Throw pillows are a scourge on humanity—and now, you can rent them

Just say no.
Just say no.
Image: Courtesy/West Elm + Rent the Runway
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Of the many things to be offended by in the modern world, throw pillows are truly worthy of our outrage.

It’s not simply that these overstuffed decorative pads serve no real purpose; it’s that they serve no purpose while imitating a truly useful thing. A pillow, after all, is something you rest your head upon. Something that makes you more comfortable or props you up to read a book. Something, at the very least, that is soft and forgiving.

Aesthetically pleasing as they may be, cushions are not useful.
Aesthetically pleasing as they may be, cushions are not useful.

Look, I’m no utilitarian miser that rejects all things of purely aesthetic value. But throw pillows, more often than not, are a scratchy, synthetic, and flammable affair. And they don’t always come cheap: A thing that does nothing more than sit there, waiting to be thrown out of the way so you can actually put your head on something comfortable, can easily set you back a hundred dollars. Throw pillows are a scam.

And where does one throw a throw pillow? On the floor, of course. Which, being the floor, is probably dirty. And any dirt swiped onto your throw pillow is likely to stay there for some time: These synthetic monstrosities are largely un-washable, while also expertly hiding stains and filth from the naked eye. Throw pillows are wildly unhygienic.

That’s why in hotel rooms anyone with any sense always stashes them—along with any ghastly throw covering the bed—down the side of the wardrobe as soon as they walk in. I blame the baby boomer generation, who (by my anecdotal observation) revel in adding several minutes to the process of making a bed or straightening a couch by carefully arraying half a dozen cushions on top.

Would you want to lay your head on that?
Would you want to lay your head on that?
Image: Danny Moloshok/Invision for Mattel/AP Images

Thankfully, today’s “lean luxury” hotels have largely dispensed with the superfluous, gross throw pillow. Millennials have been accused of killing many good things—mayonnaise, napkins, home ownership—but I would be proud if my generation were the one to definitively kill the throw pillow.

I might, however, be waiting a while. I recently learned that throw pillows are the latest thing to be added to the on-demand rental economy. A partnership between West Elm, the home decor company owned by Williams Sonoma, and Rent the Runway, a fashion rental startup, will allow users the “freedom to update their homes as often as they update their closet” by offering a range of rentable, throwable decorative housewares. Luckily, these throw pillow covers are the removable and washable kind, so unlike this inexplicable “tassel-embellished velvet cushion,” they presumably will at least be washed before moving on to the next renter.

But still, all I have to say is: Ick.