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Throw Cushions Throughout History: A Look at the Evolution of this Home Décor Staple

by Mitchell Chitiz

The tradition of using decorative cushions began in the Mesopotamia era. Originally made from wood or stone, over the decades throw cushions transformed into comfortable and stylish home interior accessories. Below, we’ll be highlighting the origins and evolution of the humble throw pillow.

The History of Decorative Throw Cushions 

The decorative cushions that we know now for being luxuriously soft and aesthetically pleasing were once made from hard, solid materials and available only to the wealthiest of families. 

It is believed that the origins trace back to 7000BC in Mesopotamia civilizations. During this time, decorative throw cushions were considered a symbol of status: the more that you had, the more affluent you were. Researchers believe that throw cushions during this period would have been treated as art rather than home décor. 

However, it wasn’t long before the popularity of decorative cushions spread to other ancient civilizations and became an important aspect of daily life. Each era and civilization had its own interesting uses and methods for making throw pillows and cushions. Below, we’ll take a deeper look into the evolution of the decorative cushion. 

Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians are the first civilization that historians have physical proof of the design and use of decorative throw cushions and pillows. Typically made from either wood, ivory, or stone, the cushions of Ancient Egypt resemble headrests. Essentially, they acted as a “raised platform” that was intended to support the head.

The Egyptians had two main uses for decorative cushions: 

  • As part of a burial ritual: These stone or wood cushions were typically used during a burial. The head of the deceased would rest on these “platforms” as the Egyptians believed it would uphold body vigour, promote blood circulation, and keep demons away from the deceased. 
  • As part of daily life: Egyptians at that time would have slept closer to the floor than our society does now. As sanitation would not have been adequate back then, wealthier families used stone cushions to elevate their heads. Thereby avoiding contact with insects or vermin as easily. 
  • Ancient Greeks and Romans

    In Europe, the use of decorative cushions became popular thanks to the Greeks and Romans. Unlike that of Ancient Egypt, classical Greek and Roman civilizations veered away from using wood or stone in favour of materials that were more comfortable. 

    Decorative cushions during this period of European history were commonly stuffed with materials such as straw, reeds, or feathers to make comfortable items on which they could lounge and sleep on. While they still used cushions as part of burial rituals, emphasis was placed on adding comfort to their homes. It was normal for both Greeks and Romans to manufacture large cushions intended for reclining on, small cushions to decorate chairs, and throw cushions or pillows for sleeping on. 

    While the cushions used by the ancient Greeks and Romans were nothing like what we use today, it is believed that their techniques and designs paved the way for modern-day decorative cushions.

    Asian Civilizations

    Ancient Asian civilizations had various cushion preferences when it came to the material used and its intended purpose. Similar to the Egyptians, the Chinese chose to continue the tradition of using hard materials. Typically, decorative cushions were made using either ceramic, bamboo, wood, or bronze. 

    The Chinese believed that cushions made using soft materials took their vitality. However, this civilization did add a layer of fabric over them so that they would be softer for laying on. The use of ceramic cushions was faded out beginning in the 14th century, however, there are reports that some were still in circulation until 1910. 

    In Japan, however, throw cushions and pillows were typically used for seating on the floor. Often referred to as ‘zabuton’ cushions, these decorative cushions would have been filled using soft materials and were scattered around a room when hosting guests. 

    The Industrial Revolution

    During the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution brought with it advancements in technology, especially in the textile industry. As a result of this, decorative cushions that were once thought of purely as luxury items for the wealthy became more accessible to the wider public. 

    Advancements in fabric, dyes, and weaving techniques paved the way for decorative throw cushion design and usage as we know it today. During this time, many in Britain and elsewhere in Europe would use throw cushions as ornate accessories for their bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens. 

    20th Century 

    As throw cushions became more available to the wider market, trends in materials used and designs evolved tremendously. This area of the home décor industry shot to stardom and soon became a staple in all customers’ homes. 

    Improvements in the textile industry along with inspiration from other cultures brought about the decorative throw cushion designs that customers love today. 

    Modern Decorative Throw Cushions: How They Are Manufactured Today

    Wholesale throw cushions and pillows come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. Many modern-day manufacturers of decorative cushions use a variety of cushion stuffing and fabrics to help customers achieve the aesthetic they want for their homes. 

    Here at Westex, we are proud suppliers of wholesale decorative cushions and throw pillows. Our collection includes the ideal additions for any corner of your customer’s home. From solid chenille cushions to floral patterns stuffed with feather-filled pillow inserts.

    If you are a retail buyer looking to expand your current decorative throw cushion offering in-store or online, get in touch with our team today to hear more about our partnership opportunities.