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What is a Bed Sham (& Styling Tips)

You may have heard of “shams” and “pillowcases” used interchangeably, but we’re here to set the record straight: a pillow sham is not the same as a pillowcase. A pillow sham is a decorative pillow covering that usually has an embellishment, or a textured front and an opening in the back. Traditional pillowcases, by contrast, open on the side of a pillow and are typically less decorative than shams. 

Pillow shams are sometimes referred to as bed shams or simply, shams.  Looking to upgrade your bedding? Give yourself the gift of luxurious and durable bedding staples with our extraordinarily soft shams and pillowcases.

When to Use a Bed Sham

Bed shams are mainly decorative, but they can also be functional. Adding bed shams to your pillows will give your bedding a more full, lush look. Bed shams are a great alternative to throw pillows because you can easily swap them out with regular pillowcases.

Pillows covered with bed shams can also help prop you up when you’re lounging in bed or if you’re looking to stay elevated when you sleep. Pillows covered with bed shams are typically placed in front of your other pillows when the bed is made, and go either behind your pillows or off your bed entirely when you sleep. 

Our shams are uniquely soft, and are minimal and comfortable enough to sleep on, but decorative enough to give your bedding a more luxurious look. 

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What’s the Difference Between a Pillowcase and a Sham?

The main differences between pillowcases and shams are their openings, functionality, and overall look. Pillowcases open on the side of the pillow, whereas shams open in the back. Our shams come with zipper closures to provide a smooth look and fit, and to make changing them easy. 

Shams are also meant to be used as a bed accent or decoration, whereas pillowcases are designed with purely sleep in mind. For that reason, shams typically have a flange or bordering, and come in different textures, like waffle or quilted fabric.  

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What Size Pillows Do I Need for Shams?

Like pillowcases and pillows, shams come in different sizes. Here are the dimensions for standard, king, and euro shams, and the type of pillow you need for each. 

- Standard shams measure 20” x 26″ and fit a standard pillow

- King shams measure 20” x 36” and fit a king or queen pillow (for a looser look)

- Euro shams measure 26” x 26” and fit a euro pillow

Learn More about Pillow Sizes

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How to Style Bed Shams

Shams can be styled in so many ways, especially if you love to arrange your pillows in multiple ways. Here’s how we recommend styling them to give your bedroom a chic, fresh feel:

- Coordinate your shams with your duvet and other bedding to create a contrasting color effect. Create a modern colorblocked look when you pair contrasting shams and pillowcase sets. Our duvet sets include two standard size shams to help you style your bedding more easily. 

- Add shams behind your standard sleeping pillows for increased loft/fluffiness. Shams will add more dimension to your bed when it’s made. 

- Use larger shams (like euro shams) to create a size gradient from large to small with your pillows. Color coordinate your pillowcases with your shams to create a more artful, intentional look. 

- Place your shams in front of your sleeping pillows to protect them from dust and dirt. Making your shams the first line of defense couldn’t hurt. 

- Add richly textured shams to get a cozier look and feel in the colder months. Shams in thick, plush fabrics look and feel incredibly inviting, and add a warm note to your bed for winter.