In our advice column, Ask the Strategist, we take your most burning shopping questions and survey friends, call up experts, and draw on our own personal experience to answer them. As always, please email any online-shopping-related queries to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Ask the Strategist — we’re here to help.
Could you please direct me to the best pillow chairs with arms? I have looked high and low and I haven’t been able to find any I like!
A pillow chair with arms, otherwise known as a backrest or husband pillow, is a fairly common sight in most dorm rooms. As someone who wrote four years’ worth of midterm papers propped up by one, I can say with certainty that in this era of working from home, these pillows are also the ideal accessory for turning a bed into a makeshift desk. And, once you clock out, you can use them to comfortably read (or watch TV) before you go to sleep. There are plenty of options out there, in a range of different fabrics (from faux-shearling to cotton) and fills (from foam to feathers). I sniffed out a bunch, including a few that we’ve written about before, all of which are nice-looking enough to coexist with your current bedding while they keep you comfy.
Given the collegiate crowd’s expertise in backrest pillows, I am starting with this RA-approved option from Pottery Barn Teen that’s ideal for working on your laptop in bed. The pillow’s supersoft shaggy covers come in a range of both neutral and pastel shades that will match most duvets. The covers are also machine washable, should you like to drink your morning coffee in bed. If you want to save some money, you could just get the pillow insert itself — just know that it’s only available in white, so it will probably show wear after a while.
Another college-student-approved option is this fuzzy, polyester-fill pillow from Ugg. Yael Homa, a freshman at Colorado College, told Strategist junior writer Kayla Levy she is using it in her dorm “so that she can work more comfortably while sitting in bed.” The pillow’s combination of faux-shearling and plush charcoal fabric looks quite inviting — if you were to stick some googly eyes on it, we imagine it would almost look like a giant panda waiting to give you a warm hug.
This ribbed, rust-colored velour number from Urban Outfitters reminds me of a favorite pair of comfy corduroy pants, just in backrest-pillow form. It has a handle that makes it easy to tote around, in case you want to move from bed to couch to floor.
For a decidedly more grown-up option, luxury linen brand Peacock Alley sells this Nancy Meyers set–worthy, cotton-pique pillow. Each one is made to order from Portugal-sourced cotton in the brand’s Dallas workroom. At $215, it’s undoubtedly an investment, but it won’t look out of place on even the crispest of linens. You can choose from 13 different colors for the contrast piping and (for an additional $50) further customize it with a monogram.
When Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson tackled an Ask the Strategist about all the essentials you need to recover from surgery, she dug up this supportive foam backrest pillow with a soft micro-mink cover from Therapedic, which she noted has “a built-in pocket for a phone or remote control.” It’s available in taupe, navy, and gray.
Filled with a hypoallergenic, feather-and-down blend and covered in a 200-thread-count cotton shell, this backrest pillow is soft enough to doze on. While all the down that the Company Store sources is Responsible Down Standard–certified, it also sells a down-free, medium-firm husband pillow if you prefer something ecofriendlier. Both come with a lifetime guarantee.
Wayfair has a bevy of backrest pillows to choose from, in lots of different materials and colors. Of all the options, this is my favorite, due to the slightly unexpected shape and extra-large size. The polyester-filled pillow is covered in a sturdy, textured basketweave fabric and can be purchased in dark red, blue, black, and mossy green.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.