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Thursday, August 16, 2018


After having it on my to-do list since my master bedroom makeover over 3 years ago, I've finally written a tutorial for how to make your own upholstered headboard!  I'd hoped to share before now, but somehow can't find my images that I took while making my headboard (what's that tell you about my digital photo organization?).  So when I made another for my daughter's room, I made sure I did everything necessary to be able to share the process with you!

how to make an upholstered headboard with curved top

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I would say that this is a project that anyone could do.  With some planning, time, and patience it's a doable project with minimal tools needed.  I definitely saved money by making these myself, but more than that I was able to choose the exact fabric, size and shape headboards that I wanted for our rooms.

To begin, start by making your frame.  I used a 1/2 sheet of plywood (48"x96").  I worked out the dimensions before hand (shown later in post) and had the guys at Home Depot cut all of the basic pieces for me there.

My headboard piece is 48" tall by 55" wide.  I wanted a curved top, so I used a round tray to trace the top curve.  Then I found another round object (embroidery hoop) to trace the curved cut out sections on the sides.  I just used sizes and placements that were pleasing to my eye, sorry I don't have more specific measurements for this part.  Once marked, I made these cuts with a jigsaw.  It's helpful to cut one of the curved side pieces out, then use that scrap as a pattern to flip over and trace to mark the other side to make sure that both curves are exactly the same.

This is totally a personal choice, but I prefer to make my upholstered headboards with legs.  I don't like seeing an upholstered headboard floating on the wall, I like for it to appear to go all the way to the floor.  Adding legs just gives more of a feeling of a "real" bed to me rather than a fabric covered board suspended on the wall.

To make the legs I used scraps from the sheet of plywood that weren't used for the main part of the headboard (I have the HD guys cut these too while I'm getting supplies).  Mine were about 8" wide here.  Use wood screws to attach the legs to the back of the headboard.  You'll want them to come up the headboard a bit to add stability.

For even more stability I like to reinforce the legs. I cut another piece that's exactly the same width but only the height that will fit from the bottom of the headboard to the bottom of the first leg (I think my shorter piece here is about 22").  Flip the headboard front side up and use screws to attach your second leg piece the full leg already attached to the back.  You're basically just doubling the thickness of the leg, which also makes the front of your headboard and legs flush.

Sand cut edges of the plywood and knock sharp corners down just a bit with the sander.

Here's the finished frame, front and back.

Next, mark out a border from the edge, mine is 2".  This is where your nailhead trim will eventually go.

Now it's time to add foam.  I used the 2" thick roll from Hobby Lobby.  You do not want your foam to go all the way to the edge, so leave about an inch short of the marked 2" border where nailhead will go (you're really cutting your foam 2.5-3" in from edge, leave border along the bottom as well).  Measure out the biggest pice of foam along the bottom of your board first.  Cut foam with electric or serrated knife.

Use spray adhesive to attach foam. I find it works best to spray the board and the foam, then attach.  It doesn't need to be super stuck, just enough to keep it in place while you're working with the board.

Use the rest of your foam to fill in the top of the board.  You can cut and piece it together, it won't matter as long as you're fitting the pieces close together.  Attach those pieces with the spray adhesive too.

Here's the foam all attached, notice I'm still inside that border we marked out around the edge. If you put your foam right up to that line you won't be able the get the nail heads in. By the way, ignore all of the marks on the foam.  I originally thought I would tuft this one but after spending lots of time trying, it wasn't working out for me and time was of the essence so I scrapped those plans.

So there's a lesson in DIY for you... if things aren't working out how you planned, sometimes you keep persevering and figure it out, but sometimes you ditch your original idea and do it another way.

Now it's time to wrap everything with batting!  I like to use a high-loft, thick batting.  Spread it out then place the headboard face down.  Just work to cover the main part of the headboard, the legs don't matter.

As you work, you'll want to make sure that your batting is stretched nice and tight under the board and that it stays smooth.  That's crucial so your fabric doesn't look lumpy later on when you're finished!  Pull the batting tight up around the back, then staple along the edges.  Pull tightly around the curves and work closely with those to make sure your edges stay neat.  Trim close to staples when finished.

Tip:  I just used a regular manual staple gun, if you have a staple gun that works with an air compressor, great!   With a manual gun, if your staples aren't going in all the way when you're pressing the gun down firmly, they're too long.  About 1/2" staples usually work best for me.

Everything should be tight and smooth after you've stapled the batting.  I don't worry about wrapping the legs with batting, they don't need to be padded.

Now, lay your fabric right side down against the floor, then lay the headboard frame face down on top of it.  You'll probably want 10-12" extra fabric around all of the edges to work with if possible.

Start with one staple in the center of the top and each side, pulling fabric very tightly around the frame.  You might need a partner to pull and hold the fabric while you staple.

Once I got my initial anchor staples in, I started with the curved top.  Keep pulling fabric tight and staple little by little as you go.  As you work around the curves, it's crucial to clip your fabric so it lays around the curve correctly.  Just be careful not to clip it too far so that the cut doesn't go across the top edge of the headboard.  Constantly pull the fabric as tight as you can as you go.  I like to add an extra little scrap of batting to the sharp corners before I wrap the fabric around them, it helps especially if your fabric is thinner (I just stick an extra little piece there for padding as I'm wrapping the fabric, don't worry about stapling it in).

Once the top is done, I move to the bottom and wrap the legs.  Fold up to finish the edge of the fabric and wrap it right to the bottom edge of the leg (there's no fabric actually under the leg).  Pull tight and staple along the edge.  The top of the leg will be covered with the headboard fabric piece so don't worry about it's appearance too much.

Now, pull sides and bottom tight (especially from top to bottom), securing with one or two staples in the middle of each section.  Before you go any further, flip it over and make sure the fabric looks tight and smooth.  If not, remove your middle staple and pull tighter, then staple again.  You're really going to tug on the fabric!

Continue along the sides of the headboard, pulling tightly and stapling all down the edge. Flip and check occasionally as you go.  Stop on the sides a few staples before you get to where the leg meets the board.

With just a few staples in the middle of the bottom, I worked on the leg sections before going any further.

Cut a slit in the headboard fabric close to the leg so that you can fold it under neatly. Fold the raw edge under above the leg.

Now start stapling it securely to the back across the bottom of the headboard, keeping your folded edge covering the top of the leg.

Lastly, pull the side tightly around back and staple.

So here's what it looks like finished across the legs-

After fabric is fully attached and you're happy with how it looks from the front, trim excess fabric in back if necessary.  Fully wrapped, ready for nail heads!

To attach nail head trim- measure out from edge 2" (remember that line we marked on the frame at the very beginning?), trace lightly with chalk to mark guide line.  You should not be nailing into foam at all, just the batting underneath the fabric.  Keep trim straight as you're attaching.  There is an actual tack that you tap in every 5 nail heads, tap down sections between tacks too so it lays smoothly.  At corners, bend carefully and follow desired pattern. (I buy the antique brass finish for the trim but stretch it out and spray it brighter gold before I start- sources below.)

That's it!  Lean against wall and scoot mattresses up tight against it.

DIy Upholstered headboard

I used the same process to make my own upholstered headboard a few years ago.  Other than the different shape across the top (mine was a bit easier since it didn't have the big curved top edge), the only difference was that I attached individual nail heads on mine.  The difference isn't really that noticeable unless you're looking close up but I do think the individual nail heads make it look more expensive and professional.  That's a toss up though because they take SO much more time!

A few tips if you want to go the individual tacks route...

*Unless you're inserting them right against the very edge of the headboard, lightly measure and trace out the line you want to follow in chalk.  I did one border right along the edge and then measured in from the edge exactly 2" for the second row of tacks.

*Use a small rubber tipped mallet to hammer in the tacks.  This tool is very helpful for spacing your tacks out evenly, although I found that it was easier to use it to just get them barely started and pierce the fabric in the right spot, then I removed the tool to hammer them the rest of the way in.  Just experiment with it until you find what works best for you.

*It is very obvious if the nail heads aren't perfectly lined up.  Even if you're placing it right on your line, sometimes they get a little crooked by the time you get them hammered all the way in.  Don't worry, just place the edge of a flathead screwdriver against the edge of the nail head and use your mallet to gently tap it sideways until it's lined up correctly.  This usually worked for me for minor placement adjustments, but occasionally if the nail head got really bent out of place I would have to remove it and use a new one.  (This tool is the best for pulling them out, and also removing staples if needed!)


Dimensions for my king size headboard:

half sheet plywood, wood screws, palm sander, power jigsaw, upholstery foam, spray adhesive high loft batting, staple gun and staples, nailhead trim, metallic gold spray paint, small mallet, staple/nail head remover also very helpful
Fabric:  I used this for my headboard, it's a linen blend and sturdy but soft
I used this for my daughter's headboard, more economical but thicker and stiffer
Optional: individual nailheads (this spacer is super helpful)

I have a post here for how I make my bedskirts.  It's the basic idea although I did Emily's totally no-sew.  Perhaps I need to write up a quick tutorial for it as well!  

how to make an upholstered headboard with nailhead trim


how to make an upholstered headboard

teen girl's bedroom with diy upholstered headboard with nailhead trim

I hope this is helpful and that you try one for yourself!  Please let me know if anything isn't clear or if you have further questions.  It really isn't too difficult, it just takes time and perseverance, and the end result is so worth it!

diy upholstered headboard, headboard tutorial, fabric headboard

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  1. Thank you SO much for taking the time to document this. The room is simply gorgeous! I am using your daughter's room as the inspiration for redoing my teen daughter's room. Keep up the amazing work!!

    1. Thank you so much Ashley, have fun working on your daughter's room!

  2. It´s absolutely clear, you are a crack!! please, next tutorial and tips about hanging gallery wall. Kind regards

  3. Thank you Jennifer. I know I will be trying this in the future.Also, tips about decorating built-in wall shelves would be helpful to me. Thanks for your inspiration.

    1. Hope this is helpful for you Monica. A shelf styling post is coming soon!


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