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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Heads Up on Headboards

The other week we posted about making DIY Roman Shades, which turned out well but were probably not worth the hassle in retrospect. Today I am singing a different tune about another DIY project I recently accomplished- making a headboard for my bed. This project was a snap to put together and there is so much room for creativity in your design- from the shape of the headboard to the fabric you use to the trim/detail that adds a finishing touch- this is something that you can truly customize to your exact specifications without a lot of effort. And best of all, you can do it all for under $100. Trust me, this project pays off big time.
The most time consuming part of this project is assembling the materials. I made stops at three stores (which are luckily in the same shopping center, so there was not too much scrambling involved): JoAnn Fabric, G Street Fabrics, and Home Depot.
Before commencing this project I did a lot of searching around the internet for inspiration. I loved the Newport Bed from WS Home, but at this point in my life I can think of better uses for $2,700, which is the baseline price of this style!
Shown in Chunky Cotton, Mist
Also like the York Headboard from Pottery Barn. At $900 the price is getting a little better, but still...that's a plane ticket to Argentina right there!
York Headboard
Also loved West Elm Nailhead Upholstered Headboard. At $449 for a king, it's not ridiculously priced, but by the time you factor in tax and shipping, you're still looking at over $600.
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If you google "DIY headboard" you will come up with a zillion different methods, and rather than following any one of them to the tee I took pointers from several of them. The ones I found most helpful are on Pink Wallpaper and Freckles Chic.
Here's a quick synopsis of the materials you'll need and what you need to do to put the headboard together (amounts specified are for a king sized headboard):
  • 1/2 inch Plywood cut to your desired length and width (For a king bed, I got 77" x 36"; they will cut to your desired size at Home Depot)
  • Quilter's Batting (I used about 2.5 yds)
  • White lining fabric (I used about 2.5 yds)
  • Nailhead trim kit (if desired; I think this adds hugely to the overall effect)
  • Decorative Fabric to cover the headboard (I used about 2.5 yards; if you are using a print or a stripe, make sure it is railroaded since it will be applied to the headboard horizontally rather than vertically)
  • Rubber Mallot (if using nailhead trim)
  • Staple Gun
  • French Cleats to mount the headboard to the wall with (or, alternatively, you can add legs to the headboard and fasten it to the bed frame)

How-To
  • Considering I don't have a vehicle large enough to hold a 77" x 36" piece of plywood, I had the guy at Home Depot cut the panel in half to make it easier to carry/transport. Thus, my first step was to use some metal connectors to put the two pieces back together so they would form one panel. Two connectors on the front, two on the back. Easy.
  • Next, I laid the white lining fabric out on the floor, and laid the batting on top of it. The white lining is optional, but I liked the idea of adding an extra layer and smoothing out the batting before putting my exterior fabric on. Plus, this makes it easier to ultimately switch out the decorative fabric one day and not expose the batting, which easily pulls and gets stuck to things.

  • Center the plywood on the lining/batting and start stapling! Be sure to pull tight, of course. I think it's smartest to make a staple or two on each of the four sides and then check to see that you've pulled everything tight and straight. Then continue with the rest of the staples.

  • You should end up with something like this:

  • Next, just do the same with your decorative fabric- lay it wrong side up on the floor or on your work table, and place the headboard on top. Center it and make sure it's straight (this is especially important if you are using a striped or patterned fabric).
  • Make sure that you pull tight and arrange things neatly in the corners. It's sort of like wrapping a present!


  • Next I applied the nailhead trim. This comes in a 10 yard roll for $14.99 from JoAnn and you only have to nail every five nails! Trust me, if you attempted to do this with individual nailheads you would go completely berserk. Just be careful- the trim itself is razor sharp and will easily slice your fingers- I cannot say that no bloggers were harmed in the making of this headboard!

  • Measure the length and width of where you are going to apply the nailhead trim, and cut the trim to size. Make sure that you start and end each strip of trim with a nail hole so that the trim stays down on the edges.
  • Pound the individual nail heads into the holes in the trim. You need to use a rubber mallet for this, as a regular hammer will dent the domed top of the nail heads. You can be creative here too- I just applied trim on the very outer edge, but I am toying with the idea of adding another row of trim just a couple of inches inside the current one. And also, a reminder that you don't need to put trim on the bottom edge because no one will see it (I saw one blogger make this mistake).


  • The finished product:

  • Finally, you'll want to mount one side of your french cleat to the headboard, and the other side to the wall. I have seen people use heavy duty picture hangers to put the headboard on the wall, but that strikes me as being rather precarious- wouldn't it move from side to size when you lean against it? A french cleat seems more secure. In addition, it will help the headboard sit flush against the wall.
    After putting up the headboard I could not believe what a huge difference it made in the room. It really tied everything together and makes the bed look much more "finished." I am finally living like a grownup! Of course also made me realize I really need a 3rd euro sham...
    Cost Breakdown
    Plywood- $22
    French Cleats- $14 ($7/each)
    Batting- $15
    Lining- $5
    Nailhead trim- $14
    Decorator Fabric- $24 (hooray for the remnants section)
    Staple gun- already owned.
    Total Cost- $94
    I did not set out to intentionally copy the West Elm headboard, but now that I look at it I cannot believe mine turned out so similar! Must have been in my subconscious.
    A few suggestions if you tackle this project:
    • If you have a handyman in your home I would highly recommend having the plywood cut with a shape. A curved top, or two angled sides, are striking and look even more custom. This is not hard to do if you have a jig saw or can hire a carpenter. I did not have the space to get experimental with power tools in my apartment so I settled for a rectangle.
    • If you want a very thick, cushy headboard you can use foam padding on it, which can also be purchased at JoAnn Fabric. However, I opted not to do this since I figured it would interfere with the use of nailhead trim. I think the headboard is perfectly soft without it, but aesthetically a thicker headboard does look nice.
    • The sky is the limit in terms of fabric. I chose this beige fabric because it coordinated with my existing bedding but if you are starting from scratch then the possibilities are endless. Many fabric stores carry leather hides, which would be amazing on a headboard. I also saw some gorgeous metallic sari-type fabrics that would really add an eclectic flair to the room. Or how fab would Kelly W's Imperial Trellis be for this project?
    If you've always wanted a headboard and have a spare couple of hours one weekend I highly recommend giving this project a try! This is also a great low-cost alternative to spiffing up a guest room, or would be lovely for a child's room. Happy headboarding!

    12 comments:

    Sarah said...

    Awesome!!! It seriously looks so so so good!!!!

    Julie said...

    It looks fantastic! I've been wanting to try this, but wasn't sure I could do it, especially with nailhead trim. Thanks for a great, informative post - I'm so impressed with your results!

    Anonymous said...

    Totally awesome results! Seriously, yours looks identical to the 500 bucks West Elm headboard. Love the nailhead trim which adds soooo much to the finished product. Great tip about not needing the bottom row of the trim. I, frankly, wouldn't have figured out that unnecessary step/expense until too late. Really enjoyed today's post.

    Jaime said...

    Wow I am so impressed with your DIY :) Bravo!

    ABC Backyard Basics said...

    I love the tufted headboard above as well, I have made my own and this will work until I can learn how to do the tufting on my own. I was a bit worried I would mess this up. I just made a very simple style like the one with the nailheads but I used the cording and stapled it on the top edge and I get many complements on this, We do not have to spend a lot to display a lot of style! Thank you for all your inspiration!
    Lisa Q.

    spark! (Ada-Marie) said...

    Great job! I may give this a whirl for my 2 year old's big girl room. For $94 and with a handy husband, why not?! I will let you know how if we attempt it! :)

    Pink Wallpaper said...

    Oh it looks great! And thanks for the tip about the nailhead trim....i am totally adding that to mine. Was it hard to nail through all of the fabric and batting? Great Job!!

    LindsB said...

    looks beautiful, it makes the bed look so finished- great job!!

    Lisa said...

    Your headboard turned out great! Thanks for the tips. I'm in the process of a diy headboard, I did happen to find a padded headboard on Craigslist, so now all I have to do is recover it.

    Melissa Hawks said...

    Nice job and well done. What an informative blog entry!

    Zelda said...

    Excellent job! You are basically using the technique artists use to stretch canvas. And, you are right, start in the middle of one side:
    then move to the middle of the opposite side,
    then the middle of one of the remaining sides,
    then the last side opposite that.
    Go back to the original side and staple to the right of the existing staple,
    however, at this point do not move to the opposite side,
    move to the left of the original staple.
    Now, you'll move to the opposite side original center staple, staple to the right of that,
    then staple to the left of original opposite center staple.
    Continuing this method till you come to the corners insures a tight taunt, smooth stretch with no bias faux pas.

    Hope that makes sense, you make better sense describing things, I could show everyone ...

    Thanks for the blog, it's informative and entertaining.

    Best.

    Jamie Etherton said...

    I am going to attempt this project soon, however my mom gave me this idea:
    Instead of having plywood or MDF cut, use an old or a new interior door. It is the perfect size for a king sized bed. If you have a difficult time finding the right kind of foam, use an egg-crate mattress. I think these tips may make it even easier.

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