How To Make An Upholstered Headboard

After a bunch of people wrote to us asking how we upholstered the green headboard in our guest bedroom…

… we thought we’d invite you to join us for a quick tutorial. And since John’s sister Emily was itching to make a pink headboard for her daughter Olivia’s bedroom, we got to show her how simple the process can be as well. And don’t be nervous, it’s truly a super easy undertaking. If you can wrap a present, you can upholster a headboard. Honest.

First, visit an art store and purchase a wooden frame that’s meant to stretch canvas. A craft store won’t carry these, but any true art store will. As for the size, you should aim for the exact width of the bed but the height is up to you (you can use painter’s tape on the wall to experiment until you find a height that you like). You’ll also need enough fabric to cover the canvas frame with a few inches to spare, the same amount of batting (the thickness is up to you- the plusher the batting, the plusher the headboard). Then all you need is a regular old scissors and a staple gun (you can purchase a manual one for about $12 at Lowe’s) and you’re ready to roll. *Note: You can substitute a piece of plywood for the canvas frame if you’re looking to create a headboard that’s extremely durable (ie: for people who lean against it all the time to read or for a boisterous child’s room) – it will be stiffer, heavier and a bit trickier to hang, but virtually indestructible.

Step 1: Cut your batting a few inches larger than the frame, wrap it around the back of the frame and staple it in place. I like stapling things at twelve o’clock, three o’clock, six o’clock and nine o’clock first to keep things tight and straight (sometimes starting at one end and working your way around can cause it to slowly shift or loosen, and you want a straight, tight fit). Continue to staple the batting around the frame every two to three inches until you’ve worked your way around the frame and the batting is snug and secure.

Step 2: Cut the fabric a few inches larger than the frame and follow the same stapling steps outlined above. Be sure that your fabric is straight if it has any sort of pattern (line it up carefully and be sure to check for any shifting as you go). When it comes to the corners, just treat them as if you’re wrapping a present and fold them over so that they have a seamless look from the front. (Note: staples can be easily removed, so if you need a do-over or two it’s no biggie).

Step 3: Hanging this type of headboard is easy-peasy since it’s super light (thanks to the canvas frame construction) so it’s just like hanging a picture frame. All it calls for are two nails placed on the wall for the frame to hook over. Using a level can insure that your headboard hangs straight- and look how cute this step can be. Adorable.

Step 4: Enjoy your swank new headboard. Olivia loves her plush pink palace and the polka dot headboard is the perfect punch of personality (say that three times fast).

So there you have it, headboard upholstery 101. And here’s a bonus fabric tip for ya: visit the fancy fabric store in your neighborhood. Every town has one (it’s where the interior designers go) and in Richmond it’s called Willaims & Sherrill. This may seem like a surprising suggestion from bargain hunters like us, but you can often find fabulous deals in the remnant section of the store. There’s usually a table full of remnants (leftover pieces of fabric that have been marked down dramatically)- and most are still one to two yards, which is more than enough fabric for this project.

In this instance, Emily and I snatched up two yards of this thick woven swiss dot fabric (originally $24/yard) for around $19 total. Score.


  1. says

    We are currently deciding what sort of upholstered headboard we want, and will be taking this project on ourselves. I’m just wondering if you think this one would be sturdy enough as I typically sit up in bed, reading. Or would you suggest using a solid piece instead of just a frame??

  2. Kathryn says

    I was just going to make the same comment- the advantage of the frame is that the headboard is light, but if you do tend to lean against it to read (and I sometimes have to sleep sitting up because of sinus issues), the fabric *may* loosen- due to the fabric stretching, tearing, or the staples pulling out.

    We had to rip out our frame headboard and upholster a sheet of plywood to make it work.

  3. says

    THANK YOU …I posted about ya’ll again today and I’m going to make mine this week. Thank you, thank you, thank you! =) Oh and I got the name correct this time, sorry about that.

  4. says

    I was thinking the same thing about it being flimsy. I’ve seen these made with plywood, covered in batting and fabric. I think that would be much more sturdy for everyday use.

    Very pretty fabric choice for the little girl’s room. I love it!

    I plan on making one of these myself. Very inexpensive way to add some color and finish a bed.

  5. YoungHouseLove says

    Hey everyone,

    I made the green upholstered headboard in our guest bedroom over four years ago and it’s still going strong (no loose fabric or staples) and it served as our own headboard for a few years before we moved it to the guest bedroom so it definitely got some heavy use (we read leaning against it for years). But I can see how it might seem less sturdy than a plywood one.

    I guess since we had no problems with the durability/longevity of ours I assumed that the frame method was better than plywood because it’s lighter, easier to hang, and easier to move… but I can see how people only wanna do something like this once so if plywood seems more like your cup of tea I’d definitely encourage you to go that route.

    Maybe the flimsy/durability issue comes up with a frame if you use cheap or thin fabric and batting (or fabric with a lot of stretch). That would probably explain why the two headboards I’ve made are so strong (I always gravitate towards thick, woven upholstery fabrics with some major heft) and when paired with some rather plush batting they are very tight and strong once stapled to the frame. Yup, now that I think about it, fabric is probably a very important factor, so I’d definitely suggest selecting strong, thick, non-stretch fabric for a more durable and longlasting result.

    Happy stapling everyone!!!


    p.s. Great kitchen transformation Katie! We know how hard it is to live with all that dust and chaos- congrats on your shiny new kitch!

  6. says

    I was wondering how durable these headboard are for leaning against. We don’t have a headboard and I would love to make one like yours, except that we spend a lot of time propped up reading in bed. Wouldn’t leaning against it press the fabric back toward the wall and create tension/ripping?

  7. says

    Super cute but I’d caution about using this in a small childs room. Those stretcher frames aren’t meant for any kind of pressure so if a child is playing around on their bed or leans on the frame in the wrong way, it will collapse.

  8. YoungHouseLove says


    There was much debate about your question (see above). My headboard has been leaned on for years, moved from NY in a packed minivan, hung in four different rooms since the big move and still looks great 4+ years later. I’ve had the experience that as long as you use thick fabric and batting along with a good amount of staples to secure everything, it’s extremely durable and stays tight. However many people have suggested subbing out the canvas stretching frame for a piece of plywood which would be stiffer, heavier, and a bit trickier to hang but would definitely be super durable. Good luck with your headboard and feel free to send us pics of the transformation!


  9. says

    I really love this post and idea! (I even blogged about it on my own blog, I hope you don’t mind.)

    I do have a question for you – Do you remember what size frame you used for your green headboard and how much it was? Thank you!

  10. says

    It sounds like the general fear is that the frame will fall. Sherry – since the frame itself has proven its durability in your home maybe you could suggest different methods of hanging it. Instead of just two nails, maybe a small board the width and depth of the space in the back of the frame could be more securely fastened to the wall and/or use of liquid nails would be more child-proof. Love to hear what you think.

  11. says

    Thank you so much for posting these great instructions for a DIY upholstered headboard.. I’m getting married in 2 weeks and I’m trying to finish up as many projects around our new house as I can before then… I’ve been wanting a headboard, but we can’t spend the money on one right now. I always thought it would be more complicated to make an upholstered one, but you made it sound easy! I might have to wait till after the wedding, but I’m now convinced that this is what I’ll do. I’ll let you know how it turns out! :)

    p.s. loved your wedding week – I only wish I had been able to see all your great tips and ideas earlier… it’s a little late to change anything with the wedding since it’s 2 weeks away!

  12. YoungHouseLove says

    Hello again chicas,

    For those afraid that the frame will fall I think there are a variety of approaches to attach the headboard to the wall in a more permanent way. As Kate suggested, a piece of wood could definitely be screwed into the wall behind where the headboard will hang and then liquid nails can be used to attach the headboard’s frame to the wood that’s screwed into the wall. The headboard could also be intentionally made taller than necessary so about 5 inches of it would be hidden below the line of the bed, which would allow you to hook it over some nails at the top but screw right through the frame and into the wall on the bottom edge of the frame. You could also probably add some 1x2s at the bottom of the frame to serve as legs which can be screwed into the wall and hold everything steady so I guess there really are a few ways to skin this cat. Hope that helps Katie!

    Bryn, As for your question about the dimensions and price of mine- we made ours 54×24″ which seems to work pretty well with a full sized bed. As for the cost, I’m not sure of the exact price but somewhere around $15 for the canvas stretcher frame sounds right. I do remember that the addition of some nice thick fabric and batting along with a $12 staple gun made the whole project come in at around $45-$50. Happy headboarding!


  13. Elizabeth says

    Hi! I am so thrilled to have this how-to. I was wondering if you knew how we might be able to attach this to our existing metal frame – any thoughts?

  14. YoungHouseLove says

    Hey Elizabeth-

    Well, we have a few ideas for working with your existing metal frame:

    1. You could slipcover the metal frame by sliding a snugly fitting pillow-case-like pocket of fabric over the metal frame itself (forgoing the canvas stretching frame completely).

    2. You could glue-gun or crazy glue a piece of fabric around the metal frame (gluing it in the back). Or you could glue gun or crazy glue the wood-framed headboard you create (using our tutorial above) to the existing metal frame.

    3. You could use velcro (affixed to both the fabric and the back of the metal frame) to secure the upholstery to the metal frame directly. Or you could also use velcro to hold the wood-framed headboard to your existing metal frame.

    Hope that helps!

    Sherry (& John)

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