The Guide to Bed Shams

A beautiful bed is built on the details—and decorative shams add dimension, texture, and comfort. But how is a bed sham different from a pillowcase, and which should you buy? Explore our guide to find the answers, plus tips for how to use Euro or standard shams to create a beautiful pillow arrangement.

What Is a Bed Sham?

Part pillowcase, part throw pillow cover, a bed sham is a primarily decorative bedding item. It slips over a sleeping pillow and secures in the back or on the side. Unlike pillowcases, shams aren’t meant to be slept on (although they can be), but are intended to bring interest to the bed. Bed shams are sometimes included as part of a comforter, duvet cover, or quilt set, but are also sold individually.

Pin-Striped Sham With Button Closure

Details to Consider When Choosing Bed Shams

From edgings to embellishments, a host of design details influence the look of a sham. Consider these elements when choosing shams:

  • Edging: Flange-edge pillow shams feature an additional seam allowance on all four edges, creating a frame around the sham. Welted-edge shams feature piping or other decorative trim. Knife-edge shams feature no trim or flange.
  • Closure: Shams with a back closure feature overlapping flaps that keep the pillow neatly contained. Tie closures can be found on the back or along the side of the sham, such as for quilted shams. Some bed shams also feature buttons or zipper closures.
  • Embellishments: Dress up the bed with shams boasting embellishments such as appliqué, embroidery, quilting, or patchwork that add interest and texture.
  • Monograms: Typically positioned in the center of each sham, monograms add personalization to your bedding. Shams that can be monogrammed will feature a “Personalize this item” option on the product page.

Pillow Sham Size Guide

Pillow shams are commonly available in Standard, King, or Euro sizes, and are designed to fit the corresponding bed pillows. Explore the differences between the three and determine which is right for you with our handy guide:

Standard Shams

  • Dimensions: 26 in. x 20 in.
  • Fits: Standard or Queen pillows
  • Use one for a Twin or Twin XL bed or two for a Full or Queen bed

King Shams

  • Dimensions: 20 in. x 36 in.
  • Fits: King-sized pillows
  • Use two on a King or California King bed

Euro Shams

  • Dimensions: 26 in. x 26 in.
  • Fits: Euro pillows
  • Use one on a Twin or Twin XL bed, two for a Full or Queen bed, or three for a King or California King bed

How to Use Pillow Shams

Decorative shams can instantly elevate your bed pillow arrangement. Consult our bed sham size chart to determine the number of pillows you need for your bed, then explore our favorite ways to style shams and other pillows:

  • Classic: Start by placing your bed pillow against the headboard, and add a sham pillow directly in front.
  • Modern: Stack your regular and sham pillows at the head of your bed, with the sham pillow flat on top.
  • Supportive: Move the shams beneath your regular pillow for additional support while sleeping, or behind your bed pillow to lean against as you read or watch TV.
White and gray bed shams with monogram

How to Use Euro Pillow Shams

Euro shams can take the place of Standard or King shams in a classic pillow arrangement, but may also be used with other size shams to create a layered look. Place Euro shams upright in front of or behind your flat standard or king sham pillows. Or, add a Euro pillow to a chaise, couch, or chair for an oversized, extra-cozy option.

Once you’ve arranged your decorative shams, add interest and dimension with accent throw pillows that complement your bedding and theme. Explore our other Guides for more tips and ideas.