A Beautiful Bed Awaits! Learn How to Dress a Bed with Shams and Pillows

Would you love to create a dreamy, catalog-style bed ensemble for holiday guests, but you’re just not sure how to start? Dressing the top of the bed doesn’t have to be mystifying. We’re here to sort out shams and pillows so that you can have that guest bed (or your own) looking sweet-slumber-ready.

Prestige Comforter Bedding


Shams are decorative casings meant to hold your stuffer pillows; stuffers are usually plump and well-filled since they need to sit upright. Standard shams have an interior size of about 20”x26”, and King shams have an interior size of about 20”x36”. European shams have an interior size of about 26”x26”.

How many shams do you need for each bed size?

Twin Option A: one European sham + one standard sham
Twin Option B: one King sham only (to span the width of the bed)
Full: two European shams + two standard shams
Queen: two European shams + two standard shams
King Option A: three European shams + two King shams
King Option B: three European shams + three standard shams

Where do you put shams on the bed?

Think of shams as your decorative foundation. There’s certainly room for you to get creative with their placement; however, if you’re a traditionalist, you’ll want to start with the European shams. Place them upright, side by side, in front of your headboard. Next, layer your sleeping pillows (in their pillowcases) upright in front of the Euro shams. Then position your standard or King shams in front of your sleeping pillows. You’ll follow this layer with decorative pillows (more about those below).


Sleeping pillows are not ornamental; as their name suggests, they’re meant for you to doze on each night. Sleeping pillows are placed in the pillowcases that you purchase alone or as part of a sheet set.

How many sleep pillows do you need for each bed size?

Twin Option A: one standard pillow
Twin Option B: one King pillow (to span the width of the bed)
Full: two standard pillows
Queen: two standard pillows or two Queen pillows
King Option A: two King pillows
King Option B: three standard pillows

Where do you put sleep pillows on the bed?

The placement of your sleep pillows in the daytime is entirely personal preference; however, you’ll often see sleep pillows “sandwiched” between the European shams and standard or King shams. If you’re not fond of this arrangement, you can stack your sleeping pillows atop each other, then prop decorative shams and throw pillows in front of them.


Typically smaller than sham stuffers and sleeping pillows, decorative pillows are the final embellishment for bed displays. Decorative pillows generally come in one of four shapes: square, rectangle, neckroll, or round. There are a multitude of ways you can arrange them.

How many decorative pillows do you need for the bed?

That’s entirely up to you! You might choose solely shams for a minimalist appeal, one or two accent pillows for a spark of color, or several decorative pillows to give your bed a plush look.

If you decide to add decorative pillows to your bed, the general guidelines are as follows:

Twin or Full: one-two accent pillows
Queen: two-three accent pillows
King: three accent pillows

How do you arrange decorative pillows on the bed?

Here are just a few ideas:

Simple and sweet:
Place one accent pillow in front of your shams, right in the middle.

Two together:
Purchase a pair of pillows and place one in front of each sham on Full and Queen beds.

You can adjust this look for a King bed as well. If you have two King shams on the bed, place an accent pillow in front of each and scoot the pillows slightly toward the center of the bed. If you have three standard shams on a King bed, place one accent pillow in front where the first and second shams meet and another accent pillow in front where the second and third shams meet.

On a King bed, place three of the same type of rectangle pillow in the front row, equally spaced.

Mix it up:
On Queen and King beds, place two or three different pillows in the front row. You can overlap them slightly or tuck one behind the others so they’re not side by side.

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