Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

September 22, 2015

Throw Pillows Are Part of My Heritage

When I told Hubby I was getting four new pillows for the living room, he eyed me suspiciously.  He tolerates my love of throw pillows, but he'd prefer that we each have a pillow for sleeping and/or lounging that we carry around with us to avoid absolutely any excess of pillows.  Guests would be required to bring their own.  I tell him that I'm not even that much of a throw pillow enthusiast because other people switch them out seasonally.  But he says that no one does that, that's just madness.

Not to worry, I now have the best excuse ever for a plethora of pillows: having an abundance of decorative pillows is actually part of my Hungarian heritage.

That's right...

Now, if I'm being honest, I still have to do some research on this, but, at the Museum of Ethnography in Budapest, you can see examples of dowry displays, which would have been paraded through a town and put on display before a wedding.  As I understand it, the quality and quantity of the handmade pillows was an important part of a dowry and would be judged by fellow townsfolk. 

Budapest Museum of Ethography

Here's an older photograph, demonstrating the practice:

Found on Pinterest, unsure of original source
See?  If anything, I've been slacking in the pillow department - a total embarrassment to my ancestors.  Here's an inventory of my embarrassingly small collection, starting with my new Marimekko pillows:

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My old Marimekko pillows, sewn by Mom, got the boot from the living room, but I've been toying around with layering them in with the green silk bedroom pillows in the bedroom...

Bold marimekko pillows
Bold marimekko pillows

The bedroom could actually use a pillow refresh, because I've had the same silk throw pillows and orange paisley print pillow since 2011!!  My plan for a new embroidery one was set on the back burner but I'll get to it this year.  Maybe.  (Who had money on it taking four years for me to finish?)

Green silk and orange paisley pillows

Apparently I am abnormally committed to my throw pillows. 

White textured linens with pops of colour

It makes sense that I hang onto pillows because I take my sweet time finding the perfect fabrics.  Remember my struggle finding THE perfect print (I'm so picky) to mix in with the existing patterns on the sofa in the townhouse?  I had those for years too, only switching them when we moved to the lakehouse because the fabric was becoming threadbare by that point and I was starting to favor more aqua and blue hues.

Mixing pillow patterns - subtle

I think I should get bonus points, though, because even my office book boasts three throw pillows - a pale pink silk pair sewn by Mom and my little embroidered one.

Office closet turned nook for filing cabinet
Aqua Hungarian embroidered pillow

Hardly enough to impress the townsfolk! 

P.S. If you've been eyeing up something at FinnStyle (can I recommend some throw pillows?), the Dans le Lakehouse 20% coupon code expires on the 24th!  Click here to get it.
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17 comments

  1. Hi Tanya! I have just managed to catch up on all of your writing (including your thesis) at the expense of several weeks of my own housework :) Your blog is very engaging and informative. Thanks! - T

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    1. If you've read my thesis, then I definitely owe you a hand with housework! It's the least I can do ;) I'm an excellent floor washer.

      I'm so happy to hear that you've enjoyed reading my writing. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment! It's always nice to hear feedback.

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  2. haha, I love this post! I also love how this was a traditional part of the dowry, Amazing!!

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    1. I thought you'd like this because you pay homage to your background in many ways too! The really interesting part was how the dowry was shown off - I'd love to learn more about it.

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  3. I love throw pillows. I do change them seasonally- I keep the same for a long time (like you, the search for the perfect fabric forges a strong attachment) but i have different colours/patterns that I feel evoke seasonal moods- I have greens for spring and blues for summer, orange for fall and red for winter- accents to my neutral grey. Sometimes green can extend straight through summer and orange well into winter but I like to shift with the seasons and it makes it feel as though my interior is linked to the natural changes outside. Maybe weird but it's cheaper to change things up with a pillow cover than redecorating (and I just change covers, so I don't have to store pillows).
    What's with guys and throw pillows? My hub feels the same. And the scene from Along Came Polly could be further evidence of men's attitude toward throw pillows.
    I wonder how men of the day felt about throw pillows. Perhaps men assessed the dowry paraded through town and would steer clear of prospective brides with too many pillows. Perhaps even leading to the demise of the dowry parade. You never know.
    No matter the male opinion of the house, I can relate to your love of throw pillows. I think they are invaluable as a accent and for adding comfort. Fluff it up!

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    1. You're right about pillows being a nice and affordable way to spruce things up. I rarely decorate seasonally but I watch with fascination while others do. I just photographed some Christmas projects for a brand I'm working with and Hubby kind of laughed because I just used my favorite colours and ended up creating something wintry that could work in our house year round. I can't help but make something that blends into my decor, haha. I really should challenge myself to do something seasonal - Hubby would love a reason to add more orange!!

      Oh gosh, that scene in Along Came Polly is too funny!! I have no idea how throw pillows have become so gendered - they're comfy, they're nice to look at, they refresh a tired sofa and save money that way, they even protect sofas from spills and whatnot, all things to love! I wouldn't be surprised if that was the demise of the pillow dowry!

      What I don't get is itchy, scratchy, awful throw pillows. I remember reading an article in a home decor magazine about his and hers decorating and the hubby was complaining about a particularly scratchy burlap pillow on the sofa and the wife was saying it's because it looks good. Save for my painstakingly embroidered pillow, the rest are all squashable around here...

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  4. I was just wondering the other day about that 2nd embroidered pillow you were working on and curious how it was coming along. Guess I'll wait a couple years for an update lol.

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    1. That's how I keep folks engaged: drag out projects for a few weeks, months, years, lol. My family had a rough time this year and any time I worked up the steam for a project, I needed those warm fuzzy feelings of instant gratification. Afternoon projects for the win! I'm hoping to cozy up this winter with it and get it done...

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    2. Yeah I feel that and completely understand. I am a procraftinator and easily distracted. I have to be in the exact right mood to work on something and have the focus, which I rarely seem to have unless forced to by a deadline, but then it's not fun at all and the point of it all is lost.

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  5. You know, my husband says the same about our throw pillows. We don't really have that many, but I'm also not of Hungarian descent, so I guess I have no excuse ;)

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    1. Yes, my excuse is pretty restrictive and not much help to most folks...Let's see - maybe there's a reason for loving pillows somewhere in your ancestry...if not, we can make one up!

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  6. This made me laugh! I also love a good throw pillow. They used to last years in our house, but now with the kids the extra wear and tear means they only last months.The plus side is that I have a good excuse to go shopping for new ones more often :)

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    1. Well, better the throw pillows than the sofa, right? Anytime my grandparents came to visit us, my grandma would remove the throw pillows in case my grandpa spilled something on them. He ended up getting stuff all over our last sofa and I would have preferred to sacrifice a pillow! And yes, you have a fabulous excuse for shopping for new ones :D

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  7. My boyfriend says I have a pillow problem. I just love how they can instantly update or finish a room, and so easy to change up on a whim, with the seasons, when bored. :)

    So interesting to learn that the traditional Hungarian dowry included pillows. I wondered if the same is true for my heritage (Slovak) and I've found reference that it is! I too am vindicated by my cultural background. :)

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    1. They definitely revamp a room - so good for when we have that itch for some change, but no major funds to make it happen. For that reason alone, why do our significant others not appreciate the function of a throw pillow??

      I'm SO happy to hear that the pillow dowry was a part of Slovak culture too!! Haha, you now have an indisputable reason for amassing throw pillows. My work here is done, lol.

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