Believe it or not, the supposedly simple task of making the bed and styling shams is not always as easy as it seems (and don’t get me started on how to style Euro shams).
If you’re interested in fine linens, you may be familiar with the myriad of terminology that gets thrown around when you’re trying to shop for bedding: The Euro sham, the standard sham, the “boudoir pillow,” the “king pillow”–and the list goes on! The confusion is unfortunate because shams are a great way to liven up bedding and bring together your overall bedroom design! So to help you make sense of this pillow vocab we have compiled a thorough guide below.
Lesson 1: A Sham Is Not A Pillowcase
Before we give you tips on how to style your shams, we should probably explain exactly what shams are and what differentiates them from plain old pillow cases. Though similar, the two serve distinct purposes. Both are used to cover pillows, but pillow cases are designed to protect pillows and shams are designed purely for decorative purposes.
Pillow cases are designed to be slept on, and they serve a more practical, functional purpose than shams. Pillow cases are also simpler in style. Crafted from the same fabric as their matching bed sheets, pillow cases are (typically) open at one end and placed as the frontmost layer of double pillows on a made bed.
Shams are intended primarily for decorative use. They are great for bringing a pop of color or texture to your bedding. In interior design, shams are often used to make your bedding cohesive with the rest of your bedroom furniture. They are generally open at the back with either a hidden closure or an overlapping length of fabric. They are also typically bordered with a flat strip of fabric called a flange (there’s your interior design word of the day!). Often designed to match duvet covers or comforters, shams may also have their own unique designs on occasion.
Printed Sham Favorites:
Lesson 2: Not All Shams Are The Same
Pillow shams normally come in traditional pillow sizes. Keep reading below to learn how to style your bedding, and then buy the appropriate sham size and type accordingly! Most sham styles you’ll find are categorized as: Standard Sham (26″ x 20″), King Sham (36″ x 20″), and Euro Sham (26″ x 26″).
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Lesson 3: Shams Are All About The Styling
Though you can sleep on a sham, that’s not what they’re really intended for. As mentioned above, pillow cases are designed to be slept on and protect your pillows in the process, while shams are meant more for decoration. As the fabric used for shams is often textured, embroidered, or accented with other raised details, shams can be pretty uncomfortable to sleep on.
So, where exactly do you place your shams? Like most interior design questions–including how to style euro shams–there is no right answer, but we’ve outlined a few of the more common styling methods below:
Perhaps the simplest way to style shams is to stack them. Place your sleeping pillows on the bed first with cuffs pointed out toward the edges of the bed and then place your sham-covered pillows directly on top of them. This generally works best when you’re dealing with pillows of the same shape and size. Quick and effective, this popular method achieves great height and a clean, uniform look. Feel free to lean additional accent pillows against the stack for an added decorative touch.
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Layering is a great way to style shams and decorative pillows when you’re dealing with pillows of different sizes, shapes, textures, and colors. To achieve the layered look, first lean your sleeping pillows lengthwise up against your headboard. Next, lean a row of sham-covered Euro size pillows against the sleeping pillows. In front of this second layer, place a couple of standard or king sized pillows, also dressed in shams. Finally, feel free to accessorize with decorative bolster, boudoir, or neck pillows in front.
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For a more organic, creative look, you can always try asymmetrical styling. Just follow the steps outlined in the layering method above, but keep larger pillows on one side of the bed and smaller pillows on the other. This option works best with pillows of the same (or similar) fabrics and colors.
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