Why Do People Karate Chop Pillows

Jun 15th 2018

The idea of “karate chopping” pillows has become a popular trend over the past several years, and the look consistently pops up all over Pinterest, in magazines, and on HGTV interior design programs. Why, though, do people karate chop their perfectly shaped, high-end, down and synthetic-down pillows? Do you actually have to chop your pillows to achieve that high-end designer look displayed so elegantly in magazine spreads? While this topic has been passionately debated within the interior design world, we decided it was time for pillow experts to weigh in and shed some light on the “to chop or not to chop” deliberation. 

Chopped Pillows
Photo Credit: House Beautiful

As with all classic debates, it’s important to begin by defining the terms. In this case, “pillow chopping” is defined as, “any down or synthetic-down pillow form that has first been fluffed and then chopped by way of a karate-inspired hand motion, creating an indentation in the center of the form.” Fairly straight forward and simple, and you can reference the above photo for a visual example of a properly chopped down pillows. While your chopped pillows are not required to be ones of down or synthetic fills, these fill types are the most shapeable and the insert-fill of choice for most designers and homemakers. 

Typically, you'll see chopped pillows in more formal living rooms or settings, but the look does not always represent extreme formality. When properly executed, the pillows can take on a more casual, welcoming-look - especially when layered and paired with couches and chairs that are rounded or softer in edges. 

  Why karate chop a pillow
Photo Credit: Maria Killam 

When attempting to accentuate a particular fabric or sheen, the chop can serve as a means to catch extra light and thus create more texture and dimension within a space. Take for instance this leather cover. Without the karate chop, one may miss the light reflection and the simple beauty of the cover itself.

Photo Credit: Murphy McCall

In rooms with a variety of patterned and colored throw pillows, a swift chop of the hand can serve to create unity and tie an entire space together. Take a glance at the photo below. Not only are the pillows varied in prints and sizes, but the pairing of colors is unexpected and non-uniform. While this combination of unique pillow characteristics is warm and inviting, the unconventional choice of color and pattern combo could come across as chaotic and unorganized. With the use of the karate chop, though, the room is pulled together and unified. 
Photo Credit: HGTV via Pinterest

A heavy chop isn't always necessary to achieve the look, in fact, sometimes a light chop to one or two pillows is all you need to make all the difference in a room:

Photo Credit: James Michael Howard

And many times, only adding a chop to a few of your many pillows is enough to bring just a bit more tidiness to a space, proving that not all pillows need to be chopped, all the time:

Photo Credit: Home Stories A to Z

Pillow forms take on many shapes, sizes, and qualities, and your inserts alone may be the deciding factor in whether or not you choose to chop. As mentioned, the best chopping pillows are typically a higher fill count with either down or synthetic-down filling, as these types of fills are naturally more moldable and have a higher staying power. A poly or eco fill will not carry as much staying power or movability once chopped, so it's best to leave them in their natural, plump form:

Photo Credit: The DIY Playbook

Many times, pillows displayed on your sofa carry enough personality and beauty to avoid the need for a chop all together! The room below has no need for a chop, as its pillows have just the right amount of texture and pattern combos to instill comfortable sophistication and a chopped look could serve as distracting and over-the-top:

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Ashley Furniture

After much research and many rounds of the debate, the gavel has landed and we've come to the conclusion that there will always be two sides of this pillow coin: The Choppers and the Non-Choppers. Simply said, there is no right or wrong answer in the world of design - it's all a matter of what look you're hoping to achieve . In all honesty, we believe the best looking pillows will ultimately be those of high quality, whether you choose to chop or not. 

We're eager to hear your opinions! What chopping category would you place yourself under?