Goodnight, Room: My DIY Headboard Story

I give myself a B+ for this.  Here’s the play-by-play and then at the end of the post I’ll share what I would have done differently.


A headboard is a DIYers bread and butter.  Since moving to the burbs, we’ve been using a wrought iron number picked up on Craigslist for $75.  I liked the simplicity but was ready for something a little softer.  I’ve DIY’d the plain Jane straight upholstered headboard and wanted to try something a little trickier.  I also wanted a reason to buy a jigsaw so win-win.  Back in the city, our (much smaller) bed had a real [upholsterer made] headboard my mom gave us one year for Christmas.  Bad news… this headboard fell victim to Hurricane Sandy; good news, I remembered to pull it apart to get a peek at the construction as the guys were literally carrying it to the dumpster.

Without further ado, I give you my DIY copycat attempt at an upholstered headboard.


  • 3/4 inch plywood
  • 4 yards fabric (I probably could have done with 3.5 yards)
  • 1 yard fabric for welting
  • 4 yards cord for welting
  • 2 boards for the legs (I used 1x2s but probably should have used 1x4s)
  • foam (mine was 3″ thick… but skip to the end for my own critique)
  • batting (extra loft for a king size bed was plenty)
  • 3/8″ staples
  • fabric for the back… I used a sheet I’d ruined with bleach
  • screws for attaching the legs


  • jigsaw
  • staple gun
  • needle nose pliers (for rogue staples)
  • sewing machine (for welting…)
  • drill and screw driver for attaching the legs

1. We had Home Depot cut the plywood down to the proper width to save us this step. A king sized mattress is 76″ wide, so we had them cut the headboard to 78″.


2. I had spent some time poking around on Pinterest, Google images, and Houzz to get ideas for headboard shapes that would work with a border.  I didn’t want anything too complicated, but still more interesting than the basic one we had before.  Below is the shape I landed on.

I made a simple compass with a piece of string and a pencil and measured out my cut-line 12″ in from either corner.



3. Let me say, I love a jigsaw.  I almost wish I’d gone with something more complicated just to do more jigsawing/ jigging(?).  Regardless, I cut out my two corners to create the shape for the headboard.


4. Measuring and cutting the foam.  There wasn’t much information online for how wide to make my border, but I saw reference in one tutorial to 5″ so I went with that.  Using an electric bread knife (well worth the $15), I cut my foam to fit the outline of the headboard.  The plywood corners cut in stage 3 where helpful as tracers for the curved corners.  I had help.



5. With spray adhesive, I affixed the foam onto the board.  I’m sure there’s a reason why this isn’t the right call, but I also used a little bit of wood glue just to make sure it was good and stuck.  (Obviously, I had to wait until the next day to upholster in order to give the glue a chance to dry.)  I didn’t bring the foam all the way down to the bottom of the headboard to allow for a closer fit against our mattress.


6. I’m 99% positive that the foam they’d used on our old headboard was a prefab semi-circle so it was already round.  In order to soften my border edges a bit, I used the bread knife to cut off the corners and add a little shape.

Note: Many headboards I saw online did NOT use foam around the border… this was how my old one was made and thankfully a good samaritan gave me a coupon at checkout when I went to JoAnn fabrics… foam is expensive.  In hindsight, I’d use batting for the border and either keep it the same thickness as the rest of the headboard or simply roll it to give the border a little more loft.


7. I flipped the headboard over and covered the entire front with one layer of batting, stapling it on the backside of the plywood.



The batting is stretchy enough to go back in and staple around the foam border.



8. I railroaded my fabric. This is design lingo for running the fabric side-to-side (horizontal) instead of up-and-down (vertical).  Fabric is typically 54″ wide which means too narrow to cover a king sized headboard without sewing two pieced together and creating seams. Side to side, it works unless you want a headboard higher than 54″.  (A fancy photoshop graphic would be helpful right here, I know, but I still don’t know diddly about Photoshop.)

Note: Some fabrics just won’t work if you plan to railroad them (like toile because of the pictures)… keep that in mind when choosing your pattern.


9. I stapled my fabric along the bottom edge first and pulled it up towards the foam border.  I worked from the bottom up because this was the biggest area of the headboard to cover, and I wanted to make sure I had enough fabric for this entire section (I was also unsure what would happen to the fabric when I pulled it over the foam so I left this for last…).


10. This next step was another ‘winging it’ moment.  I flipped my headboard over to the right side, and pulled the fabric up to the foam border.  Using the  foam as a guide, I tried to staple the fabric in a clean line as tight against the foam as possible.  You can see in the below picture that I’m all smooth and staples over the large span of the headboard so the only thing left is to pull the fabric over and around my foam border.



11. The corners on this headboard were the trickiest.  I cut the fabric to match the outline of the headboard and then cut triangle notches in order to give me room to pull the fabric around the curved edges of the headboard.  The notches allowed me to pull the fabric super tight around these corners.  There are a few little puckers, but overall it’s pretty smooth.


12.  Finally, I stapled the fabric over the rest of the headboard.  And I had a glass of wine.

13. Back to work.  Welting/ piping (I don’t know if there’s a difference…).  I needed something to cover my staples.  Welting is one way but you can also buy pre-made trim called gimp to glue on top of your staple line. Gimp is more expensive, but certainly saves you this next step.  I found this tutorial on Pinterest and use it every time for making my bias strips and welting cord.  I made my welting cord with a different fabric to add a little contrast. I trimmed the excess material and plugged in my hot glue gun.


14. With my hot glue gun, I slowly worked my way around the foam edge of the headboard to cover the staple line.  I went back with a thin line of fabric glue underneath just to be double sure it was stuck tight.



15. To make the back look a little cleaner, I snagged a sheet (yes another bleach ruined one…) and stapled it over my messy stapled edges.


16. Last step: legs.  I cut my boards and made sure they would make my headboard the right height.  I liked the height of our wrought iron one which was 58″ from the ground.  I predrilled the legs and used 6 screws in each one to attach them on either side of the headboard.



Check. It. Out.


Note: This headboard is not drilled into the bed frame, but we could easily do so later if we feel like it’s wobbly.  So far, the bed leaning up against the headboard keeps it sturdy against the wall.  (Also… the photos over the bed are now off center- I know, but I’m thinking of changing them up so didn’t want to rehang only to yank them down again.)

Where's Martha?

Where’s Martha?



Lessons learned:

  • 3″ foam is too thick.  I don’t love the border on this and feel like it’s too thick.  It’s easy enough to correct if I want to pull out the staples and cut it down, but I’m going to live with it for a while to see whether it still bothers me in a month.  (Another solution would be to add more batting to the main part of the headboard to make the two parts less disparate…stay tuned.)
  • Electric staple guns are not necessarily more powerful than hand held ones
  • Have an array of staples on hand… in many places, I wished I’d had ones longer than 3/8″ in order to get through layers of batting, fabric, etc.
  • 5″ feels a little wide for the border… next time, I might go with 4″ or less
  • 1×2″ boards are thin enough that they will split unless you predrill
  • Put the legs on first so you can drill down through the headboard into the legs… not through the legs into the headboard as I did.  I was too distracted by the upholstery to focus on this and was lucky that my screws were pretty much the perfect length. (If my legs had been screwed on first, I would have shifted them a few inches towards the middle of the headboard in order to leave some  room on the back for stapling the fabric.)
  • The jigsawed corners were the trickiest areas of the headboard to upholster.  Notching the fabric on the back helped, but there are still a few areas where the fabric is slightly puckered.

So that’s a wrap, folks.  Yes, Mark was away this weekend which explains my DIY flurry.  No, he didn’t notice the headboard until I mentioned it.  And yes, I LOVE the fabric.  No idea what it’s called, but the style is faux bois (an exceedingly fancy way of saying wood grain); I found this at a local fabric store for about $20 a yard.  I asked my upholstery guy what he would charge for a custom headboard and it was $650.  My breakdown was approx. $80 for fabric, another $20 for the fabric/ cord to make the piping, maybe $20 for the wood, and $30 for the foam/ batting with my good samaritan’s coupon.  Which brings my grand total to $150, give or take.


Sweet dreams to us!




4 thoughts on “Goodnight, Room: My DIY Headboard Story

  1. Charlotte, I am utterly inspired. I am in the market for a new headboard and now think it’s in the realm of homemade possibility. Thanks for the spark and the great photo step by step. Good for you!… And the rest of us:-)

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