01 September, 2011

DIY Upholstered Headboard – Step by Step

This past weekend was our first full in town weekend of the entire Summer. Since I am {very} bad at sitting still, I popped up on Saturday morning at 7 AM to plan out the DIY project that I have been dying to do for at least a year…I decided to create and upholster a headboard for our Master Bedroom!

I have always been inspired by the Design Sponge DIY headboard, but thought our shape should be a little simpler since I am an upholstery rookie!

Now, I would just like to go ahead and warn you DIYers, this is no fly-by the seam of your pants project, you must get your measurements correct. Also, this is an entire day project, not just a few hours as previously thought. Of course, I ran out and gathered all of our necessary materials day of. So you could technically “save your weekend time” by getting those in advance. I would estimate the gathering took about 3 hours.

STEP I: Choose an inspiration picture

img52l It was simple, I figured I needed to start “small” and then work my way up to a more custom shape/size. This headboard is from West Elm and I had recently visited it in the store to scope out the project.

STEP II: Measure Measure Measure

This is essential to planning, but you must have absolutely every option open. We have a Queen mattress in our bedroom, which pretty much stay at about 5’-0” W, however, our top mattress is very thick, so I knew I couldn’t just estimate it off of standard heights. I measured the bed (width, depth and height), the potential height of the headboard, and the height of the window behind the bed. This was important since our master suite has some unique measurements and angles. If I am going to do a project, I wanted to be able to do it right! Also, since our window frame was only about 16” above the top of the mattress (including current linens), I knew we would have to mount the headboard to the frame for extra support. Are you getting confused?

Here are the essential measurements that you need:

  • Height of mattress AFF (above finished floor). Please note, take into consideration of pillows and the configuration of those after the headboard will be mounted.
  • Width of mattress (and add a few inches on each side so the headboard is not swallowed by the bed). Our bed width was exactly 5’-0” W, and I added 2 inches to each side, bringing the total to 64” W.
  • Desired height of headboard. Now this is where you can be really dramatic, or practical. I based our height off of this particular west elm headboard, since I did not want to cover up the windows (much). Our height ended up being 44” AFF (more on that in a bit).
  • Window height (specific to our situation)
  • Figure out the height and width of the actual rectangle that will be your headboard. Ours ended up being 64” W x 30” H.  And from here, decide HOW MUCH FABRIC YOU NEED. I went with an upholstery fabric for the width and tensile strength and purchased 2 1/4 Yards to be safe. It was the perfect amount for us.
  • Figure out “legs” size. In order to get to our 44” AFF, we chose 14” H x 6” W plywood “legs”. (see step IV)

STEP III: Gather your materials:

You will need the following:

  • staple gun and staples
  • foam
  • batting
  • plywood cut to specifications (we used 3/4”, and probably could have used thinner).
  • fabric
  • spray adhesive (we used a 3-M kind found at Lowe’s)..And a mask, this stuff is toxic!!
  • French cleat(s) (we used two)
  • a drill if you are mounting it to the wall (highly recommended)
  • large sheet/drop cloth for actual assembly
  • Optional: Nail head trim (found at fabric store)
  • patience


STEP IV:  Figure out the best mounting situation

I am not even going to pretend to be an expert at correct mounting (that’s what she…), but two French cleats worked out well. They look like this:

unnamed After asking every Lowe’s employee where these magical hanging devices were located, we finally pulled up a picture (technology filling in the gaps) and successfully found these “French cleats”. Also known as, heavy-duty picture hangers.

We bought two 50-lb cleats, and figured that would suffice. It worked out well.

And for fun, here was our totally unnecessary step. Drilling the “legs” into the “body of the headboard.

You can see, it is not a totally secure attachment. These pictures serve as for: “don’t do this at home” purposes.



STEP V: Cut Foam to size of headboard & adhere foam

Lay your drop cloth down flat and place foam underneath it. Trace around with a permanent black marker for cut sizes. Then flip back over and cut foam to fit on top of headboard “body”. Clean up and jagged edges (don’t worry, I cleaned up the bottom of this guy).


This spray adhesive works super fast…quick, I tell you. I had to reapply several times. Simply put on your mask, and spray (read directions on back of can first) half of the area at a time. You will have to go back and spray to make sure it has adhered. I ended up sitting on top of the foam after spraying it. It worked for me!

Step VI: Upholstery Time!

WAIT!!!! You need to iron your material first!!  Sounds like a silly thing to write out, but it is essential to a smooth look. We picked out a linen upholstery fabric (similar to the West Elm headboard). I wanted texture and versatility as I change our linens almost seasonally.



Carefully (with help of your sweet husband/neighbor/friend) flip the headboard face down onto spread out (and smoothed) batting and fabric. From here you are going to use your pull and staple skills. Trim any extra fabric after standing up.


{turn me over and staple}


{trim it up!}

This is also about the time when I realized I did not want to the put nail head trim on it, since I might end up covering it up one day…and I was so tired.

Step VI: Mount and Enjoy

DSC_0154{please ignore mismatched nightstands}

Total Hours on project: 7

Total $pent: $100

Please email me if you have any questions about doing this on your own!

We love our new headboard and all of the money we saved by figuring it ourselves!

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