love them because they smell all the history of these tapestries! 200 years of dogs, cats, people, who knows what??"!

    Go!!! (I found the most expensive ones in husband almost fainted! I spoke at the Dallas Women's Club! GOOD LORDY!! My favorite two hours (two days) I think I have ever spent in my life! You Texas women are DARLING!!!

  18. Gorgeous home design . I appreciate your post here man .