Have you ever wondered when the cushion became an interiors staple? You might be surprised to find out that the humble cushion has roots further back in history than you would expect.
In ancient times, cushions were headrests made from wood or stone that were used to prop up the head (often of a mummy). You could say that they were essential for 'resting in peace.' In Egypt, they were believed to be the 'seat of spiritual life' and were to be treated with appropriate respect.
Historically, cushions were a status symbol. In ancient times, comfort was a luxury and therefore the more cushions you had, the higher your societal position (and the more likely you were to simply be a person of leisure.) The scarcity of dyes and certain fabrics only heightened the appeal of these objets. Generally, these cushions were used as headboards would be, or to soften the feeling of benches and chairs. Romans used cushions to adorn recliners to make them more comfortable, oftentimes stuffing them with feathers as we continue to do today.
Cushions on a settee at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston
Closer to home, in medieval times, the women of the upper class would often practice their embroidery on cushion covers. Cushions were also present in a religious setting: by 1500, most churches were furnished with these cushions that were donated by high society in order to make pews more comfortable. Practical and philanthropic!
Cushions on a Banquette at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston
It wasn't until Victorian Britain that cushions took on a more ornamental role. They were used in parlour rooms, bedrooms and nurseries. The industrial revolution also made dyeing techniques and fabrics more inexpensive and easy to distribute which also accelerated the trend for adding a pillow or two to your living space.
Nowadays, cushions are both functional and decorative. I try to bear both of these in mind as I'm developing my products - so the designs are printed in vibrant colours but the covers are easy to remove, clean and replace when you need to. Cushions might have been around since several millennia B.C... but we've come a long way from stuffing them with reeds!