June 2019

What are pillow shams?

We’re often asked questions about pillow shams: What they are? How do you use them? How are they different from pillow covers? Since they’re such a popular topic, here are definitions, decorating tips, and everything you need to know about pillows shams:

• What are pillow shams? 

Pillow shams are decorative pillowcases, designed to cover standard-size pillows, but are not intended to be slept on. 

• How can pillow shams be used to create a beautiful bedding ensemble? 

Creative alternatives to decorative pillow covers, pillow shams are ideal ways to add depth and additional decorative elements to the bed. Our quilts, coverlets, and many of our bed-sheet designs are offered with pillow shams.

• What’s the difference between pillow covers and pillow shams? 

Pillow covers are different, because they require specially sized pillow inserts; 20” x 20”square, 18” x 18” square, 14” x 24” lumbar are common pillow-cover sizes. Pillow shams fit most standard pillow sizes. Both covers and shams are intended to bring decorative elements to the bed and are not intended for sleeping.  

STYLE TIP 1 | LAYERING PILLOWS LIKE OTHER BEDDING

For an eclectic yet harmonious look, add pillow shams to the pillowcases, and coordinate them with the layers you’ve selected for the bed: the sheets, the quilt, a printed Essential Comforter or Blanket.

STYLE TIP 2 | A NOTE ON SYMMETRY AND SCALE

You can stack the pillows flat, one on top of the other, like stones in a Zen garden — or stand them up vertically, layering various styles and sizes to replicate a look that resembles a city skyline.

Shams often have flange borders (a.k.a. ruffles) and/or are embellished to make them look a little more substantial next to their standard pillowcase counterparts. These characteristics make pillow shams ideal decorating tools. You can use pillow shams to conceal your sleep pillows or try layering them behind for contrasting height and added plushness.  

Continental pillow sham vs. standard pillow sham
While a standard sham fits standard sleep-size pillows, Continental shams are larger square shapes (26” x 26”) and are often referred to as Euro shams. These larger designs make a wonderful base on which to stack smaller pillows.

STYLE TIP 3 | HOW TO CREATE A COLOR-BLOCK EFFECT

One of our favorite decorating trends is to create bold color-block effects by incorporating contrasting colors. Get creative: mix solid colors from the sheets and top layers to create “blocks” of color as you arrange your pillows. For added depth and dimension, try inserting a print or pattern to keep the look fresh and fun.

STYLE TIP 4 | SHAMS ALSO WORK ON A CHAIR OR A COUCH

Nestled on a chair, spaced on a couch, tossed on a window seat, arranged along a wall on the floor… More and more people are using pillow shams as alternatives to decorative pillow covers in places other than the bed. 

Pillow shams from our Dream Quilt collection are popular picks, because their hand-stitched quilting adds pattern while retaining the simplicity of a solid-colored accent. We love how they look arranged with accent pillows and throws.

What are your favorite sham designs from our collection

How would you incorporate shams into your home’s decor? 
For more pillow shams designs and additional bedding elements, explore our complete Home Collection of sheets, quilts, coverlets, blankets, comforters, and decorative accents.


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