The Great Pillow Chop Debate: To chop, or not to chop

October 10, 2019

There’s a “Karate Chop” conundrum plaguing chairs, sofas, loveseats and beds the world over. Haven’t you heard of it? You’ve no doubt seen the subtle art of pillow placement and shaping, perhaps without paying too much attention to it. But trust me, whether you chop or don’t chop matters and believe it or not, pillow-chopping is quite the contentious topic.

“Pillow chopping” refers to the way you shape your pillows, by creating an indentation using a “karate chop” motion along the top. Shaping your pillows serves its purpose, but it’s not for everyone. Here are some dos and don’ts of the controversial pillow chop.

Pillow chopping is done for a number of reasons. The V-shaped groove is a great way to subtly highlight a feature wall behind a sofa or a piece of art mounted above it. The shape draws the eye upward, toward the intended focal point overhead.

Chopping is also done to showcase the sheen or pattern of a particular fabric of the pillows themselves. Silk or leather chopped pillows reflect light differently, creating subtle visual interest.

Pillow chopping is also done to create a sense of continuity. When the pillow selections in a room feature a variety of different colours and patterns, arranging the pillows neatly with a crisp chop in each one instantly makes the whole room look more unified.

Bigger picture, when done right pillow chopping can enhance a home’s sense of comfort, implying that the piece of furniture is comfortable and well-used, particularly when layered with other pillows and perhaps a throw. But as with most interior decorating rules, pillow chopping has some exceptions.

Factor a pillow’s filling into your decision of whether or not to chop. Heavy feather and down pillows hold their shape beautifully, while something like foam or poly fillers might not lend themselves to the chop.

Also, consider how the pattern of the fabric itself will be impacted by a big old chop through the centre of it. A highly structured motif, such as a bold stripe or geometric print, could be disturbed and compromised by pillow shaping.

Don’t feel like you have to fully commit to the pillow chop. Not all your pillows need to be chopped all the time. Use your best judgement. It helps to arrange your pillows with chops and no chops and snap a few photos. Then, compare the looks and decide what works best. Pillow chopping is a matter of personal preference and goals. What look are you trying to achieve in your home?

Regardless of whether you find yourself on the pro or con side of the great pillow chopping debate, remember that pillows leave a lasting impression, whether you immediately pick up on it or not. When you’re done sitting, lounging or napping on your furniture, take a second or two to rearrange your pillows neatly, chop or no chop. A little effort goes a long way!


Toronto-based, award-winning Interior Stylist, Red Barrinuevo is an Interior Decorator and Principal of Redesign4more, servicing clients in Toronto and the GTA. The firm’s known for enhancing and creating stylish yet functional spaces through their creative home staging, interior styling services, and design services.

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