I am a bit of a softie about my sofa, and cushions add that final touch of comfort. Unfortunately my son seems to be allergic to my feather filled favourites so it is time for a change. I don’t know why I am surprised b ...
I am a bit of a softie about my sofa, and cushions add that final touch of comfort. Unfortunately my son seems to be allergic to my feather filled favourites so it is time for a change. I don’t know why I am surprised but cushions, like pretty much everything else we take for granted, have a long and interesting history. The earliest known in use is circa 7,000 BC, in the early civilizations of Mesopotamia. Cushions were related to status – the more you owned the richer you were as dyed fabric was a real luxury item.
In ancient Egypt ‘cushions’ were rather uncomfortable stone or wooden head supports. These have survived in tombs under the head of mummies – this one supported the head of Tutankhamun. Not my idea of cosy!
The Chinese had the same soft spot for hard cushions. Materials used included ceramic, bamboo, wood and bronze. At least they tried to soften them up by laying fabric over them. Their usage continued right up until the 20th century, with ceramic cushions being slowly phased out from the 14th century onwards, (but still in use up until the 1910s).
Fortunately for us we took our lead from the Greeks and Romans. These cultures decided that something more comfortable was needed. Stuffing their cushions with straw, feathers and reeds, they created cushions akin to those we still use today. They had large cushions for reclining on smaller cushions for chairs, cushions for sleeping. Just like the Egyptians, they still placed cushions under the heads of the dead – but at least those resting in peace, now rested in a little more comfort.
Like many everyday items that were once luxuries, cushions and pillows began to appear throughout middle class homes during the 19th century. The industrial revolution made weaving and dying cheaper so fabric that was once a luxury was now available to a wider audience. In Victorian Britain, cushions played a traditional role of adding comfort and style to the bedroom, couches and chairs.
During the 20th century, with even greater prosperity and cheaper than ever goods, cushion usage became even wider and more experimental. As homes became more modern and relaxed, large floor cushions (like beanbags) became popular. Travel also played a role – as people began to visit Asia, they discovered and bought back traditional Asian chair and floor cushions.
Today we have a huge range of cushions to chose from in a wide range of sizes and colours and at a budget to suit most pockets. For anyone struggling to cope with their cushion aesthetic there is plenty of help on the internet with quite ‘technical’ terms being bandied about. Do you subscribe to the 2-1-2 arrangement system for instance? I am not going to explain that one – I think we should all feel free to scatter at will.