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Style at Home: A Look Into the History of Pillows

BY Tribune News Service TIMEMay 16, 2022 PRINT

By Katie Laughridge
From Tribune News Service

As I was lounging around my home the other day (I use the word lounging very loosely as I am on maternity leave and completely at the beck and call of my new little family member), I found my mind wandering. A wandering mind is not out of the norm for me with my new mommy brain in full force. However, this time I found myself getting fixated on my many throw pillows throughout the house.

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As with much of décor, pillows, too, are thought to have originated in Africa and Asia, although they are nothing like the down filled treasures we know and love today. (Provided photo/TNS)

This is probably in part to a recent social media post that featured my home on which I had noticed a comment about how my guests wouldn’t even have a place to sit when they came over, and all I could think about was thank goodness this person hasn’t seen my bedroom pillow collection (my next thought was I wonder if my husband created this account to comment on our pillows – it sounded suspiciously like him)! It reminds me of the advice you hear about putting all your accessories on for the day and removing one for the perfect amount, except with pillows I put them all on and add two more. While I won’t be reducing my fluffy collection anytime soon, it did lead me down a discovery path on where the precious pillow originated and why I think know I need them around.

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Walking the line between luxury and necessity, the pillow props us up and provides panache to our spaces. (Provided photo/TNS)

It is nearly impossible to pinpoint when pillows became a norm in homes, but as you can probably imagine, they were created as a nighttime aid for comfort. As with much of decor, pillows, too, are thought to have originated in Africa and Asia, though nothing like the down-filled treasures we know and love today. In fact, they looked much more like small carved stools and were meant to safeguard the hairstyles of the era by supporting the neck, not the head. Some pillows were even made of porcelain and could be filled with cool water during the summer or hot water in the winter for extra comfort.

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Just like the origins of many décor items, pillows for decoration where reserved for the few and the fancy. It wasn’t until the late 1800s when textiles became mass produced that pillows became everyday household items. (Provided photo/TNS)

However, the pillows we know today started to take shape during the Roman era with soft cotton and down filling coming into vogue. It became less about preserving elaborate hairdos (hello bedhead!) and more about comfort. Just like the origins of many decor items, pillows for decoration where reserved for the few and the fancy. It wasn’t until the late 1800s when textiles became mass-produced that pillows became everyday household items.

Walking the line between luxury and necessity, the pillow props us up and provides panache to our spaces. I use pillows to add texture and depth to my spaces, but also to create a comfortable atmosphere for my family and guests. A throw pillow can add seasonal whimsy or anchor a color scheme, but most importantly, they can start a conversation.

Adapted from nellhills.com. Katie Laughridge is the owner of Kansas City interior design destination Nell Hill’s. For more information, contact Katie at info@nellhills.com.

©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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