How to DIY Your Own Upholstered Headboard

Fabric headboard


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Making your own custom designed and fabricated headboard can bring lots of personality to a bedroom. Less expensive than most purchased headboards, a fabric-covered style also provides softness and a comfortable resting place for reading.

Though creating a custom headboard will require some basic know-how and tools, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make.

Basically, there are 6 steps:
1. Assemble tools and materials
2. Decide on the size and shape
3. Cut the wood for the headboard and legs
4. Cover wood with foam and batting
5. Secure fabric to the back with staples
6. Attach the legs and secure to the wall

Let’s get started.

Assemble Tools and Materials

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 8-foot tape measure
  • Paper taped together to be the width of the bed
  • Plywood for the main fabric-covered area (the cheapest grade is fine since no wood shows)
  • Plywood for 2 legs: about 30” x 4”
  • Jigsaw to cut the top curve of the board
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • 1” thick sheet of upholstery foam (from a home fabric shop or upholstery supply store)
  • Roll of upholstery batting or cotton batting
  • A beautiful piece of fabric for the cover
  • A screwdriver and screws
  • A power drill (if you have one)
  • A staple gun (preferably an electric one!)
  • Optional: cording, braid, or other trim

Note: For a twin bed you’ll need about 1 1/2 yds. of 54” fabric; For a double, queen, or king bed you’ll need about 3 yds. However, actual yardage needed will be determined by pattern or plaid size, repeat, or whether you’re running the fabric lengthwise, called “railroaded.”

Decide on the Size and Shape

First, measure the width of your bed and decide how high to make the headboard. Remember that the box spring, mattress, and decorative pillows will cover up part of the headboard, so you may want to add more height to compensate. I recommend having the bottom of the fabric-covered wood headboard start at the top of the box spring Total height of this top section (not counting the legs) will be about 36 inches.

Now you can experiment on newspaper until you’ve arrived at a top shape you like. It can be straight across, a perfect arch, cut at the corners, or serpentine. On a first project like this, the simpler, the better.

Cut the Wood for the Headboard and Legs

Now, go to your favorite home building store for the wood. If you don’t want to cut it to size at home then ask the salesperson to cut it to your measurements. At less than a dollar per cut, it’s money well spent. Also, have them cut 2 pieces about 30” long by 4” wide. These will be attached as legs at the end of the project.

If your headboard will be rectangular then you can proceed to cover it with foam. For curves and other shapes, trace the top pattern you’ve created onto the board and cut along this line with a jigsaw. Lightly sand around the outer edge with medium-grit sandpaper. Now you’re ready to begin the fun part!

Cover the Wood With Foam and Batting

Cut the sheet of upholstery foam the size of the wood frame plus 1” and lay it over the frame. Tack it to the back of the frame, pulling it over the edges and stapling it to the back of the frame. As an alternative, you can secure the foam to the wood using a spray mount adhesive.

Next, lay the batting over the foam and cut, adding 2” all the way around. Staple the batting to the back of the frame where it won’t show.

Secure the Fabric With Staples

At this point, you can cover the headboard with a piece of plain white sheeting secured with staples along the back of the headboard. This provides a layer of lining that may also make it easier to change your decorative fabric in the future without disturbing the foam or batting underneath.

Iron your 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.

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.

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.

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.

Staple lining fabric onto the back of the headboard, covering all the raw edges of fabric, batting, and foam.

Attach the Legs and Secure to the Wall

Cover the 2 leg pieces of wood with lining or decorative fabric, stapling to the back of the leg.

Place the headboard, face down, on a flat surface. Determine the desired height of the finished headboard, and attach the legs to the headboard, about 2” in from the side edge.

If you live in an apartment and don’t want to put holes in the wall, 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 the bed.

You’re done!