At the W Mexico City, where historical meets contemporary, guests are greeted by strong female conquistadors and Aztec-warriors who sit beside modern-day luchadors. Though not actually present in the flesh, these women are permanent residents of the W Hotel — and are just some of the faces of W Hotels’s new line of decorative throw pillows displayed in each room.
Different in every destination, they speak to the cultural traditions of their home city while representing 21st design. More than just a place to find back support or add visual flare, the pillows provide guests with a clever nod to some of the most exciting activities to participate in today—from kickboxing matches in Bangkok to impromptu Zydeco dancing in the French Quarter.
Here’s a look at the new line, through the eyes of the design expert behind it all.
Before putting these pillows in their designated rooms and offering them to the public, Greg Stobbs, senior director for Global Design Strategies for W Hotels Worldwide, conducts intensive research.
As the design process began, Stobbs and his team worked to establish a narrative that would incorporate “the social, physical and historical context of the property.” This included everything from local insights to interesting imagery and local history.
The heavy metals depicted on the W Montreal’s decorative pillows, for example, recall a pile of ore that could easily have been kept inside a vault within the neoclassical Banque du Canada building that now houses the hotel.
Inspired by the W’s fondness for bold, witty statements, the narrative for each place becomes the seed for important design decisions — from the look of the room, down to the throw pillows that adorn them.
Designed in-house, the hotel taps a local vendor to execute the prototype. Each property then produces them in batches of roughly 300 units, which leaves room for creative flexibility. “By making large quantities, we’re not limited to standardized pillow sizes and shapes,” says Stobb. “This allows us to make truly custom pillows.”
While the places and faces on the pillows may vary, one common theme in each pillow design is its local charm. “In Punta de Mita, Mexico, we rendered Day of the Dead imagery in fluorescent colors,” explains Stobbs. The concept mapped well with the W Hotel, which is located within an area popular with surfers. “Fluorescent colors are a common aspect of surf-culture imagery,” he adds.
At the W London, decorative pillows are composed of traditional souvenir-style tea towels emblazoned with the cheeky, W-appropriate message, “Keep your wig on.” (This refers to England’s storied history with wigs and the British penchant for plucky sayings).
Over at the W Dallas Victory in Texas, the big hair and beauty queen phenomenon translates into a teased bouffant pillow, punctuated with a bejeweled tiara on one side and directions for how to achieve the look on the reverse.
“The stories behind the pillows are as varied as the hotels themselves,” says Stobbs, “and they are honestly one of the most fun parts of the design process.”
For the W, throw pillows are a fun and relatively cost-effective way to liven and bring new cultures into a room. The hotel’s imaginative pieces modernize, uplift and simultaneously ground their chosen space, due to the vivid imagery, bold colors and unique shapes, motifs and colors.
And while choosing decorative throw pillows can be as simple as matching or contrasting them to a beloved piece of furniture to unify the space, Stobbs and his team have enjoyed the flexibility of exploring different pillow shapes and sizes.
Experts say that mixing and matching varied patterns and colors is the best way to create a layered look. Others prefer to also think about seasonal shifts — an inner style barometer — swapping out summery fabrics such as linen, cotton and silk for warmer, comfier materials such as faux-fur and faux-leather, cashmere and velvet once the cooler weather takes hold.
What’s certain about the W Hotel’s decorative throw pillows is that regardless of the season at hand, the comfy keepsakes serve as a reminder of the visited place — and the cultural adventures that made it a trip to remember.
“These pillows have become unique elements that guests have come to expect,” says Stobbs. “Each one is special and relates directly to its location — and people love that connection.”