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Make an Upholstered Headboard

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Headboard with Pillows

Make your headboard tall enough to show above the pillows.

Photo c. cjm, About's Decorating Guide

Making your own custom upholstered headboard can be a fun and satisfying project and add personality to your bedroom. You'll be surprised how easy it is to do.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: Varies

Here's How:

  1. Assemble tools and materials: tape measure, paper for pattern, plywood, saw, sandpaper, upholstery foam, batting, muslin (or sheeting), decorative fabric, electric drill, screws, staple gun, and cording, braid, or other trim (if desired).
  2. Measure your bed and decide how wide and how tall to make the headboard. In general the headboard is equal to, or slightly wider, than the width of the mattress. As for height, about 8 inches of the headboard should be visible above the pillows leaning against it.
  3. Use paper to experiment with a headboard shape. While it can be a plain rectangle, a softer look might have rounded corners or a center arch.
  4. Mark the wood to the size needed and trace on the top shape from the paper you have prepared. Cut the headboard shape out of plywood with a power saw. Depending on the size of the wood you may also need to cut legs to raise the headboard the correct distance off the floor.
  5. Lightly sand around the outer edges of the headboard plywood with a medium-grit sandpaper. Cut a sheet of upholstery foam to the size of the wood frame plus 1 inch. Lay the foam over the frame and tack it in three or four places with a staple gun, or secure it in place with spray adhesive.
  6. Next, cover the layer of foam with a sheet of upholstery batting. Cut it 2 to 4 inches larger than the size of the wood. Tack the batting to the back of the frame using staples, making sure that the top and side edges look smooth and even from the front.
  7. Cut a piece of plain white sheeting to 4 to 6 inches larger than the headboard shape. Staple the sheeting to the back of the wood, being especially careful to smooth the corners evenly.
  8. Iron your outer layer of decorative fabric and smooth it face-down on the work area. Set the covered headboard face down on top of it. Cut the fabric the same size and shape, adding about 4” extra to wrap around the back of the headboard.
  9. Starting at the center top, begin stapling the fabric to the back, making sure that any pattern on the fabric is properly centered and straight. Pull it just enough to get a smooth front side, but not so much that it puckers.
  10. Once you have about 12” of the top stapled, switch to the bottom edge. Smooth the fabric around the wood and staple several places on the bottom edge. Continue working in sections along the top and bottom. This might be a good time to lift up the headboard and check your progress before stapling the sides.
  11. If everything looks good, set it down and begin to secure the fabric to the sides, folding over the outer sides and staple the fabric to the back. Make sure the corners (if you have any) look neat and tidy from the front.
  12. If desired, staple a plain lining fabric onto the back of the headboard, covering all the raw edges of fabric, batting and foam.
  13. Now is the time to attach legs to the headboard if necessary. Set the headboard in place. You may wish to stand the headboard against the wall behind the bed, using the mattress to stabilize it. You can also drill holes in the legs and attach them to the frame of the bed. Or you can attach the headboard directly to the wall behind.
  14. If you like, you can trim the top edge of the headboard with cording, ribbon, bows or a garland of flowers.

Tips:

  1. Not sure what size or shape to make? Buy a roll of kraft paper and cut out several shapes. Tape them to the wall to see what looks best.
  2. Iron the white sheeting cover as well as the decorative fabric for the most professional look.
  3. Attach braid or cording with fabric glue along the top and side edges for an extra finishing touch.
  4. Match the headboard fabric to another fabric in the room (on the bedskirt, window treatments, or pillows).
  5. Actual yardage needed will be determined by pattern or plaid size, repeat, or whether you’re running the fabric lengthwise, called “railroaded.”

What You Need:

  • Tape Measure
  • Paper for Pattern
  • Plywood, Saw, and Sandpaper
  • Upholstery foam and Batting
  • Muslin or sheeting
  • Decorative Fabric
  • Electric Drill, screws, and staple gun
  • Cording, braid or other trim (if desired)

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