Why Not . . . Add a Traversin (aka Bolster) to your Bedroom?
Tuesday August 10, 2021

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“A well spent day brings happy sleep.” — Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo most definitely speaks a life truth to know and practice everyday, but so too does Amy Poehler when she reminds, ”Sleep helps you win at life.” In other words, a quality life containing both is the answer to a well-lived and savored life because we are well-rested and able to fully participate.

Which brings me to selecting the most beneficial, supportive, yet also aesthetically pleasing pillows for a comfortable snuggling-in routine as well as night of deep, restful sleep inspired by the French culture. The French’s Traversin pillow, more commonly called the polochon in France, both translated into English to mean a bolster.

By definition in the Collins French dictionary, a ‘bolster’ is a firm pillow shaped like a long tube which is sometimes put across a bed under the ordinary pillows.

Wikipedia defines the traversin as something sometimes considered to be a pillow. It is the same width as the bed (and is generally tubular in shape).

My introduction to the traversin began unknowingly while I traveled around France in 2018 as nearly each of the vacation rentals I booked accommodations had one, although most were less tubular in shape, but all were the width of the bed, placed behind the rectangular/’ordinary’ pillows.

Keeping this observation in the back of my mind, but not paying it much mind, it wasn’t brought back to the forefront until I began to customize my primary bedroom (see above and become a TOP Tier subscriber to tour the entire room reveal here) with the guidance of interior designer Veronique Waldron, the owner of a local design studio here in Bend, Studio Vero, that I was shown the benefits of adding a bolster/traversin to my bedding.

Largely uncommon in the states, the traversin is frequently used not only in France, but also in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan. And it is not used for decoration. It is used to ‘bolster’ up your rectangular pillows for a quality night’s sleep. If you choose to use it as decoration secondarily as I have, you absolutely can.

As you see above in my primary bedroom photos, when I am not sleeping, the traversin is positioned in front of my pillows, but when I sleep, it is placed against the headboard and behind my rectangular or Euro pillow whichever I choose to use for sleeping (see below).

As I traveled around Normandy, Paris and Provence visiting brocantes (view this post and this post), I would frequently look at linens for French linen sheets to sleep on (the best! find out why here), and there would also be pillowcases for the traversin – long in length, not as tall in height as for a rectangular pillow. In 2018, I didn’t have a traversin of my own, so I didn’t purchase that size, but I love knowing such vintage pillowcases are available when I return and begin to peruse Brocantes again.

Working with Veronique, who is Belgian, taught me oodles about linens, textures, finishes and layering. Her studio makes pillows, and custom-made mine with a 48″ down pillow, 8″ in diameter. The fabric from Schumacher was made to fit the pillow and does have a zipper, so it may be washed.

The edging of the pillow was also a choice that had to be made, and I decided on the self-welt edge versus a knife’s edge (clean) to create a frame of sorts for the end of each pillow. I also chose to finish with a cloth covered button meeting in the middle of the gathering of the fabric to add some contrast to the smooth face of the pillow. Again, all of these finishing details can be your choice to fit your preferences and style in your bedroom.

The two key benefits the traversin brought to my sleeping space were the ability to sit upright comfortably and for a long period of time prior to going to sleep as I enjoy reading in bed; secondly, and most importantly, having my chosen rectangular or Euro pillow propped up on the traversin ensures I sleep well and my neck doesn’t ache – side-sleeping or on one’s back.

A traversin can also be used as a body pillow, and in France, the phrase bataille de polochons (battle of the bolsters, aka a pillow fight) refers to traversin pillows as they are long and perfect for engaging in the childhood game before bed. 🙂

So whether you want the traditional size and shape of the traversin – running the width of your bed and in a tubular shape, or a shorter, less tubular shape, find and perhaps add a traversin to your bedroom, and you too will be adding a lovely element to prompt a fantastic night’s sleep.

I have shopped a few traversins (known as ‘bolsters’ in the states) below, but don’t hesitate if you do know a design shop to request a customization for your sanctuary. The time and investment are well worth it. OR better yet, purchase a bolster with the length and structure you want and just have it recovered – a bit of a middle-of-the-road option. 🙂 Also, One Kings Lane is currently taking 20% off all decor items (this includes bolsters), so be sure to take a look as they have MANY fabric options and a variety of sizes.

I have also shopped the pillow itself from two trusted French companies, if you would like to explore customizing.

from Tradition des Vosges – the Traversin pillow

from Dumas Paris, Bolster Natural (filling)

Natural Linen, 18″ x 60″ (more colors) (from One Kings Lane)



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20 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Add a Traversin (aka Bolster) to your Bedroom?

  1. The bolster has been on my list of to-do’s since your bedroom reveal post. Years ago I made one for a dear friend and had every intention of making one for myself but never did. I am a maker and see this as a project, one of many! I am considering a bedroom refresh and this will be one of those elements that I want to be a statement piece with a special special fabric. I will likely pair it in design with new window treatments. Thank you for French Week, always a special read!

    1. Oh, I think you will enjoy having one Lucy! And bravo to you for being able to make your own. 🙂 Thank you very much for stopping by and sharing how you will be incorporating this French touch.

  2. This is very timely and interesting, Shannon. I am renovating my bedroom and just bought one of these as decoration. However, I didn’t know their story and how they are traditionally used so thank you for this!

    1. Fantastic! Quite serendipitous. 🙂 Yes, they are highly functional and have changed wonderfully my evening routine and entire night of sleep. Thank you for stopping by and wishing you a wonderful renovation!

  3. I grew up with these. Back then, they were used to stop our pillows from sliding through the gap between the headboard and mattress! Now that I’m older I greatly enjoy their comfort and support while I read in bed. It also happens to be my dogs favorite pillow!

  4. I really think this is what I need for reading in bed. I always assumed these were primarily for decoration.

    1. Cathy,

      Oh, most definition seek one out. Just make sure it fits your lower back and the firmness is to your preference. These are definitely for functionality first. I never saw a bolster in front of the ordinary pillows while in France. They were solely for function.

  5. I really want one of these now as I read in bed and can never get comfortable. I’ll see if I can find one in the UK though as following BREXIT it’s difficult to get things imported.

    1. Nicola, That is true regarding the exports. I forgot about that. I am sure you will be able to find top quality in Britain, and I am confident you will see a vast improvement in your comfort when you find the right fit and size for your preferences. Thank you for stopping by.

  6. I agree with Cathy. I always thought these were just for decoration. Being a before-bed reader, and weekend lazy-in-bed coffee drinker, this would be perfect!!

    1. Yes! I think you would thoroughly appreciate having one. Choose a quality pillow based on your preferred firmness and diameter (give it a test run for your body), and you will be tickled to have one. 🙂

  7. These boosters are wonderful. I have had mine for about 3 years and wonder who I ever got along without it.

  8. Thank you Shannon, your bolster is so pretty. Am I right thinking the material matches your “tulip chair”?
    My next decor project is the master bedroom – currently finalising paint colours – and I have already selected the cushions I would like to add the decorative touch. (From a lovely British brand called House and Habitat on Instagram) and I think a traversin would add a lovely final touch. Plus be great when I’m reading in bed!

    1. Yep! You know the room well. 🙂 We had extra fabric, and it really does tie the room together without being too matchy-matchy which is not my taste. 🙂

      I think you will enjoy this highly functional addition to your new space. Wishing you a fun journey on your decor project for your bedroom. 🙂

  9. I didn’t know those were french! I made my first one in high school home ecconomics! Have always had one of some sort since then! Function and beauty!

  10. Bonjour, Shannon. What are the dimensions of your traversin? That is does it go across the width of the bed in a single pillow or do you have two that span the width of the bed? Just checking. . .

  11. Your traversin is such a pretty fabric. It’s as French as a baguette and is great for making you sit upright in bed when reading. Interestingly the young French are seeing this as old fashioned!

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