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What Are Euro Shams and Euro Pillows? Sizes, Materials and More

percale euro sham
Written By
Parachute Team
Photographs By
JESSICA SCHRAMM FOR PARACHUTE
@parachutehome
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If you've shopped around for luxury bedding and housewares lately, you may have come across Euro shams. But what is a Euro sham, exactly? To answer this question, you'll need to first understand what a Euro pillow is.

Read on for insight into these functional, decorative essentials, including what Euro pillows are for, what Euro shams are for, plus dimensions, materials and design tips.

What Is a Euro Pillow?

A Euro pillow is a square-shaped European pillow. Aside from the shape, the shell and fill material are similar to a bed pillow. But what is a Euro pillow for? It serves a decorative purpose on beds, sofas or chaises. It can also be used for back and head support on beds and furniture when reading or watching TV.

How big is a Euro pillow? Find out below.

What Size Is a Euro Pillow?

Euro pillow dimensions are usually 26 x 26 inches. Standard pillows are typically 20 x 26 inches, and kings are about 20 x 36 inches, so European pillows are actually a bit wider than the bed pillows you sleep with. This extra width helps them cover the pillows behind so that all you see are the large decorative squares.

What Is a Euro Sham?

A Euro sham is a square-shaped European sham. It's related to a pillowcase but serves more of a decorative purpose, which is why it opens from the back (aka envelope closure) and often has a fabric trim. Since Euro pillows often come in the form of inserts (without a case), the covering ensures they're entirely hidden inside.

What Is a Euro Sham Used For?

Sham means "false front." In the literal sense, this pillow covering makes both the insert and the furniture it's placed on look more presentable. Sham-covered Euro pillows are usually positioned in front of the pillows you sleep with. And like regular pillowcases, shams protect their inserts and can be removed and laundered as needed.

What Size Is a Euro Sham?

Euro sham dimensions are typically 26 x 26 inches. In some cases, shams are slightly smaller than their inserts to achieve a more plush look. For instance, if the European pillow size is 26 x 26 inches, you might get a 24 x 24-inch sham. Since the sham is only a couple inches smaller on each side, you shouldn't have difficulty stuffing the insert. This will provide a full, plump finished appearance.

See our Pillowcase and Sham Guide for guidance on choosing the best options for your space.

Euro Sham vs. Standard Sham: What's the Difference?

The main differences between a Euro sham and a standard sham are the dimensions and shape. The 26 x 26 inch size is the most common Euro pillow size. (They are sometimes slightly smaller but always a square shape.) As such, Euro sham sizes are usually 26 x 26 inches.

Regular shams, on the other hand, are designed to go over regular rectangular bed pillows of varying sizes. Standard bed pillows are 20 x 26 inches. Queens are 20 x 30 inches, and kings are 20 x 26 inches. Shams for standard-size bed pillows typically measure about 20.5 x 26.5 inches, leaving a half-inch of slack on each side. (In most cases, you can use standard shams for queen pillows too.) Shams for king-size pillows are roughly 20.5 x 36.5 inches.

When it comes to beds, sham-covered Euro pillows and sham-covered rectangular pillows serve the same purpose. Lots of folks choose one or the other, but you can opt for both if you want a bit more volume. However, when styling a couch, chair or indoor bench, square Euro pillows are the way to go. This is why — aside from longer lumbar cushions — you don't usually see large rectangular pillows on furniture.

Here's How to Choose the Right Pillow for your sleeping style.

What to Consider When Decorating With Euro Pillows and Shams

Here's what to keep in mind when styling your home with Euro pillows.

Complementing and Contrasting Colors

Combining multiple colors is all about choosing complementing and contrasting hues, as opposed to those that clash. Complementing colors enhance or complete one another. Contrasting tones are opposites on the color wheel, like white and black, and offer a balanced appearance.

Need help picking the right color for you? Explore the What Color Bedding Should I Get? guide. 

Textured Materials

If you're sticking with one or two neutral colors, such as ivory and charcoal, textures are a great way to mix things up and add interest. For example, you might choose a cream-colored matelasse sham, plus one off-white bouclé and one ivory pouf with charcoal-colored pom embellishments and tassels.

Playful Prints

When buying shams for Euro pillows, consider adding some playful prints. You don't necessarily need more than one per grouping, though there are some exceptions. For instance, you might want to choose a marble option for your sofa and a pair with a subtle arched quilting pattern for your bed.

Want more tips? Check out our guide on How to Layer Your Bed.

Odd Numbers

A good rule of thumb when decorating with Euro pillows is to choose odd numbers. The human eye tends to receive threes and fives better than twos and fours, so keep this in mind when buying shams and inserts.

Pillow Grouping

If you're placing three decorative pillows on a sofa, put two on one side and one on the other. With five pillows, you'd place three on one side and two on the other. Similar to the odd numbers theory, this slight lack of symmetry usually looks more appealing than, say, two pillows on either side.

Get more tips and insight in our blog, How to Style Throw Pillows Like a Designer.

The Best European Sham Fabrics

Get to know these fabrics before shopping for Euro shams.

Percale Euro Shams

Percale Euro shams are made of long-staple Egyptian cotton. The material is crisp, smooth and cool to the touch with a matte finish.

Read our article, Percale: Know Your Bedding Like a Designer, for more details.

Sateen Euro Shams

Sateen Euro shams are similar to percale, except they feature a satin-style weave, which makes them silky-soft with a subtle sheen.

Learn more in our blog, Sateen: Know Your Bedding Like a Designer.

Cloud Cotton Euro Shams

Cloud cotton Euro shams are made of yarns spun from 100% Turkish cotton. The fabric is slightly gauzy and ultra-soft with a fluffy feel.

Brushed Cotton Euro Shams

Brushed cotton Euro shams are loomed with a plain weave and brushed on one side. The result? A buttery-soft, exceptionally cozy and endlessly cuddly material.

Learn more in our blog, Brushed Cotton: Know Your Bedding Like a Designer.

Linen Euro Shams

Linen Euro shams are woven from the fibers of European flax plants. The breezy, slightly textured textile is notably durable and gets softer over time.

Learn why people love this fabric in our article, Linen: Know Your Bedding Like a Designer.

Organic Cotton Euro Shams

Organic cotton Euro shams are crafted from GOTS®-certified organic cotton fibers and feature a uniquely fluffy three-ply gauze fabrication.

What Is Organic Cotton? Read our blog for additional insight.

Matelasse Euro Shams

Matelasse Euro shams are made of a double-sided combed cotton fabric and feature quilted ribbing to add visual interest and texture.

Learn more about this cozy fabric in the Matelasse: Know Your Bedding Like a Designer guide.