When my family and I watch TV on a weekend night – a rare occasion these days, as we seldom agree on something we all want to watch – we pile on the sofa and get comfortable around our favorite pillows. It made me wonder about the history and origin of pillows (as one does). Turns out it's quite a tale: pillows have been around since 7000 BC, in early Mesopotamia. They were made of stone and so they were understandably much less comfortable. Apparently these stone pillows were made to prevent bugs from crawling into the ears of wealthier citizens (eww!). The ancient Chinese had a similar idea. They decorated their pillows much more ornately, but they were still made of hard materials such as porcelain, stone, bronze, bamboo, or wood. Today, these pillows are sought after by antique collectors because of their beautiful and elaborate decorations. The Japanese Geisha used similar hard pillows to keep their neck raised off the ground at night. These contraptions ensured that their hair remained perfectly coiffed for days on end.
The ancient Greeks and Romans preferred a bit more comfort, stuffing their pillows with cotton, reeds, or straw. Then, the doom and gloom of the Middle Ages arrived and halted most of the advancements human beings had been making—including pillows. Pillows were seen as a sign of weakness, and at one point the only citizens allowed some comfort were pregnant women (and the King). Thankfully, along came the Industrial Revolution, and soon everyone had a pillow to rest their weary heads – or feet - after a long day’s work.
Nowadays, pillows come in just about every size, shape and style imaginable: needlepoints, kilims, tapestries, embroideries, prints, stripes... It makes them the perfect decorating tool, especially when your room needs a quick refresh or make-over. Pillows are great for introducing more color (or picking up a color from elsewhere in the room), adding texture and visual interest.
Decorative pillows help our spaces thrive. From achieving a sense of balance to creating cozy nooks for napping or underscoring a room's visual focal point, decorating with throw pillows is an integral part of home design.
The fun part is of course to put together a pillow assortment that feels “just right”. There are no rules here: forget about perfectly symmetrical arrangements and matching colors to the exact hue of the walls, or the rug. Just let your imagination go wild! The more offbeat ideas are often the most inspired. Brightly colored ikats and kilims on a leopard print sofa? Yes, please!
So which pillow do I want to snuggle up with on a Saturday night? Renowned decorator De Wolfe had embroidered taffeta pillows bearing the motto "Never complain, never explain." I may need a few of those...