Demystifying the Sham Bed: Your Ultimate Guide to Sophisticated Bedding

If you’re puzzling over how to give your bedroom that polished, designer edge, consider the role of a sham bed accessory. Bed shams are not just fancy pillowcases; they are your ticket to creating a visually appealing and cohesive space. In this guide, you will learn exactly what sets shams apart from regular bedding, explore the different types and sizes available, and discover styling tips to utilize shams in accentuating your bedroom’s aesthetic.

Key Takeaways

  • Bed shams are decorative pillowcases that add aesthetic value to a bedroom, offering an easy and budget-friendly way to update decor without being intended for practical sleeping use.

  • Shams come in various sizes such as standard, queen, king, and Euro, which should be matched with corresponding pillow sizes to ensure the perfect fit, and they can also be custom-sized for unique pillow dimensions.

  • Styling with pillow shams involves layering and arranging them with other decorative pillows and bedding elements to enhance the visual appeal and comfort of the bed, while their care and maintenance are essential for preserving their condition and appearance.

Exploring the Charm of Bed Shams

bedroom, bed, four poster

Stepping into the world of bedding, you’ll find that bed shams are more than just pillow covers. As decorative pillows, they contribute to the bedroom decor by:

  • Adding a pop of color, texture, and depth

  • Showcasing interesting designs and patterns

  • Featuring lace, applique, sequins, and decorative closures

  • Enhancing the bed’s visual appeal, turning a simple bed into a piece of art.

A bed sham, also known as a pillow sham, is a decorative pillowcase used to add aesthetic variety to the bedroom, distinct from regular pillowcases in its purpose and design. But these chic bed accessories aren’t just about aesthetics. They are a budget-friendly option for updating decor, transforming the bedroom into a more attractive and dynamic space.

Shams can be made from various luxurious fabrics, adding an element of sophistication to your bedding ensemble. Whether you choose soft cotton, lush velvet, or crisp linen, the right bed sham can elevate your bedroom decor, providing both comfort and style.

Understanding Bed Shams

In terms of bedroom decor, distinguishing between bed shams and regular pillowcases is fundamental. Bed shams, unlike regular pillowcases, are decorative covers for pillows, beautifully crafted to add an aesthetic appeal to your bed. They are often made from luxurious fabrics and can include accessories or intricate designs for a grandeur touch.

But don’t be fooled by their plush appearance. While bed shams can technically be used for sleeping, their primary role lies in decoration rather than sleep. Unlike regular pillows, those with bed shams are typically removed from the bed before sleeping, reaffirming their predominant role in decoration.

The Functional Aspect of Shams

Despite their primary role being to enhance aesthetics, bed shams are not lacking in functionality. Shams can add functional value by supporting activities like reading or watching movies in bed due to their adaptable sizing. They can be positioned against the headboard or serve as a backdrop for sleeping pillows, adding another layer of decorative value.

Their role is more ornamental than practical for sleeping, and the pillows used with shams are usually less expensive. However, if you prefer a touch of comfort, you can place shams behind your conventional bed pillows for additional comfort while sleeping.

Most people remove sham-covered pillows from the bed before sleeping and replace them in the morning, creating a ritual of comfort and style.

The Perfect Fit: Sizing Your Shams

Having explored the charm and functionality of bed shams, it’s time to guide you through the process of selecting the ideal fit. Bed shams come in various sizes, including standard, queen, and king, to match the size of the pillows for which they are intended. Like Cinderella’s slipper, the right-sized sham is essential for that perfect fit.

To select the appropriately sized sham, match the size of the pillow with the designated sham size. After all, a small pillow lost in an oversized sham or a large pillow crammed into a small sham can disrupt the harmony of your bedding ensemble.

And if you have pillows that don’t conform to standard sizes, don’t worry. Custom-sized shams can be sought from specific retailers, catering to your unique needs and ensuring that every pillow, regardless of its size, gets its perfect match.

Standard Shams for Regular Comfort

As implied by their name, standard shams are the most widely used. With dimensions of 26 inches by 20 inches, they are the perfect size for regular comfort. Standard shams are included in twin, full, and queen bedding sets, making them versatile and widely used.

While they are best suited for use on twin beds, a full or queen bed can comfortably accommodate two standard sham pillows side-by-side. Whether you’re sprucing up your guest room with a twin bed or your master suite with a queen bed, standard shams can add a touch of elegance and comfort.

Queen Shams and King Shams: A Royal Touch

For those who prefer larger beds, queen shams and king shams offer a royal touch. Queen shams typically measure 30 inches by 20 inches, making them well-suited for queen-sized beds. King shams, on the other hand, extend an additional 10 inches in width, making them significantly larger than standard shams, perfect for king-sized beds.

Ideally, these larger shams should be used in spacious bedrooms to complement the grand scale of queen and king-sized beds. For an elegant bed arrangement, you can:

  1. Place two Euro pillows on a queen-sized bed or three on a king-sized bed as the first layer.

  2. Follow with king shams.

  3. Finish with standard sleeping pillows.

Euro Shams: The Continental Choice

If you prefer a touch of continental elegance in your bedroom decor, Euro shams are your go-to option. With their distinct square shape and size of 26 inches by 26 inches, Euro shams add a unique dimension to your bedding ensemble. These shams are not just limited to the bedroom; they can also be used as decorative elements in living room settings.

Euro shams are designed to fit over Euro-style pillows, thereby enhancing their decorative appeal. When styling a bed, a euro sham should be placed at the back and can be coordinated or contrasted with other bedding to complement the bedroom’s style.

The Art of Styling with Pillow Shams

Photo by Charlotte May:

So, you’ve got your shams, and you’ve got your pillows. Now comes the fun part – styling. The art of styling with pillow shams is where your personal taste comes into play. Layering pillows with shams can add a sense of luxury and invitation to the bed, offering an aesthetic elevation.

You can stack shams on top of sleeping pillows for a straightforward style, or go for an asymmetrical arrangement for a more organic and creative look. A coherent visual appeal in the bedroom is achieved by coordinating pillow shams with other bedding elements, fostering a sense of unity in decor.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with bold, vibrant, or uniquely textured pillow shams. They can act as the centerpiece of bed styling, making them an effective tool for a quick style refresh. Whether you prefer a minimalist look or a plush, layered arrangement, the right styling technique can make your bed look like it’s straight out of a home decor magazine.

Layering Techniques for Sham Elegance

Layering is a tried and true technique in the world of interior design, and it’s no different when it comes to shams. Here’s how to layer your pillows:

  1. Lean sleeping pillows against the headboard with the cuffs toward the edge of the bed.

  2. Display Euro size pillows in shams.

  3. Add standard or king size pillows.

  4. Finish with decorative pillows in front.

Layering pillowcases at the bottom, followed by pillow shams, and then accent pillows can add depth and dimension to the bedding ensemble. Incorporating pillow shams into bedding involves using a variety of textures and layers, such as a quilt or coverlet, to create a luxurious and inviting look.

Accentuating with Decorative Pillows

Now, let’s not forget about decorative pillows. In addition to standard, queen, and king shams, boudoir and neckroll shams are also available as decorative pillow options. Boudoir shams are small, rectangular decorative pillows typically used in front of standard shams for an added touch of style.

Adding decorative pillows like bolsters, boudoir, or neck pillows in front of shams can create a stylish look. An asymmetrical pillow arrangement or the use of contrasting colors and textures can infuse creativity and depth into bedding decor. Boudoir shams offer flexibility to change up the bedroom’s appearance without a complete bedding overhaul.

Selecting Fabrics and Textures

The selection of appropriate materials for pillow shams is essential for them to blend seamlessly with the bedding set and the overall room decor. Common materials for bed shams include:

  • Cotton

  • Polyester

  • Linen

  • Flannel

  • Silk

  • Various blends

Each material offers different properties in terms of feel and comfort.

Organic cotton or luxurious fabrics can significantly complement the bedding set and overall room decor, providing both comfort and style. So, whether you’re looking for a soft, plush feel or a crisp, cool touch, the right fabric can make all the difference in your bedding ensemble.

Care and Maintenance of Shams

Pillow shams undoubtedly add an aesthetic appeal to your bedroom, but their maintenance is equally significant. Choosing pillow shams made from high-quality materials such as:

  • cotton

  • linen

  • silk

  • blends

is crucial for durability and ease of maintenance.

One might wonder, how can these decorative pieces be kept fresh and clean? Different materials require different cleaning methods. Some shams can be machine washed, while others need to be hand washed or dry cleaned. Let’s delve into the proper care and maintenance of your beloved shams.

Keeping Your Shams Clean

The key to keeping your shams clean is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. To clean pillow shams without causing damage, it is advisable to refer to the manufacturer’s label for specific washing instructions. Whether it’s hand wash, machine wash, or dry clean, the right washing method and water temperature can ensure your shams maintain their vibrancy and texture.

Pillow shams made of polyester, nylon, microfiber, cotton, linen, and silk can usually be machine-washed using cold water on a gentle cycle with a mild detergent to prevent color bleeding. For delicate pillow shams, hand washing with cold water and mild detergent is the gentlest method. After washing, pillow shams should be rolled in a towel to extract extra water, reshaped, and either air-dried or dried on low heat to avoid sun damage. Some shams may even require ironing to maintain their crisp look.

Preserving the Life of Your Shams

For shams with delicate features such as beads or embroidery, special care should be taken. Hand washing is recommended to protect the details from damage.

Keep in mind that despite their aesthetic additions to your bedroom, shams need meticulous care to maintain their beauty and durability.

Incorporating Shams into Your Bedding Guide

While the idea of upgrading your bedding with shams might appear daunting, it need not be so. With the right understanding of how to incorporate shams into your existing bedding, you can create a harmonious and visually pleasing bedroom. Using two standard pillows with linen bed covers offers a clean and simple arrangement, imparting elegance to the bed setup.

But what if you want to go a step further? What if you want to coordinate your shams with other bedding elements for a cohesive look? That’s where matching shams with duvet covers and achieving a balanced bed layout come into play.

Matching Shams with Duvet Covers

Pairing shams with duvet covers is an art unto itself. For a harmonious bedroom look, layer your bedding starting with mattress essentials and finishing with decorative shams and a throw or quilt, tying in with the duvet cover.

Choose pillow shams that complement the existing bedding in style, design, and material to enhance the bedroom’s overall aesthetic. You can select shams in a textured solid color for a classic, crisp bedding ensemble or pick a pattern that adds visual interest and pairs well with your duvet cover. Remember, the goal is to create a balanced and inviting bedroom atmosphere.

Achieving a Balanced Bed Layout

Creating a balanced bed layout stands as the crowning step to perfecting your bedding ensemble. For a balanced and visually pleasing bed, consider symmetry and proportion in the arrangement of pillows, including shams. A standard, well-arranged bed often starts with two Euro shams at the back, followed by standard sleeping pillows, and finished with a lumbar pillow for style. You can stack standard sleeping pillows complemented by larger, contrasting shams in front for an inviting look.

Or, for a personalized touch, arrange shams and pillows asymmetrically, varying sizes, colors, and patterns to create a cohesive look. On a queen bed, the appropriate pillow arrangement includes two pillows, two shams, and two to three accent pillows, avoiding oversized pillows that may overlap.

Learn more, visit What is a Pillow Sham? The Ultimate Guide.


In conclusion, bed shams are versatile and aesthetically pleasing additions to any bedroom decor. They offer a unique blend of form and function, transforming a simple bed into a stylish sanctuary. Whether you prefer standard, queen, or king shams, there’s a perfect sham for every bed and every style.

From understanding the basics of shams, exploring their functional aspects, learning about their various sizes, mastering the art of styling, and finally to maintaining their charm, this guide has covered all aspects of bed shams. Remember, the perfect sham is all about the right size, the right fabric, and the right style to complement your bedding and bedroom decor. So here’s to a more stylish, comfortable, and inviting bedroom with the magic of shams!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a bed sham?

A bed sham is a decorative pillowcase used to add aesthetic variety to the bedroom, with a distinct purpose and design.

What sizes do bed shams come in?

Bed shams come in standard, queen, and king sizes to match the size of the pillows for which they are intended.

How do I style my bed with shams?

To style your bed with shams, you can create a luxurious and inviting look by layering them on top of your sleeping pillows or arranging them asymmetrically for a more creative appearance. Try experimenting with different styles to find what suits your preference.

How do I care for my shams?

To care for your shams, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for washing, as different materials may require different methods. Always check the care label before cleaning.

How do I incorporate shams into my existing bedding?

To incorporate shams into your existing bedding, layer your bedding starting with mattress essentials and finishing with decorative shams and a throw or quilt that complements the duvet cover. This will create a harmonious bedroom look.

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