Sofa cushions and mattresses
Modern materials and foams can provide unrivalled comfort and design as never before.
Only 60 years ago, the textiles fibres offering was mostly limited to cotton, wool and silk and filling materials consisted of wool, feathers, horsehair, or even straw. Then came the revolution of synthetic and affordable fibres and filling materials that allowed the mass furniture industry to develop.
Some sofa cushions forever need to be plumped up; others pop back into shape immediately after you get up from sitting on them. The difference is largely down to the material used to fill their casing.
The furnishings that retain their shapes are very likely to contain polyurethane or polyester foam, which are resilient, flexible, easy to manipulate and which can be moulded or shaped to meet the most complex designs and styles (as for memory foam mattresses). Many sofas, armchairs, different kinds of seating and mattresses rely on foams as filling materials.
Most importantly, the new foams have not only given endless opportunities to shape furniture according to different tastes, but are also addressing health concerns.
Foam has great advantages over feathers for cushions and pillows. This is not only because some people are allergic to feathers or the dust that they generate, but also because, in the absence of an alternative, the demand for feathers would be so great that that it could raise issues of demand and for the well-being of the animals providing them.
Bed mattresses are a perfect example of the enormous improvements in comfort and practicality brought about by the use of these new materials.
As early as the Neolithic period, people began to care about the materials they slept on: primitive populations covered their stone beds with animal skins, leaves, grasses and straws, while in the Renaissance, straws, feathers and leaves were stuffed inside long, thin pouches which were made of canvas, silks or velvets. It was the 18th century, , which saw the arrival of new mattresses with the same basic characteristics as todays.
Back then, mattress fillings included cotton and wool, as well as coconut fibres and horsehair. However, these kinds of mattresses were only available to the very few who could afford them. Most people continued sleeping on mattresses stuffed with straw, or thistledown, or even on straw piled directly onto the floor.
It was in the 1950s that the advantages of polyurethane foams became apparent. Thanks to their cost-effectiveness, these started to be produced in higher quantities and their use as fillings for mattresses became more widespread.
Today, mattresses still contain many different kinds of both natural and synthetic fillings, including coir, sisal, lamb’s wool, cotton, memory foam, artificial latex or polyurethane, and these are almost always used in combination.
Foam fillings have also significantly improved the lives of those forced to spend most of their time lying down. They have allowed the development of adjustable beds, which are widely used in hospitals. The flexibility of the material used in the mattress makes it possible for it to bend into different chosen positions. Adjustable and memory foam mattresses also offer high therapeutic benefits as they simply conform to the position of