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This DIY Tufted Headboard is the Big Pillow Your Bed Dreams Of

August 18, 2016

Headboards and bed frames vary greatly in style and price. So when I was looking for a cost-friendly and simple update for my bedroom, I began to consider the idea of making my own headboard at home.

Thorough online research and video tutorials made the process seem within reach, and I was able to find the materials easily at my local craft and hardware stores. I even repurposed some extra pillows (for filling) and fabric (for the cover) from my closet that were taking up space and collecting dust. The entire assemblage took just a few hours, and even less time if you have an extra helper. Sound like a plan? Here's how to make this upholstered, tufted headboard at home.

Photo by Corynne Pless

What you'll need:

  • A piece of MDF or wood board the desired size of your headboard
  • Filling or foam
  • Batting fabric
  • Staple gun and staples
  • Fabric of your choosing, large to cover the headboard with plenty of overhang
  • Upholstery tacks or upholstery nails
  • Hammer
Photo by Corynne Pless

How to make it:

1. Measure the bed and prep your MDF

Start by measuring the width of your bed to get the width of your headboard, and decide how tall you want it to be. Then have your local hardware store cut a piece of MDF to match that size. (Mine was approximately 56” wide x 32” tall x 1/2" thick, for our Queen bed.)

Photo by Corynne Pless

2. Pile on your filling

Lay the board flat and scatter your filling or foam evenly across the board. (I recycled the filling and stuffing from inside fairly new pillows that I was no longer using, instead of purchasing new foam.)

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Around 3 inches of thickness is perfect for this type of headboard, but you can usually find foam in various textures and sizes at craft stores or online, which are usually a little thicker if you like a more overstuffed look.

Scatter about 3 inches of stuffing on your wood board.
Photo by Corynne Pless

3. Secure it to the board with batting

Now, unroll your batting and lay it on top of the stuffing or foam with plenty of overhang around the sides of the board. Batting helps keep the stuffing from sliding and creates a soft, thick layer around the wood’s edges and corners.

Lay the batting so there's plenty of overhang around the edges of the wood board. Photo by Corynne Pless

Cut the batting to be a few inches bigger than your wood board on all sides, and now carefully flip the whole assemblage over so you can secure that overhang to the back of the board, trapping the filling inside. (To do this, you might want to tape the batting down to the wood using masking tape, so none of the filling falls out.)

Secure the batting to the back of the wood board using a staple gun. Photo by Corynne Pless

Once flipped, start stapling the edges of the batting to the back of the board—removing any tape, stretching it taught, and checking that the stuffing is still in place as you go—until it's stapled securely on all sides.

Voila Photo by Corynne Pless

4. Place your fabric on the headboard!

Be sure your fabric is several inches larger than the headboard on all sides—and wash, dry, steam, or iron it (if needed) before securing it.

Photo by Corynne Pless

Begin by stapling one side of the fabric to back of the board, just like the batting. Avoid stretching the fabric too tight; you'll be tufting it on the other side using upholstery nails, and if the stuffing is too taut the nail heads might not be able to reach the wood through the filling.

Carefully bring your fabric around to each side, pulling gently to smooth out wrinkles, and staple the remaining edges to the back of the wood board, as shown.

Photo by Corynne Pless

5. Make tufts!

You can find upholstery nail heads or tacks at most local hardware or craft stores—they look like oversized, fancy thumb tacks—and by nailing them through the fabric and filling at regular intervals you'll create a tufted look.

For this headboard, I created three rows of tufts and measured accordingly, spacing the upholstery nails about 4 to 6 inches apart, and lightly marked the placement of each nail on the fabric with a pencil.

Photo by Corynne Pless

Keep in mind: When you nail the nail head to the board, the fabric will pull slightly—so your measurements will be slightly skewed. To accomodate, start with the middle-most nail and work your way out, stepping back to recalibrate any changes before you secure each next nail.

Hammer the upholstery nails through the fabric and to the wood, making sure your fabric and nail are secure, and then through the wood, until they're all attached. (If you are using more stuffing or a thick foam, you might need longer nails!)

Photo by Corynne Pless

6. Secure the headboard to your bed

Depending on the height of your bed, your walls, and/or type of frame you have, you can secure your headboard in various ways—and it’s best to consult your local hardware store staff on the best way to do so, accordingly.

Consider sturdy stainless steel and weight-appropriate wire, or sawtooth hangers and dry wall screws if you're fastening to the wall, which is probably easier than securing it to your bed frame. (But you can also purchase additional wood to secure your headboard directly to the bed, if you prefer!)

Photo by Corynne Pless

Have you ever worked with upholstery tacks? Share your tips in the comments!

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writer, artist | based in LA

1 Comment

amysarah August 18, 2016
I'm too sewing challenged to attempt upholstery, but I can sew a button. When my daughter was little, she "inherited" a simple upholstered headboard - cream colored linen, with small buttons (where you have nail heads) in the same fabric. To jazz it up for her 6 yr old self, I scavenged a bunch of colorful buttons in random shapes/sizes, some vintage, some from the bottom of my mom's sewing box (a daisy, a hot pink rose, etc.) and replaced the original buttons. It looked kind of crazy, but also kind of great. Could do a similar thing here, but with more 'grown up' buttons.