Is A Pillow Sham Just For Decoration, Or Can You Actually Sleep On It?

Jennifer Adams here, back to help you tackle some of life’s tougher questions! Today’s topic is a common source of confusion and contention: Is a pillow sham just for decoration? Or can you actually use it for functional things like, you know, sleeping?

What’s the Difference Between a Sham and a Pillowcase?

First of all, let’s define what a pillowcase is. For starters, is it pillowcase or pillow case? The answer is yes – both forms of spelling are acceptable. But since I prefer the single-word reference, we’ll stick with pillowcase for the duration of this blog. A quick Google search indicates that a pillowcase is “a removable cloth cover for a pillow.” Pillow sham, on the other hand, is defined by Google as “a decorative silk pillowcase for covering a pillow when it’s not in use.”

So, there you have it. Shams are indeed pillowcases, but they’re a specific kind of pillowcase, intended primarily for use as pillow decoration. The resulting inference is that pillow shams are more ornamental and protective than they are functional for sleeping. Having said that, I can find no law on the books which actually prohibits sleeping on said pillow sham…

A Bedroom Should Be Clean and Fresh

So if a pillow sham is meant to be used primarily for decoration, what’s the best way to use pillow shams? The clean, minimal look for bedrooms is refreshing and airy, and will never be out of style! I love this look because it really adds to a sense of calmness and tranquility. However, that doesn’t mean your bed has to look like it belongs in a monastery. A comfortably-layered bed that feels as great as it looks is a luxury that doesn’t have to come across as being too busy or fussy!

The key is to keep your bedding simple, with every piece having at least one function besides just decoration. For a traditional look, those big square pillows or Euro pillows would be covered with a heavier fabric that matches a bedspread or coverlet. I’ve seen some of these sets made of very heavy upholstery-weight fabric that really wouldn’t be great to sleep on. Maybe that was the point, as these fabrics were probably dry clean only! Today, it’s easy to find low-maintenance, machine-washable blankets, comforters, or coverlets with matching pillow shams that you could use as your second pillow. You can usually just wash these shams along with your regular pillowcases, but be sure to follow the directions on the label.

More About Shams

The term sham is also used to refer to the cover for that second pillow – decorative or not. It really doesn’t matter whether it’s a big Euro pillow or even a pillow that’s the same size as your sleeping pillow. One key difference comes down to a sham having a flapped opening in the back for a clean look, whereas a pillowcase is open on one of the ends. Some higher-quality pillowcases can also have a flap at the end, so you don’t see the actual pillow inside. Many shams have all four edges finished, often with a wide-stitched flange, which makes the pillow look bigger.

So, Can I Sleep on a Sham or What?

I mean, you can if you want to, but they’re usually not as comfortable as other pillowcases. What to do with shams when it’s time for bed? Some place them behind their bed pillows for extra padding between themselves and the headboard; others just remove the shams from the bed to help keep them clean, and to promote easier sleeping mobility. It’s really up to you!

What Color(s) Should You Choose for Your Shams and Bedding?

Depending on the look you want, you could have your bedding – including pillowcase and pillow sham – match. Or, choose one color such as white or ivory for your pillowcases and sheets, and contrasting color or even a pattern for shams and a blanket, coverlet, duvet cover or comforter. Just make sure they are all easy-care, especially if you have pets.

Add a textural throw blanket in a complementary color for the ultimate luxurious look and flexibility. It doesn’t have to be fussy. Let me know what you end up with!

– Jennifer Adams

Explore Jennifer Adams for Luxury Bedding, Pillowcases, & Shams

With a passion for design and comfort that stems over two decades, Jennifer Adams is all about Redefining Soft, providing you with the ultimate sleep experience, and helping your home feel like a cozy, personal sanctuary. When you visit Jennifer Adams you’ll find a great selection of luxury bedding sets, pillows, shams, throw pillows, duvet covers, comforters, blankets, home décor items, and more. With HOME by Jennifer Adams, you’ll Love Coming Home!

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