What Is a Pillow Sham & What Is It Used For?

A pillow sham is a decorative covering for pillows, enhancing the appearance of a bed or couch. It provides protection, style, and sophistication while adding style to the bedroom or living room decor. This guide covers the purpose, fabric options, sizes, types, and tips for selecting, using, and maintaining the beauty of pillow shams.

What is a Pillow Sham? 

A pillow sham is a pillowcase, but it differs from the standard pillowcase in that it is primarily used for decorative purposes. It usually features an attractive design, such as intricate patterns, embroidery, or contrasting colours, adding elegance to the bed. Pillow shams are typically open at one end and have an overlapping fabric flap or decorative closure, such as buttons or ties, to keep the pillow inside.

What is the Purpose of Pillow Shams?

Aesthetic Appeal

Elevating Your Bedroom Decor Pillow shams are essential in creating a polished and well-coordinated bed ensemble. They offer a finishing touch to the bedding arrangement, making the bed look inviting and visually appealing. You can instantly transform a plain-looking bed into a luxurious and stylish retreat by choosing the right pillow shams.

Protective Shield

Preserving Your Pillows Beyond their decorative function, pillow shams protect them. They act as a barrier against dirt, dust, and oils from the skin, helping to extend the life of your pillows and keep them in pristine condition.

Layering and Styling

The Art of Mixing Pillow Shams allows you to experiment with different textures, colours, and patterns to create a layered and stylish bed display. Mix and match various pillow shams to add depth and visual interest to your bedding ensemble.

Exploring Pillow Sham Fabrics

Cotton Pillow Shams 

Cotton is popular for pillow shams due to its softness, durability, and breathability. Cotton pillow shams offer a classic and versatile look, making them suitable for various bedroom decor styles.

Silk Pillow Shams

Silk pillow shams exude luxury and sophistication. They have a smooth and lustrous surface that adds a touch of luxury to the bed. However, they may require more delicate care compared to other fabrics. Shop satin stripe pillowcases from Yorkshire Bedding.

Linen Pillow Shams

Linen pillow shams have a naturally textured and slightly wrinkled appearance, giving your bed a relaxed and inviting feel. They are highly durable and become softer with each wash, making them famous for a casual yet elegant bedroom setting. 

Pillow Sham Sizes and Types

Standard Pillow Shams

Embracing Tradition Standard pillow shams are the most common and typically measure around 20 x 26 inches (51 cm x 66 cm). They fit standard or queen-sized pillows and work well on twin, complete, and queen beds.

King Pillow Shams

Making a Grand Statement King pillow shams are larger, usually around 20 inches x 36 inches (51 cm x 91 cm), and are designed to fit king-sized pillows. They add a grand and luxurious look to larger beds.

Euro Pillow Shams

European Flair for Your Bed Euro pillow shams are square-shaped and measure around 26 inches x 26 inches (66 cm x 66 cm). They are commonly used as decorative backrests or accents on the bed, couch, or daybed, adding a touch of European flair.

Selecting the Right Pillow Shams

Matching Your Bedding and Decor 

When choosing pillow shams, consider the colour scheme and style of your existing bedding and bedroom decor. Opt for pillow shams that complement or coordinate with the overall look to create a harmonious atmosphere.

Complementing Colors and Patterns 

Experiment with various colours and patterns to create visual interest. If your bedding has a solid colour, you can choose patterned pillow shams and vice versa.

Considering Texture and Embellishments 

Texture and embellishments, such as ruffles, embroidery, or piping, can add depth and dimension to your bedding arrangement. Choose textures that align with the desired style of your bedroom.

Pillow Shams vs Pillowcases: Which One to Choose? 

While pillow shams and pillowcases serve different purposes, they can be used together to create a stylish and comfortable bed setup. Pillowcases protect the pillows, while pillow shams are mainly for decorative purposes. When selecting between the two, consider whether you want to prioritise functionality or aesthetics or opt for a combination.

How to Use Pillow Shams?

  1. Preparing Your Bed: Laying the Foundation Start by arranging your fitted sheet, flat sheet, and any other bedding layers you use. Next, add your pillows with regular pillowcases as the base layer.
  2. Inserting Pillows into Pillow Shams: Open the flap or closure of the pillow sham and insert your pillows. Ensure the pillows fit snugly inside the shams to maintain a neat appearance.
  3. Arranging and Displaying: Creating an Inviting Look Place the pillow shams on top of the regular pillows and prop them up against the headboard or in front of your sleeping pillows. Experiment with different arrangements to find the best suits your bed's aesthetic.

Caring for Your Pillow Shams

Follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer for your specific pillow sham fabric. Generally, most pillow shams can be machine washed in cold water on a gentle cycle and tumble-dried on low heat. Ironing may be necessary for specific fabrics, such as silk or linen, but always use a low heat setting to avoid damage. Shop Satin Silk Pillowcases at Yorkshire Bedding.


Pillow shams are decorative covers that enhance bed or couch appearance, providing functional protection and aesthetic sophistication. They can be mixed and matched in various fabrics, sizes, and types to create a personalised, visually appealing bedding ensemble.


How many pillow shams do I need for my bed? 

The number of pillow shams you need depends on the size of your bed and your preferred aesthetic. Typically, two standard or king-sized pillow shams are sufficient for a twin or full-sized bed, while two king-sized pillow shams work well for a queen or king-sized bed. You can also add Euro shams as decorative accents.

What's the difference between Euro shams and standard shams?

The main difference between Euro and standard shams is their shape and size. Euro shams are square-shaped, usually measuring around 26 inches x 26 inches, while standard shams are rectangular and typically measure around 20 inches x 26 inches.

Can I use pillow shams without pillowcases? 

While it's possible to use pillow shams without pillowcases, it is not recommended for everyday use. Pillow shams are primarily designed for decorative purposes and do not offer the same level of protection for your pillows as regular pillowcases.

Can I use Euro pillow shams on a regular bed? 

Yes, you can use Euro pillow shams on a regular bed. They can add a stylish and luxurious touch, especially with standard or king-sized pillow shams. Euro shams can be placed as decorative backrests or accents on the bed to enhance appearance.