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.

Comments

  1. Katia says

    Has anyone used / thought of using masonite as the backing for a more substantial headboard? It would be lighter than plywood, but still strong. Plus it is a “green” material, since it made by pressing wood chips without nasty glues or formaldehydes.

  2. Sara says

    I also made a headboard but from an old door. We have a local store that goes into the historical homes around here (before some of them are torn down unfortunately) and pull out anything they can. I was able to get an old pantry door for $15. I stripped the paint, sanded, restained and it looks great. We added two 1×4’s to the back of the door and then bolted them to the bed frame. It is super sturdy using the 1×4’s if you are concerned about hanging it on the wall.

    *A little late on the discussion, but I just thought about it!

  3. says

    I really want to make one of these BUT we have chair molding going all the way around our MBR. Thoughts on this? I’m not sure how to hang it against a non-flat surface.

    Thanks!

  4. YoungHouseLove says

    Hi Linx,

    Similar to what Sherry describes in her comment above, there are probably two best approaches to attaching a heavy piece of plywood just like you’d secure the framed version for permanently:

    1. First screw a small, long board (like a 1×2) horizontally into a stud in the wall, a couple inches below where the top of your headboard will go. Once that’s secure, add a similar board to the back of your headboard, about an inch below the top. That will act as a lip which will sit on the board in the wall. Then you’ll want to secure those together with a nail or wood glue. We’d also recommend making the headboard taller than you need so a few inches can extend behind the bed on the bottom. There you can screw directly through the headboard into the wall for extra hold.

    2. The alternative is, rather than hang from the wall, attach some 2×4″ vertically to the bottom as legs. That way you can rest the weight of the headboard on the floor, rather than the wall. You can screw through the top of the legs directly into the wall to be sure it doesn’t slide or topple over.

    Hope that helps!

    -John

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Jessi,

      To tuft a headboard, you’ll want to use a piece of plywood or MDF as the base of the headboard instead of a canvas frame. Then you’d carefully measure a grid on the back of the headboard (before you upholster it!) to determine where your buttons will come through to create the tuft (we’re unsure how to tuft without buttons, but using sleek buttons can keep things looking chic and not country).

      Once you have marked off your grid with spots for each button (perhaps you’d want four buttons on the top row, four directly under those for a middle row, and four under those for a bottom), use a small drill bit to make tiny holes directly through the MDF or plywood where each button can be threaded through (again, you’ll do this before you upholster it).

      After your grid of drill holes is made, you can go ahead and upholster the piece of wood with batting as instructed in the above tutorial. Then thread each button onto some strong thread (the stuff that’s meant for jeans is much stronger than normal thread) and put the needle through the hole in the lack of the MDF that you drilled and poke it through the fabric that now covers the front of the board. Then, just like attaching a button, you’ll want to sew the button securely in place which should create a tuft thanks to the fabric that will bunch in that area of the board. Repeating this step for every hole that you drilled should result in a tufted headboard in under an afternoon.

      For a super shortcut you can also look for quilted fabric (the green headboard that we made in our guest bedroom has a sleek grid pattern on it) to recreate this tufted look without any extra effort. Since the fabric already looks tufted, there’s no need to drill holes and use buttons. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      Sherry

    • says

      For anyone like Jessi that wants to tuft w/o buttons, you should be able to use fishing line and go from the back through the hole you’ve drilled & through the fabric. Once on the “front” side, leave a small gap (about the width of the button you “would” have used) and go back the other way (fabric, then board). Pull it tight and tie the ends together. It should create the tufted look w/o buttons ….

  5. Toni says

    Another solution for a sturdy upholstered headboard: buy an ugly, cheap headboard that you can’t wait to cover up. I found one at a store that sells returned rental furniture for $25 then covered it with batting and denim. After 5 years in a my son’s bedroom, it still looks like new. No need to drill any holes in the wall because it attaches to the bedframe.

  6. PJ says

    If you use a canvas (instead of just the frame), could you create the tufting you mentioned above? Or, do you have to use MDF or plywood?

    By the way, you guys are absolutely awesome! I’ve passed your site on to all my hip, young co-workers and they love it, as well. Thanks for sharing your lives and inspiring us!

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey PJ,

      Thanks for the kind words! You probably need something a bit more substantial than canvas to create tufting (plywood or MDF is great because it creates the tufts when you thread the buttons through it). Hope it helps!

      xoxo,
      Sherry

  7. emorie says

    this post is amazing and is truly solving a major project dilemma for me! my parents made my sister a beautiful headboard and used the plywood method discussed by some above. when i asked them to make one for me for an upcoming move, they said it was such a headache hanging/ mounting the headboard that they’d rather just buy me on.
    since i wanted to do a custom fabric, i was disappointed. this method is perfect and will be totally do-able on my own–plus, i already have the staple gun! and there won’t be any (major) damage done to the wall from mounting. thanks again! i’m really looking forward to this one!

  8. Olga says

    Has anyone created a headboard that they want to send pics? I would love to see some.

  9. Sharon says

    I just came across your site yesterday after searching ‘DIY upholstered headboard’ (your site was the first noncomercial site listed). I am so glad I’ve found it! My initial idea was to use plywood, however after reading your tutorial and the readers comments I’ll be going with the canvas frame. Your project here was perfect for me since it is for my daughters room and hopefully will turn out something like your niece’s.
    The fabric I have my eye on is quilted like your green headboard, what specific qualities should I look for to make sure it is a fabric that won’t stretch over time?
    Thanks much for the tips! Love your site.

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Sharon,

      Using batting under the fabric will help keep it from stretching, so anything that feels a bit thick and durable-ish (as most quilted materials feel) should be perfect! Good luck…

      xo,
      s

  10. Tina says

    I love love love your blog. I’ve gotten some great ideas. We also made our own upholstered headboard for our king bed but used an old hollow door that we had removed from another area of the house. Covered it with foam and batting, staple-gunned muslin and periodically make new slipcovers for it. I put two legs on it and bolted it to the bed instead of the wall though. Great re-use of an old door that would have just ended up in a landfill and a very cheap comfortable headboard.

  11. Jodi says

    Your DIY tips are so great! I’m glad I stumbled upon your website. I’d love to incorporate the upholstered headboard to our bedroom, but I’d also like a high profile bed to go along with it. Do you have any suggestions for finding a high profile bed without a headboard or with a detachable headboard that won’t affect the sturdiness of the bed?

    Thanks,

    Jodi

    • says

      Hmm, good question. I would definitely check out some local bed stores and see what they can offer. And don’t forget to negotiate and ask “is that your best price?” to score a deal. You also could get plastic “risers” that college kids slide under a regular bed frame to raise it up on the cheap (it’s still a remarkably sturdy solution- after all it works for rowdy college kids). That would be a super inexpensive means to an end. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s