how to make a headboard

I finally finished my DIY headboard and floating night stands! Hooray!

I really love how they turned out. My bedroom is tiny, so I wanted something very simple and minimalist, yet I still wanted to indulge my love of fabrics and color (of course).

This is a quilted, embroidered fabric that I picked up from Mood. I had the swatch tacked up on my wall for a couple months and I almost decided to go in another direction, but my friend Christina encouraged me to stick with this fabric and I’m so glad she did. It worked out perfectly I think!

Mmmmmm, colorful geometrics.

When I talked about this project, a lot of people were like, “What?! Make your own headboard?!” But then a lot of other people were like, “Sure, that’s cool,” because they already knew how easy this kind of thing is. It’s strange, the world seems to be divided into two types of people: people who know the secret of how easy it is to make your own upholstered headboard, and people who don’t.

For those of you who don’t, I’ll share my process. Seriously, upholstered headboards cost many hundreds of dollars (or more) in stores–but they are SO easy to DIY. All you need are the right supplies and a staple gun. You don’t even need any skills, really. If you can staple, you can do this!


  • a piece of 3/4″ plywood, as wide as your bed frame and as tall as you want the finished headboard to be. (see below for sizing advice)
  • 2″ foam, medium density–same size as your plywood [in case you can tell in the photo, I used two 1" pieces of foam because that's what I had on hand--and it worked fine.]
  • upholstery batting, about 8″ larger in length and width than the plywood
  • fabric, slightly larger than the batting
  • staple gun with 3/4″ staples
  • mounting hardware (depends on how you’ll mount it; see below for advice)

1. Get your plywood. Since this is a custom project, you’ll have to assess your bed frame and your wall to decide how you want your headboard to work. My bed frame has a ledge that I wanted my headboard to rest on, so I planned my plywood size according to that. Your bed frame might have a spot where you can bolt on a headboard. If not, you can have the headboard sit right on the floor and extend up from there (definitely the easiest method in terms of mounting, but it will cost you extra in materials since your headboard will be going all the way to the floor). Anyway, the point is, figure out your basic structure, get your plywood cut, and go from there. (By the way, you can have the wood cut to size where you buy it. You don’t need to have your own saw.)

2. Upholstery supplies. I love DIY Upholsery Supply — they have everything, they ship fast, and you can even call them with questions and get a friendly, knowledgeable person on the line. They have some really informative how-to videos on their site, too. So go there (or to your local shop) and get some 2″ medium-density foam the same size as your plywood. If you can get the foam pre-cut, great. If not, you can easily cut it yourself with a bread knife. Get your batting from the same place. You’ll also need a staple gun–just a regular one will do.

3. Fabric choice. A sturdy, heavy-weight fabric is the best choice because it will give you the nicest-looking finished result. (A thinner fabric will make it easier for lumps and bumps to show.) My fabric was quilted which ended up being a great choice because its thickness really created a smooth, perfect-looking finish.) OPTIONAL: if you think you might want to change your fabric choice in the future, you can upholster the piece with a light-colored canvas, then just tack your decorative fabric over that. This is what I did; more below.

4. Time to put this thing together! On a clean floor, lay out your materials like so: fabric first (wrong side facing up), batting centered on the fabric, foam centered on the batting, plywood directly on top of the foam. Fold the fabric up over all the layers and staple it to the plywood, working around the plywood at regular intervals. (Make the first staple at 12:00, then 6:00, 3:00 and 9:00, then continue rotating around.) Pull the fabric very tautly–as taut as you can. After you’ve tacked it down in a few spots, turn it over to see if the fabric looks taut. If not, pull out the staples one by one and pull the fabric more tightly. You have to put some muscle into it, and don’t worry if you have to re-staple some spots–that’s normal. Usually you’ll have to make some adjustments as you work. The goal is for the fabric to look smooth and taut, without bumps along the sides. Eventually you should staple about every 1″, which will really help to eliminate edge bumps.

That’s really all there is to it. Do the corners last, trimming off the excess fabric and making a neat fold, then stapling.

A note on fabric: I thought I might want to swap out my fabric in the future, so I actually upholstered my headboard in a white canvas, then just tacked my patterned fabric on top of that. I liked this method, the canvas ended up acting like a “base coat” and for some reason that felt right to me–but that’s just an extra optional step for the commitment-phobes among us. Anyway, if you go this direction, staple your decorative fabric on at this point, pulling it taut as well.

5. Mounting. As I mentioned, I planned to perch my headboard on the little ledge of my bed frame, but that ended up not working because the finished headboard was thicker than I anticipated. So I had to get in touch with my inner MacGyver. I ended up installing four small L-brackets on the wall at the same height as the bed frame ledge, so that the headboard was sitting on both the brackets and the bed ledge. Then I installed two D-ring loop things near the top of the headboard (on the back), and hooked those onto screws in the wall. So the weight of the board is being supported at the base, and the D-rings keep it snug against the wall. This is working fine but it’s a little kooky–if I were to do it again I might just build some legs onto the headboard so that it could sit right on the floor. (I’m going to have some major wall-patching to do when I move out.)

And there she is! All told, after I’d gathered my supplies, this piece only took a few hours to make, and it did it completely by myself. I do sort of wish I’d asked a friend to help because I almost threw out my back wrestling with the thing–but I did it! Total cost was probably under $150, but about half of that was fabric. If you were to find fabric on sale or recycle an old textile (vintage drapes would be amazing!), you could do this for super cheap. Yay DIY!

And by the way, the quilt on my bed is is the Wonky Diamonds On Point quilt from my book. It’s a bit of a challenge because of the irregular angles but it’s fun to make, so if you’re a quilter, check it out.

Also–tutorial on making the floating night stands coming soon! xoxo


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  • Gabi

    Hi Brett,

    I loved this project – very easy and it looks neat and gorgeous! The chosen fabric was indeed perfect. It looks very elegant. Well done! (as always! :)

    Have a great weekend!
    : o )

  • miss julep

    How beautiful!!

  • Erica

    This is terrific! Do you think the same process would work for re-doing an upholstered window seat?

    • Brett

      thanks! If the window seat is just a flat piece of wood, then yes, the same process should work. good luck!

  • Randi

    What a fabulous idea. I have been looking for a headboard for almost two years and either don’t like what I find or simply can’t afford what I like. This is totally doable and I can’t wait to make one for myself. You have
    proven that decorating on an ‘extreme budget’ IS POSSIBLE! Thanks so much for the instructions.

  • Christina

    It looks amazing! I was so right. ;)

  • Erin Jennings

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. It’s so empowering to see that we can make these amazing, coveted things ourselves. Great job! I’m gonna go get my supplies today!

  • Alicia

    Brett, I love, love, love the fabric you used on the headboard! Are you willing to share the name of it so that I can search for it on Mood’s site?

    • Brett

      hi Alicia – so sorry but I don’t know the name, there was no brand marked on the selvedge. Last time I was at Mood they didn’t have this fabric on the racks so maybe it is sold out. SO sorry I can’t help, I know how painful it is to want a fabric and not be able to find it! xoxo Brett

  • amanda

    If my bedder already has a bed frame can I make my own then cover it?

  • Lauren Mileto

    Thanks for sharing this! I have been looking at upholstered headboards online and thinking “OMG I’m going to pay hundreds of dollars for some generic cheap thing,” and now I have a way to make a great headboard in a simple way (there’s plenty of super intense, power tool ridden tutorials that there’s no way I could hack). Anyway, THANK YOU SO MUCH! You’re room is adorable (and so is your cat – don’t you “love” that they have to crawl on whatever you’re trying to do?!)

  • Justine

    So beautiful! I can’t believe you made all that and made it look simple! I love the fabric choice, colors, patterns. Wish I had seen this before. I was thinking about making my own upholstered headboard, then I chickened out and bought from an online sale. Still, I am inspired to make my own fabric covers for it and splash bright colors into my apartment (which is currently classic, traditional dark wood look). Thanks for sharing!

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