Difference between Decorative Pillow Cover vs Sham

Decorative pillows, also known as throw pillows, play a significant role in enhancing the comfort and visual appeal of a room. When it comes to bed decor, two commonly used accessories are decorative pillow covers and shams. In this guide, we'll explore the key differences between decorative pillow covers and shams, the purpose they serve, and how they contribute to creating an aesthetically pleasing bedroom.

What is a Decorative Pillow (Throw Pillow)?

Decorative pillows, often referred to as throw pillows, are a delightful addition to any living space. They serve both a functional and aesthetic purpose. These pillows come in various shapes and sizes, including square, round, bolster, and lumbar. When placed on chairs, couches, or beds, they not only offer additional comfort but also contribute to the overall decor of the room.

What is a Sham?

A sham, on the other hand, is a decorative pillowcase designed to transform standard-sized pillow fills into stylish accessories for bedding sets. Bed shams are commonly used on decorative pillows that are removed from the bed at night. They may also be referred to as pillow shams, Euro shams, standard shams, or king shams, depending on their size and style.

Purpose of Decorative Pillows

The primary purpose of decorative pillows is to enhance the overall aesthetic appeal of a room. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, allowing you to mix and match to create a personalized and stylish look. While decorative pillows can provide some back support when sitting up in bed or on the couch, they are not intended for sleeping on every night.

Placement of Decorative Pillows on a Bed

When it comes to layering decorative pillows on a bed, a popular arrangement involves using four standard or queen-size sleeping pillows and two accent pillows of different sizes. The standard pillows are placed facedown on the bed, with the next two standard pillows stacked directly on top of them. The largest accent pillow is then leaned against them, creating a visually appealing arrangement.

What To Do With Decorative Pillows at Night

While decorative pillows can offer back support, they are not ideal for sleeping on every night. To keep your bed looking neat and organized, consider placing your decorative pillows in a chest, storage bench, or trunk at the foot of the bed. This is not only a practical solution but also adds to the room's decor.

Difference Between Throw Pillows and Decorative Pillows

The terms "throw pillows" and "decorative pillows" are often used interchangeably, and the difference between them is primarily in name. Throw pillows describe decorative pillows placed on chairs, couches, or beds. Although their main purpose is decorative, they can also serve other functions. However, they are not meant to replace your regular sleeping pillow.

What is a Sham?

A sham is a decorative pillowcase specifically designed for decorative pillows. It adds a layer of sophistication to the bedding ensemble and serves as an accessory rather than a functional pillow for sleep. Shams come in various sizes and styles, allowing you to coordinate them with your bedding and overall bedroom decor.

Types of Throw Pillows

Throw pillows come in various shapes and sizes, each serving a unique purpose in terms of aesthetics and comfort:

  1. Square: The most common shape, available in 16-, 18-, or 20-inch versions.
  2. Round: Less common but a beautiful choice for balancing the straight lines of square and rectangular pillows.
  3. Bolster: Cylinder-shaped pillows designed to prop up arms or back when seated, often used on beds.
  4. Lumbar: Rectangular-shaped pillows originally designed for back support but now commonly used for decorative purposes.

Choosing the Right Throw Pillow Size

The most common throw pillow sizes for sofas are 18" x 18" and 20" x 20". However, larger sofas or sectionals may benefit from larger pillows, such as 22" x 22" or even 24" x 24". Choosing the right size ensures a balanced and visually appealing arrangement.

Best Fabrics for Throw Pillows

When it comes to selecting the right fabric for throw pillows, consider using cotton, velvet, wool, faux leather, or linen. These materials not only provide comfort but also enhance the overall interior design of your space. The key is to use them strategically to complement the existing decor.


In conclusion, understanding the difference between decorative pillow covers and shams allows you to make informed decisions when decorating your bedroom. While decorative pillows add flair and comfort, shams serve as stylish accessories that elevate the overall look of your bedding ensemble. By combining different shapes, sizes, and materials, you can create a visually stunning and comfortable space that reflects your personal style.

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