Question: What is a Bed Sham?

When it comes to the world of bedding accessories, there is a vast variety out there. Decorations upon decorations, accessories for the accessories, things you’ve probably never even heard, it’s all there.

Today, we’re going to discuss one of the most important pieces you must have heard of numerous times, accepting it as a part of bedding sets without fully understanding what it is: a bed sham.

What is a Sham?

Shams are a decorative spin on pillowcases that turn any ordinary pillow into an accessory piece for your bed. You can find pillow shams for all of your pillow sizes; Standard, King, and Euro. You can turn any simplistic bedding set into a fanciful decorative one with the right pillow shams.

You’ll most probably receive pillow shams when you’re purchasing a duvet set. They come with a matching duvet cover to bring the bed together.

Do You Sleep on a Pillow Sham?

Yes, you can sleep on a pillow sham, but most people prefer not to. Many people purchase shams for the sole reason of decoration. That means that when the time comes to sleep on your bed, the pillows covered in shams are put under the usable ones or to the side. Other times, they are adequate back support if you’re sitting upright in bed, but don’t want to compress the pillows you sleep on at night.

The truth is shams are not the most comfortable to sleep on. They use a different material from ordinary pillowcases which can be coarse or textured, making it harder for you to sink into your pillows at night. Since shams can also have stitches or beading on their surface, they may poke your face while you’re asleep which is not comfortable at all. There is also the issue of the flanges. These can be a bother if you move around at night or if you’re used to sleeping on the edge of your pillow.
In short, it’s better not to sleep on your shams.

Difference Between a Pillow Sham and a Pillow Case

The easiest difference to spot is that pillow shams are decorative and pillowcases are protective. You use a pillowcase to cover the pillow and keep it clean. You use a pillow sham to decorate your bed and bring appeal to the bed accessories.

A pillowcase can come plain or decorated with prints, embroidery, or a combination of colors. Since their primary focus is not decoration, these cases will eventually fade in color. A pillowcase has an opening on the side, making it easier to slide the cover over your pillows for quick changes.

Pillow shams, on the other hand, usually come in a matching bedding set to accentuate the grandiose of your bed. They’re not something you’d commonly see on a child’s bed but rather in guest bedrooms or the master bedroom. Pillow shams have an opening in the middle of what would be your pillow’s backside.

This makes it harder for the sham to slip off and centers the casing. Pillow shams also have flanges on either three sides or more commonly, all four sides of its’ edges. Flanges are flat pieces of fabric for decorative purposes.

Styling with Your Pillow Shams

There are many different ways in which you can style pillow shams on your bed. Most people go crazy with them at first, trying out every possible arrangement before they finally settle on something. Here are some arrangement ideas for you to get you started with understanding your pillow shams.

— Asymmetrical Arrangement

Take different colors and sizes and toss them over another. Some shams can be plain, some can be decorated. Some shams can have a flange, while others don’t. Try not to follow a specific pattern. All you want is a cluster of pretty pillows to catch the eye of visitors and guests. Some of your pillows can even be completely different shapes! Squares, rectangles, circles, or cylinders, go crazy!

— Layered Arrangement

This is probably the most organized your bed is getting when it comes to decoration. Your pillows are going to be upright; the biggest pillows are going to be in the back. Depending on how many pillow shams you have in your set, you can get creative with the layout. From big to small, you place the patterned ones in front and the plain ones in the back, or vice versa. You could even make the pattern different on either side of the bed; simple to patterned on the right, patterned to simple on the left.

— Stacked Arrangement

Not everyone enjoys how much space the layered layout takes, so there is also the stacking arrangement. Simply stack the pillows one on top of the other, making them even on the left and right side of the bed. Once again, you can have plain on the bottom and colored or patterned on the top, do this in reverse, or have it different for each side. It’s all up to you.

If you don’t find any of these styles are what you want for your bed, then don’t be afraid to get creative. These are, after all, your pillows and your shams so there is no harm in breaking the norm and laying them out however you please.

Why Have Pillow Shams?

Probably the first question you think of when you see these pretty pillows is why we use them?

For no other reason than decoration, of course. Your bed is probably the most used piece of furniture in your home, and for no other reason than that, you have earned the right to decorate it as you wish. Pillow shams will still protect your pillow from dirt and dust, and they have a certain elegant appeal to them that can’t be beaten. They’re a treat for whoever uses them, but no loss for anyone that doesn’t.

If you have your own arrangement ideas, feel free to leave it down in the comments below for other curious readers. And share our article with anyone you’re sure doesn’t know what shams actually are but has them nonetheless, sort of like the rest of us. And if you’re looking for some new pillows, check out our guide to the best pillows!

Photo credit: Vineyard Perspective/Shutterstock; Lori Butcher/Shutterstock;
Ruth Peterkin/Shutterstock; Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock;
Peter Cripps/Shutterstock; alexilena/Shutterstock;
Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock