What Is a Pillow Back Sofa?

Written by f.r.r. mallory
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What Is a Pillow Back Sofa?
A pillow back sofa uses loose pillows for back comfort. (Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images)

A pillow back sofa has a rigid back attached to the sofa's frame. Its arms are structured and built into the frame and covered similar to other sofa designs. Its seat cushions are fitted, but loose, and often have zippered backs so that the cushions' covers may be cleaned. Large square pillows are lined up on the sofa to serve as a back rest for persons sitting on the couch.

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Pillow back sofas are available in several styles, but the most common is one that has a somewhat overstuffed look. This style can be country, shabby chic or eclectic. The arrangement of pillows on the sofa also can create a comfortable, relaxed look and suggests to visitors that they should make themselves at home. The pillows often are more dense than traditional throw pillows and much larger to adequately support the pressure of a person leaning back against them.


Modern pillow back sofas with straight arm lines and low seats can be used as a backdrop for multicoloured pillows. These pillows each may be a solid colour, or two or more pillows might be one colour while the overall sofa might have three pillow colours. A traditional pillow back sofa is designed with a set of pillows where most are one colour and a few small pillows are included for an accent.

Shifting Pillows

Complaints about pillow back sofas often centre around shifting pillows and pillows that quickly become flat or misshapen. When selecting a pillow back sofa, look for pillows that are much larger than a throw pillow and contain a more dense foam. Cheap versions of this sofa will have less substantial pillows. The pillows can be arranged to limit how much they move around on the sofa and to adjust for greater comfort.

Arranging Pillows

A pillow back sofa's pillows are large and dense and should be arranged so that they can receive guests but also won't shift behind guests. Some sofas are constructed so that you can place pillows flat similar to a traditional fixed back sofa. Arrange three or four pillows to lay flat like a permanent back set of cushions and position any remaining pillows at the corners of the sofa. Another arrangement that works well is to start at one end of the sofa and angle the first pillow so that one side is further forward, while the other side touches the seat back. Place the next pillow against the first at the same angle. Continue to the other side and place the last pillow in line with a smaller accent pillow turned into the last pillow.

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