December 28, 2012

Faux- and real-fur pillows get put through a touch test

When it comes to this of-the-moment accessory, the softest version makes it to the top of the pile

Rants, raves, reviews and resources for Dallas-Fort Worth parents

Fur, real and faux, is a hot trend in home decor this winter, with Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn reporting that furry pillows and blankets are selling out in some stores.

If you're looking for a pillow that feels luxurious and indulgent yet useful, we went in search of the softest, plushest, most huggable ones and convened a blindfolded panel to conduct a touch test.

The reviews were surprising. Though many of the designs in our informal survey were authentic lambskin, the nearly unanimous favorite was an inexpensive Restoration Hardware pillow made of modacrylic and polyester.

Luxe faux fur

Restoration Hardware,

22 inches square

Regularly $39, on sale for $29, plus $16-$20 for feather insert

The cuddle test: Blindfolded reviewers unanimously fell for this short-piled pillow made of 74 percent modacrylic and 26 percent polyester, citing it as the coziest and most luxurious -- an effect enhanced by the fact that faux fur covers both sides. Size also was a plus.

"This would feel great under my head or [under] feet on the coffee table," said one judge, no doubt to the chagrin of his wife. One astute reviewer said the pillow felt so silky, "I'm guessing it's fake. That's probably good, as that means that I can wash it!" (She was right. It is machine-washable.) No one, in fact, wanted to let this one go.

Tibetan sheepskin

Room & Board,

16 inches square

$89, polyester insert included

The cuddle test: Although our testers love their pets, most panelists did not want to hold a 100 percent wool pillow that felt like one.

"It feels like I'm petting a Maltese," one blindfolded reviewer said, cringing. Many panelists didn't like the long, curly fur but were taken with the soft suede backing. When the blindfolds came off, most people said they were impressed with the look of the pillow.

One person even saw a potential fashion accessory: "I could put it on my head and pretend I have hair," he said.

Mongolian lamb in amethyst

West Elm,

12 by 16 inches

Regularly $59, on sale for $37-$41, plus $7-$11 for polyester or feather-down insert

The cuddle test: Reviewers were generally not impressed with the pillow's curly fur or cotton backing.

"I like that it's so soft, but I'm not a fan of the long hair," one person said. Another panelist was more blunt: "This is creepy. I don't like the textured hair. The back is scratchy." When we had panelists hold different sizes of the same pillow, smaller versions were deemed more decorative than functional, especially by men.

Faux fur in caramel

Pottery Barn,

18 inches square

$39.50, plus $14 for feather-down or synthetic insert

The cuddle test: After hugging a series of long-haired pillows, panelists liked Pottery Barn's faux fur made of 82 percent modacrylic and 18 percent polyester. Hands declared it a winner for its silky feel, but eyes were less impressed with the fake look.

Mongolian lamb fur with faux-suede back

Crate & Barrel,

18 inches square

$89.95, feather-down insert included

The cuddle test: Reviews of this pillow, called the Pelliccia, varied greatly. Some liked that it felt so soft, but others declared the long hair to be a turn-off.

"I like that it's furry on one side and the other feels like a bearskin," one judge said. "It's a nice, cuddly pillow," said another. But some judges used the other C-word. "Creepy," a critic said. "I don't like the texture at all." Said another: "It's not something I want to hug."

Sheepskin in steel gray

Room & Board,

24 by 16 inches

$89, polyester insert included

The cuddle test: Good reviews all around: "I love the suede texture on the back. I want to sink my head down into it." "I would use this watching TV. It's very plush." "This is the most pleasing. It's dense." "I like that it stretches across my whole self."

The Room & Board pillow was the panel's favorite in appearance, with reviewers complimenting the short gray fur.

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