Chic on a Shoestring Decorating: How to Make an Upholstered Headboard

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How to Make an Upholstered Headboard

Hi there!  Thanks for all the sweet comments about my master bedroom makeover, you sure know how to make a girl feel special.  :) 

Now, it's time to reveal some of my amazing secrets about how I put it together!

Ok, maybe they are not really amazing secrets but hopefully you'll learn something about making a headboard.

When our less than one year old bed broke last year I was very annoyed that something that should have been a decent quality piece of furniture could so easily fall apart.  While we didn't pay thousands of dollars for it, it wasn't cheap and we should've gotten several years of use out of it. 

I was so happy that it ended up being under warranty, my furniture salesman said he could have a new one delivered in less than 2 weeks.  I politely declined.  (do you really think I want another crappy bed that will fall apart in a few months?!  ummm, NO) 

We got our money back and we happily used a very small portion of what we paid for the broken bed to make our own.

I had a lot of hesitation before buying the supplies.  I was very worried that it would look cheap or like we made it ourselves (Good DIY does not look like DIY, it looks like the real deal!).  After looking at lots and lots of online tutorials and seeing mostly good results, I decided that we could do it.  (hopefully?!)

My inspiration headboard was the Raleigh upholstered headboard from Pottery Barn. 

You may not be able to tell easily from this picture but this headboard is much thicker than most of the DIY upholstered headboards out there.  The foam padding is fat, that's exactly what I liked about it. 

Before we got any supplies I did lots of measuring and double checking.  

Things to consider before you make an upholstered hadboard (or any headboard):
  • How tall do you want the headboard to be?  Take into account the amount of pillows you use.  Are they big Euro pillows that will cover up almost all the headboard?   If so, make it a little bigger, no sense in going to the trouble of making a nice headboard if you're going to cover most of it with pillows.
  • Will your headboard have legs or hang on the wall? 
  • Measure and re-measure the width of your mattress when your bed is made.  Yes, mattresses normally have standard sizes but are you accounting for your big poofy duvet and pillow-top mattress pad which can make your mattress look wider than the "standard king mattress size" you googled.
We decided to hang the headboard on the wall because the legs would never be seen and it would be much easier to build and upholster without having to add legs.  I decided I'd like the headboard to be slightly wider that the mattress so it would never look too skinny behind all the bedding.  
    We picked up the supplies:
  • one sheet of 3/4 inch plywood, 4'x8' for king (Lowes)
  • 2 inch thick foam (Joann's Fabric)
  • quilt batting (twin size) (Joann's)
  • fabric (Joann's) In hindsight I would have bought a good quality drop cloth at Lowes, my fabric was too stretchy.
  • Heavy-duty screws for mounting headboard to wall (Lowes)
  • 8' 2x6" to make cleat to mount headboard to wall (Lowes)
  • I made separate trips to Joann's so I could use 50% off coupons on all of the items, may be a little bit of a hassle but saved me a lot of money!

Tools you'll need:

  • Jigsaw
  • Staple gun and lots of staples
  • Hot glue gun
  • Electric carving knife (the kind for carving turkey, yes really... that kind)

We got all the supplies and it was time to cut the plywood to shape.  First, find your center on the plywood.  I finally got up the nerve to do a camelback shape instead of a plain old rectangle.  I freehanded the design template on a piece of newspaper because I didn't have any big paper around. This wasn't fancy but worked fine.

Once I got my shape right Mr. Chic used the jigsaw to cut out one side of the camelback, we then used that piece as a stencil and cut out the other side.  Using the first piece as a stencil for the second side ensures a perfect match.


If you're going to attach it to the wall this is a good time to add the cleat to the back. Mr. Chic made a cleat to hang it because it is very sturdy and inexpensive.  They make heavy duty hangers for things like this but they start at about $40.

Mr. Chic made an angled cut down a 2x6" to make the cleat.  In the picture below you'll see the wall piece bolted into the studs of the wall.  (It was painful to watch Mr. Chic drill into my beautiful stenciled wall, but it had to be done!)  The top piece will be attached to the back of the headboard.  Our little helper decided he needed to write everyone's name on the cleat to commemorate the occasion. :)

Now it was time to bring it inside... holy cow is plywood heavy!!  Mr. Chic carried it up the stairs pretty much by himself while I hung on to the back of it and pretended to help. 

We got it our room and had just enough space to lay it down flat.  I attempted to use spray adhesive to stick the foam to the plywood, after it was stuck I would be able to trim it down to the side of the headboard. We had to use 2 pieces side by side since our headboard was pretty big. 

I read that you should use spray adhesive to attach the foam to the plywood.  I don't know what type of spray adhesive those folks were using but it ended up being a total fail for us.  It did not stick the foam to the plywood at all.   
I busted out the my hot glue gun (which I shouldv'e done in the first place) and started gluing.  At first I worried that the hot glue might somehow melt the foam a bit and distort the look of it, making it lumpy or weird.  But, it didn't mess it up at all, worked perfectly!
Now that the foam is attached you have to cut it down to the shape of your headboard.  This is where making a rectagular shaped headboard would come in really handy.  

I read that you could use a razor or serated knife cut this foam stuff.  Fail #2.  Since our foam was pretty thick, it just got all shreddy when you tried the knife and it was much to thick for the razor.  The razor pushed it down but didn't even cut it!  This is when I rememberd that the lady at Joann's Fabric busted out an electric carving knife to cut this stuff when we bought it. 

We didn't have an electric carving knife but found one at Wal-Mart for $10... sweet! 

I started carving and that little sucker worked like a charm!  I felt like an ice sculptor first shaving off the big chunks and then the little slivers and angles here and there to make sure it was even.  This step is SO important, especially if you're using the thick foam.  If you take off too much on one side you've got to do it on the otherside too.

Once the foam looked like the right shape it was time to wrap in quilting batting.  The batting can cover up little imperfections from your carving job in the foam thankfully.We found it was easiest to lay the batting flat on the ground and then put the headboard on top of it.  Pull the batting up from the sides and staple it tighly on being careful not to pull too tight and make the foam squish. 

I was able to buy a package of batting for a twin size quilt that was just barely big enough, it cost $10 which was cheaper than buying it by the yard.  We wrapped it around the headboard stapling it to the back, we barely had enough!

Then it was time for the fabric.  I chose a linen-like fabric from Joann's.  I was able to use a coupon and get it 50% off.  It seemed heavy-duty enough but then working with it we realized it really wasn't.  While I love the color I would not recommend this fabric because it seems a little too stretchy and wrinkly even after ironing. 

Choose a thick and heavy duty fabric (some have used dropcloths).  Outdoor fabric or upholstery fabric would be easiest to work with.  Make sure you have it ironed before you attach it.  We again laid the fabric down flat and put the headboard in the middle of it.  Stretch it around the headboard and start stapling.  This is a 2 person job and Mr. Chic ended up doing most of it (did you notice he's the one doing all the work in the pictures?!  Thanks, honey!). 

He is a great gift wrapper and this is kind of the same idea.  You must get it taut in just the right places.  If you pull too hard you will end up smushing in the foam a bit which can change the look of the shape.  This part was a little bit tricky.  Don't be scared to pull out staples and re-do an area if it doesn't look right.  Thank goodness I didn't choose a patterend fabric, it would make things very difficult if the fabric was too stretchy like ours was. 

I have yet to add nailhead trim and not really sure that I will.  Leaving the nailhead off will allow me to recover the headboard easily when I get sick of this one (hopefully a long time from now!)  I'm having trouble finding the larger size found on the inspiration Raleigh headboard.  I've thought of doing the smaller ones but they are SO extremely hard to get them straight.  

Even if you get the fake kind that come as a rope and you only have to nail in every 5th nail.  There always seems to be a few that are a little off when you do it yourself.   This little imperfection really isn't a big deal and adds a bit of charm but to me, it ruins it the look and screams home-made.  No offense to those of you who did your own nailhead trim.  I just have an uncanny eye for picking up on those little "charming" details and then letting them drive me crazy.  I have a problem, it's me,  not you.  :) 

Our headboard isn't perfect at all, it has lots of "charm" but I actually really love it.  It's soft and cushy and the color is perfect.


  1. It looks amazing and I love your wall and your bedding. Gorgeous. Hugs, marty

  2. Thanks lot for this useful article, nice post

  3. Beautiful! I've been thinking of doing one and now that I see your tute I'm ready to go for it!
    Thank you so much for the instructions!

  4. I have my supplies together. The only thing I changed was to use pegboard so it wouldnt be so heavy AND so I can tuft it later is I choose..

    your's is fabulous and I hope I can do half as well. I adore your bedding and thanks the detailed photos of the cleat design you used.

  5. it looks so beautiful! and your bedroom looks also great! you have done a really great job. regards. ebru

  6. Great tutorial on your headboard! I love your room, especially, your bedding!

  7. Thanks so much for this tutorial! I am in love with the headboard from PB, and yours turned out fabulous! I will most definitely be giving this a try whenever I get around to decorating our bedroom. Unfortunately, it's probably last on the list, but I will dream until then!

  8. Your room is beautiful. Our's needs a makeover and your choices are sooo calm and professional looking. I am going to make the headboard.

  9. This is AWESOME!! Many thanks for sharing your room and the tutorial :)

  10. aw. just beautiful. I am going to cover my daughter's headboard . you have inspired me :_)
    also LOVE your walls.. is that wallpaper ? just beautiful & elegant !

  11. I love it! And I think it might just be time for a new headboard for our old bed. But first I'll need to decide what to do about that 90's wallpaper - needs to come off before I can redecorate.

  12. I think it looks absolutely perfect and absolutely lovely! And isn't it crazy how expensive foam is? I'm shocked every time!

    I wish I could figure out a way to make my own ... like I do for my pillow forms!



  13. Wow! Your DIY definitely doesn't look it. Great job!

  14. Wow you did an amazing job!! Love your tutorial!

  15. Beautiful... pinning the first picture!!

  16. Love this!!! So pretty and professional-looking!

  17. You are a true inspiration! The headboard and the entire bedroom is gorgeous! May I ask, did you stencil your bedding yourself? If not, please tell me the style--it would be perfect for my own bedroom rennovation. Thank you, Miya

  18. I'm getting ready to start this project for my daughter's birthday...I'm so nervous, but your pictures and directions look great! Thanks!!

  19. I'm a military wife. A can of paint, a roller, a paint brush and cheap fabric and I can redo just about any room. Thanks to my mother, I always have a ragbag. I can make a pillow case and stuff it with a combo of rags and plastic bags, instant match to the cafe' curtains. Hey girls share your tricks. Marsha in Tampa

  20. Your home would have an interior design concept. Of course, it includes your room. It is even given an exclusive attention when designing a bedroom because it is a personal and private room.

  21. Excellent idea for the make over of the bedroom, your secrets are really amazing, and nice to please a girl, but too share some dimensions to make it easier to plan the room.

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  22. About to make one of these. Is yours a King bed? How many yards of fabric did you use? (just wondering approximately so I have an idea of how much it will take so I can decide whether to go with the more expensive fabric that I LOVE or the cheaper fabric that I LIKE.)

  23. Magnificent idea to make a headboard. I am getting ready to make a headboard like this on my wife's birthday. Please share some dimension to make it easier.

  24. I am thinking about doing one of these for our bedroom. Thank you for the great tutorial :)

  25. I Will Be Coming Back Soon, Thanks for posting Some Great ideas and I'll try to return back With A Completely different browser to check out Things! Also, I put a link to your blog at my site, hope you do not mind.

  26. Hi KATE,
    I have just been searching for info about this topic for a while and yours is the best I have found out so far.

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  27. you have really a good thoughts, skill, and passion towards doing a great effort.
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  28. this is the first time i visit your site but i will be one of your permanent visitors because you provide good topics and ideas, my blog at International Decor

  29. Hi, just desired to let you know, I enjoyed this blog post. It had been funny. Carry on posting! crib mattress reviews 2014

  30. If you are still looking for large upholstery nails check out

  31. Wow, I'm loving these ideas! We are looking to get a bed with some upholstery to match our room's theme. I'm excited to get something that works with our room like you guys did! You truly are an inspiration.

  32. Looking into making my own headboard and I stumbled upon this. I will give this a try, it's very lovely!


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