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Pillow shams are a quick and easy way to transform the look and feel of a space through pillows.These specialized pillow covers change an ordinary pillow into an aesthetic flourish.
Read on to learn more about what pillow shams are and how to use them. When picking a pillow sham, consider the material, the look you want, and the needs of the bedroom. Below are our top five picks for the best pillow shams. Our choices are based on a combination of verified customer feedback as well as our own in-house product testing and analysis.
Luxury, quality, and appearance come together in our Editor’s Pick, the Gryphon Luxury Suite Pillow Sham.
The Gryphon sham is made of 100% Supima cotton. Supima cotton is a specific brand of quality Pima cotton grown in the US. Supima cotton boasts extra-long fibers which contribute to much greater softness and durability of the fabric. The sateen weave of the cotton means these shams are shiny and smooth, with a silk-like touch.
The Gryphon shams are backed by a 100-night trial program, which is longer than most return periods. Gryphon also offers free shipping on orders of $50 or more.
Our Runner-Up pick is the Snowe Percale pillow sham. These shams are made out of 100% long-staple Egyptian Cotton, making them extremely strong, smooth, and durable. The cotton is woven using a percale weave, giving the fabric a crisp feel and refreshing breathability.
The Snowe shams are OKEO-TEX Standard 100 certified, meaning they are independently tested to ensure they are not made with harmful chemicals.
Snowe offers free shipping and returns, with a long 90-day trial period.
Our Best Value Pick is the NTBAY pillow sham. These 100% microfiber shams are smooth, simple, and fun. One of the main draws of these NTBAY shams is the truly wide variety of colors and shapes available. The shams come in standard, calming bedroom tones as well as bright neon colors. This variety of options makes the NTBAY sham a versatile choice for nearly any design scheme.
Lastly, these shams boast a very affordable price point. They come in sets of two and you could buy multiple sets for the price of one more expensive sham. The shams are also bordered by a decorative flange, which helps to protect the stitching of the sham itself.
These shams are available with free shipping for Amazon Prime members, or on orders over $25. NTBAY Pillow Shams have a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, allowing you to try these shams with minimal risk.
Our Best Luxury pick is the Brooklinen Quilted pillow sham. Made from 100% long-staple linen, these shams are incredibly soft and durable with great airflow. The quilting on this sham gives a pillow a little extra padding for comfort. The simple design and colors make this sham an elegant choice for the bedroom and everyday spaces.
These Brooklinen shams are stonewashed. Typically, linen starts a little tougher and softens with every wash. Stonewashing means that the fabric is washed together with large stones that beat the fabric and kickstart the softening process.
Brooklinen offers free returns and exchanges for 365 days after purchase.
This guide will outline the purpose and types of pillow shams, along with common materials and color considerations.
The last section reviews some important points to consider when choosing the right shams to suit your needs.
Pillow shams are a specialized type of cover for pillows that can be used to add a decorative flourish to a room. Pillow shams and pillowcases may seem similar, but they are different in terms of form and function.
Pillowcases have a visible, open end on one side where you can slip the pillow into the case. Pillow shams often have an opening for the pillow on the back that is covered with overlapping fabric. This opening is not meant to be seen, so shams look as though they cover the whole pillow. Some pillow shams hug the shape of the pillow, while others may have a border of decorative fringe.
The other main difference between the two is that pillowcases are meant for sleeping on, while pillow shams are traditionally meant for decoration. The lines have blurred, as many pillow shams are made from materials that are also meant to be slept on. Regardless, the distinction remains as pillow shams today keep their unique shape and decorative elements.
As a decorative piece, pillow shams can be used to enhance a space in a variety of ways. Sham pillows can quickly add some needed color. For example, if your bedding is primarily black or brown, then a set of shams in a soft pink or blue could add a layer of contrast. A few extra sham pillows tucked behind your sleeping pillows can add a feeling of fullness to a previously bare bed.
A set of shams could also be matched to highlight decorative accents in a room. Light blue shams could draw out the light blue trim in a duvet cover. Some shams are even sold in sets with duvet covers or sheets to take the hassle out of matching colors and textures.
Pillow shams can also be used in rooms with a lot of similar features to help break up the monotony. For example, a set of lively, patterned shams can breathe life into a bedspread that is full of solid colors. A room full of neutral tones on the walls and bedding can be uplifted by using bright shams as pops of color. Mixing materials is another way to have shams stand out. A living room set of smooth leather furniture may benefit from a few very textured shams placed throughout.
Pillow shams typically come in three different sizes: Standard Sham (26” x 20”), King Sham (36” x 20”), and Euro Sham sizes (26” x 26”). Standard and King Shams are rectangular in shape and fit standard pillows meant for sleeping. King Shams are extra long and made to fit king-size pillows. Euro Sham pillows are square in shape and suit multiple purposes.
Pillow shams today come in the same variety of materials as sheets and other bedding. Here are some of the most common fabric types and important points to consider:
Pillow shams typically come in the sizes of standard, king, and euro sham. Shams will shrink about as much as other bedding does, depending on the material. Cotton is generally the most shrinkable, although some types of cotton will be more shrink-resistant than others. As a way of countering shrinkage, some shams come in larger than average dimensions. Some companies will also pre-shrink their shams before sale.
Many shams intended for use in the bedroom come in calming, neutral colors with relaxing or elegant patterns. Shams meant for living spaces are more versatile, ranging from dark and simple to busy patterns full of neon. Keep in mind that these are general trends rather than hard and fast rules for decorating.
Sham colors will fade over time similarly to other types of bedding according to a few general rules:
When trying to find the pillow sham that is right for you, it is important to consider your needs, desires, and intended aesthetic for a space. Here are some important points to consider:
Will your sham be used for sleeping, or perhaps lounging on a couch? If so, you will likely want to go for a sham with a durable material that can double as a pillowcase, such as linen or microfiber. If your shams are meant to be purely decorative, then the sham’s look will likely matter more than its material.
When selecting a sham’s material for the bedroom, it is typically better to match the materials of your existing bedding.
When choosing sham material for a living space, it is important to consider the materials of the furniture in the space. For example, a smooth microfiber or sateen sham may look out of place on a textured corduroy couch. A linen sham may have a muted, rustic look that is well-suited to a leather couch or furniture with a strong wooden frame.
Standard sham pillows are perfect for a bed, but may be an awkward fit for the ends of a couch. A single standard pillow can do well on a couch when matched with multiple euro pillows.
Euro sham pillows are versatile and can be used in both sleeping and living spaces. Euro pillows are great for couches in matching sets of two or varied sets of around five pillows.
The visual effect a sham can have on a space can be stunning or soothing, depending on the room’s aesthetics. Blending and soothing are useful principles to follow for decorating a bedroom as too much activity may interfere with sleep.
Shams for living spaces can go either way. A drab, relatively featureless living room can benefit from shams that offer a strong point of contrast. For example, a set of bright green shams could help to break up the thickness of a room with darkly colored walls. A space with a lot going on in terms of color, patterns, or artwork may benefit from adding simple, solid color shams to anchor the energy of the room.
Proper care for your pillow shams will largely boil down to the sham’s material and the sham’s intended purpose. Pillow shams that are meant to double as pillow cases will need to be cleaned regularly if they are used for sleep. Many pillow shams that can be slept on are made out of machine-washable fabrics such as cotton or linen. Machine-washable shams are often washable on a cold water setting followed by a low tumble dry. Some pillow shams are made out of materials that must be dry-cleaned only, such as silk. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper care and washing of a sham.
Pillow shams that are not meant to double as pillow cases should not be slept on, as they may be easily soiled or worn by use. Retailers often indicate on the product’s information page whether or not a sham can be used as a pillow case.
Pillow shams of either type can be removed from the bed before sleep to help extend their life. Sham pillows can also be placed behind sleeping pillows to reduce direct wear and tear.
Ultimately, the main intended purpose of a pillow sham is to decorate a space. Here are some extra points to consider to help you fulfill your stylistic goals.
Outlining a plan for the space will help identify your needs in terms of pillow shams. Consider the colors, textures, and patterns already at play in the space. Are there any elements you would like to see more of or remove? What kind of energy do you want from the space? What role could an added sham play?