Saturday, January 12, 2013

How to Make an Upholstered Headboard


I have wanted a headboard for some time and have been reading tutorials on how to diy an upholstered headboard.  For my first project I ruled out making a tufted headboard because it just looked too frustrating.  I mostly followed a post from FrecklesChick but I modified it some due to the materials we already had and some other unexpected challenges.  We also made it much thicker than hers since it was going to be in our master bedroom.

We have a California King size bed.  You need to measure your bed to see how wide you want your wood (a bit wider than the bed on each side and tall enough that it won't be hidden behind pillows).  We were lucky enough to have a huge piece of rounded corner wood in our garage from the previous owner's workbench we took down so we could park the car inside.  This piece of wood extended about 6 inches extra on each side of the bed and was tall enough that we didn't need to hang it on the wall MUCH to my relief since we are hit and miss with hanging things on the wall.  If you will be hanging your headboard, buy a strong D ring set and a stud finder and level.


The cost of this project really depends on what materials you already have laying around.  We didn't have to buy wood because we had some, but we had to buy TWO staple guns because the first one was terrible and didn't work.  I'd say, depending on what coupons you have and sales are going on, you can make this headboard for between $100 and $200.  The fabric was what I thought would be most expensive and ended up being one of the cheapest purchases.  Price shop, take your time.  I was impatient and wanted to get it done that day so we didn't really plan for the absolute cheapest headboard we could make.


1.  A piece of plywood or wood big enough for the size headboard you want.  You can also use pegboard--I looked at some lattice too thinking that would be lighter and easier to hang but you'd probably have to put some foam board on the side that you would be putting the batting and foam so that you didn't see the holes where the lattice work was.  Your hardware store will cut the piece to the size you want.
2.  Fabric.  You will need something that you can iron before you put it on the headboard and fabric that is thick enough that you won't see the batting through.  It doesn't have to be upholstery fabric though.  You need at least 6 extra inches of fabric around the size of the board you are using.  We went to JoAnn's and found some pretty grey suede that was on sale for 50% off, then another 50% off, then I had a 25% off my total purchase coupon....I think it was $18 for four yards.  I thought I would have WAY more fabric left over at the end but I didn't--just enough for one extra accent pillow.  I would get at least one more yard than you think you need because you don't know how thick the batting and foam will make your headboard until you start to staple.  You also don't need to use fabric--you can use sheets or curtains or shower curtains--just find something that will go with your linens.  This gray works with all of our linens (white, gray, light green) except the tan ones...tan and gray look TERRIBLE together in our room for some reason.  So neutrals are great.
3.  Foam:  We went to Bed Bath and Beyond because it's down the street from my house as opposed to Target which is WAY far away but probably would have been cheaper. We bought an egg crate mattress topper and had to cut it to fit because the shape of the headboard is different than a mattress shape.
4.  Batting:  I bought two queen sized battings at JoAnn's--again these were on sale. 
5.  If you are hanging the headboard:  Level, D rings, Stud finder--I bought these things and then didn't use them.
6.  Staple Gun:  Get a good one.  We started with the cheapest we could find and it didn't work at all.  So we had to go back to Osh at 8pm on a Saturday night in the rain to get a more expensive better one.  We bought a Craftsman--it was fantastic!
7.  Rubber mallet--you can get them at the craft store or hardware store.
8.  Painter's tape--you can get at the craft store or hardware store,=.
9.  Decorative Nailhead Trim Kit:  So worth it!  But bring a coupon--they run about $20 at JoAnn's.
10.  A Painter's Tarp:  We did this project in the dining room because it was pouring rain and the garage was wet and freezing.  And we just had our carpets cleaned--Thanks Jose and Linda!

How to Steps:

1.  Lay out your tarp and place your wood on top.  We had crazy nails on ours since it was a workbench we ripped out of the wall so I had to deal with that.  It was also disgustingly dirty.  Depending on what wood you get you may need to wipe it down...isn't that towel disgusting.

Ralph came to check out what I was doing.  This is his "I am not amused" face.

 2.  Pull out your foam and batting.  The Foam will go on the board first, "crazy side" against the wood.  Cut the foam so that it will cover the wood and you will be able to pull a few inches over on to the other side of the wood.  I did the stapling in steps.  Some people use spray adhesive but that was a no go for us because we couldn't go outside because of the rain.  I found it was fine just dealing with the foam and then the batting.

 Hello new staple gun! 
 3.  Lay the foam on the tarp and the wood over it.  I had three pieces of foam (one large center section and two side sections).  I did the middle one first. 
 4.  Pull the foam over to the back of the wood and staple every few inches.  I went back at the end and went crazy with extra stapling, but this is what I did at first which was fine.
 The first panel is finished here but the sides are naked.
 Here is what it looked like with the other two foam panels.  I thought those seams would really be a problem but they weren't once I but the batting on.
 Here is the headboard with the batting.  Again, follow the same steps as the foam:  lay the batting on the ground, then the headboard on top and pull and staple.  You want this layer to be pretty tight around the edges.  You can see the rounded edges of the wood much better in the batting picture versus the foam picture.
 I did each layer of batting, one at a time.  Some people do them all at once.  It takes longer to do them one at a time but I didn't know what I was doing so that's why I did it this way.
 5.  Drape your fabric over the headboard to see how much fabric you need.
 Cut where needed, leaving enough fabric that you can staple on the back.
 Again, lay your fabric on the ground, then place the wood on top.  As you can see, I could have used a bit less fabric on some parts and a bit more on others, but it held fine.  The back of the headboard is not a masterpiece by any means.  Pull and staple.  This is where you will do the most stapling because you want it to be smooth on all the sides.  This is where it would have been helpful to have thicker fabric.
 Here's what the rounded corners looked like on the back.  Just keep stapling.
 This was where I started to get really excited that it looked like an actual headboard!  And it looks pretty good for my first foray into diy upholstering!

 6.  I used a level to measure where I wanted to put the painter's tape to mark off where the nailhead trim would go.  You really need to take a lot of time with this step.  This is also not a project to be doing at 10pm because the hammering makes a ton of noise!  If I had to do it over this is the step I would have taken more time with.

This is what the nailhead trim kit looks like.  It looks really fancy after you hammer it in. 
 Follow the directions in the nailhead trim kit.  Basically, you just line up the nails and hammer where there are holes along the line you've taped. 

 7.  Marvel at what you've done!  Look at that baby!
 The trim isn't perfect but you really can't tell when it's in the bedroom because there are pillows everywhere.

 Side note:  Don't freak out if this happens to a lot of your nails in the nail head trim set.  We had a huge headboard and still had a few nails left over in the kit.  You can always buy more.
 Here is the disastrous after math of what happened to the dining room--close your eyes mom!
 And the finished product (sorry about the wrinkly linens):

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