Al Roker hates decorative pillows. I have lots of on-air footage to prove it. Several years ago, in a live segment 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 was explaining 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 maddening 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, who as a male decorator understands both sides of the dispute. Klein confirmed my findings but offered this useful advice that will make men and women both 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. If you think of it in food terms, pillows are the parsley of decorating. Just as you can spruce up a dull dish with a sprinkling of green garnish, 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.
Mayhew, a “Today” show style expert and former magazine editor, is the author of “Flip! for Decorating.”