Upholstered, Tufted Headboard

Not too long ago, we decided that our bedroom looked a little drab. So I started shopping around for a headboard that would fit our king-sized bed…And I was quickly reminded why I never bought one before. Those things are crazy expensive.

[want to see a different headboard design?]

So instead, I opted to do it myself and save some cash. Overall, this headboard ended up costing me <$100 and it took about two hours to make once I had the materials. So without further ado…

Materials I Bought

  • Sheet of 3/4 inch plywood ($15.00)
  • One 2×4 (or something similar for legs) ($5.00)
  • Foam mattress pad ($0 – perks of using what you’ve got!)
  • Roll of quilt batting ($7.00)
  • Staple gun (and staples) (Staples = $3)
  • Fabric button covering kit (I’m sure there’s a technical name for these…) ($10)
  • Wax thread ($7.00)
  • Decorators needle ($5.00)
  • Washers ($2.00)
  • The fabric I wanted to use ($25)

Materials I Already Had

  • Scissors
  • Circular saw (if possible – you can get by without it)
  • Jig saw (not really optional unless your headboard is perfectly square)
  • Drill (and bits)
  • Tape measure

Step 1 – The “Board” Part of the Headboard

First and foremost, you have to figure out what you want your headboard to look like. When I was making this decision, I found this:

headboard shapes

Super helpful, right? Anyway, after much debate we settled on the Grosvenor shape (and by “we settled,” what I mean is that I was told that we were going to use that shape).

The next piece of the puzzle: How big do you want your headboard to be?

The width of the headboard is easy to figure out: How big is your mattress? Our mattress is a King (76 inches wide), and I wanted to give myself a little leeway – I would rather have a few extra inches of headboard on each side than have it be too small. So I made my headboard 80 inches wide.

Next: How tall should the headboard be? Well, I’m a giant…which mean if I’m sitting up in bed, the headboard needs to be pretty tall or else my head is still going to be hitting the wall. So we decided to make our headboard “oversized” at 3 1/2 feet tall. So…

1. Cut the plywood to your width x height dimensions. In my case, 80 x 42.

This is where the optional circular saw comes in. I chose to bring the full sheet of plywood home and cut it myself, mostly because I’m too impatient for Lowe’s employees. But if you don’t have a circular saw, you can get the hardware store to cut it into the rectangle size you need.

2. Outline the shape of the headboard (if you’re not just doing a rectangle)

This is hands-down the hardest part for me. I’m sure if you’re creative, you can find a way to print out a pattern…But I drew it free-hand, which is tough and requires a lot of measuring, erasing, and adjusting. Honestly, by the time I was done, I was like “Why didn’t we just do a plain old rectangle?!”


Drawing the shape of the headboard onto my plywood (already cut to desired dimensions). I did it freehand – if you know an easier way, do it that way!

3. Cut out your headboard.

And this is where the jigsaw comes in. It’s pretty simple – you’ve drawn the shape, now follow the lines.


Cutting out the shape of the headboard with a jigsaw.

4. Place the button holes (if you aren’t tufting the headboard, skip this)

This is another part that you kind of have to eyeball. For me, it also was a matter of supplies: I only had 8 buttons to work with. But I finally decided that I wanted the button placement to look like this:


Note: I chose not to place a third, lower row of buttons. The way that I make my bed and place my pillows, they would be hidden anyway; no need to waste effort or supplies!

This is where careful measuring does matter. First, I made a straight line down the center of the board. Then I drew another straight line across where my top buttons would be, and yet another straight line where the bottom row would be.


I’m a perfectionist, so I measured to be sure the distance between the buttons (and the distance from the center of the board) was consistent. If you can eyeball it, that’s probably just fine too.

5. Drill your holes.

Now that you’ve laid out where the buttons should go, it’s time to drill your holes. I used a 3/8 bit – you’ll see why later, but the larger the hole you have to work with, the easier your life will be.

Now the “board” part of the board is done!

Step 2 – The Padding

The appeal of an upholstered headboard as opposed to a wooden one is the “cushion” when you lean against it. That’s the next step.

You can pad your headboard with multiple things. I’ve seen people do it with foam from the fabric section, but that stuff gets pretty expensive AND you have to do a lot of cutting and whatnot.

I just happened to have an old memory foam pad from a mattress that I was no longer using, and that’s what I used. As you can see in the photograph, this one was the egg-crate stuff. But I should mention that I have made another headboard since this one, and I went to Big Lots and got a regular memory foam pad for about $20…and honestly, that headboard turned out even better.

Here are the steps:

1. Lay the foam pad on the ground – flatten it as much as possible.

2. Lay the headboard on top of the foam; trace the outline.

I left about 1 inch extra in the border on my headboard because I wanted to padding to wrap around the edges. I’m sure you can make it an exact fit, BUT memory foam actually stretches quite a bit. So when you do the actual upholstering, it will probably stretch around the edges anyway…I just figure that you may as well give yourself enough material that you can staple it down and make it really durable.

3. Cut it out

Scissors actually work best for memory foam…but whatever you have will work. It doesn’t have to be pretty – you’re going to cover it up anyway.

4. Glue it on.

I actually had some old carpet glue laying around that I used. I wasn’t trying to make it “super-stuck”…just give the foam a little extra support to stick to the board while I upholstered.

I should probably tell you that on other headboards, I have actually just skipped this step. It makes the upholstering a bit tougher, but it doesn’t cause any problems.

5. Staple it on (optional)

I didn’t get any pictures of this, but once the glue dried a bit, I flipped the whole thing over (foam under the board). Then I stretch the memory foam so that it wrapped over the edge of the board, and stapled it here and there to hold it in place.

You don’t have to go crazy with stapling the foam – remember, you’re going to wrap batting and fabric over the top of it. It’s not going anywhere.


Gluing the egg-crate foam onto the board surface. Notice that I faced the “egg-crate” side down, because I wanted to smooth side to be what “showed” on the headboard. Also…some people put multiple layers of padding. If you want to do that, just follow the same process (minus the glue and staples) and layer the cutouts on top of each other. This will add difficulty to upholstering…but it also adds cushion, so it’s kind of worth it.

Step 3 – The Batting

The batting is your first step in upholstering…and once you get going, it’s pretty self-explanatory.

1. Lay the batting on the ground, and place the headboard (padding facing down) on top of it.

When you’re doing this, make sure everything stays in place…ESPECIALLY if you chose not to glue/staple the padding down.

2. Wrap the board…kind of like a present.

Do this before you start stapling, because it could save you a big headache. If you pull the batting tight, it allows you to make sure that you have enough batting on each side to do the actual upholstering.

3. Staple in place.

Pick a side to start on (I recommend a side-side; then work your way around and END on the top…that way you do the curves and shapes last).

Pull the batting tight and place a few staples to hold it in place (see first photograph below; there are a few staple every 6-8 inches). Do this all the way around the headboard. This is your “loose stapling.”

Once the batting is loosely held in place, you start over. This time around, place a staple every half inch or so (second photo below). Use your judgment – is it sufficient to hold everything in place? If you have like three layers of padding, you may need more staples to secure it. Also, remember to pull the batting tight (BUT DON’T TEAR IT!) each time you place a staple.

Pro Tip 1: Pulling the batting tight is WAY more important on the last two sides of the headboard than the first. The first two sides are your “anchors;” the last two sides are when you’re locking everything into place.

Pro Tip 2: Batting is much more fragile than you think (especially if you go for higher quality, soft-cotton). For this reason, sometimes it make more sense to do less work with the batting (i.e., less stretching and less stapling) so that you don’t risk ripping it, and wait until you place the fabric to do your really hard-core upholstering.


Loosely stapling the batting in place. Still pull the batting tight during this part of the process, but for the most part, you’re just giving yourself an “outline” of where you need to go.


Stapling the batting into place. I personally choose to place staples in the batting as often as possible. But as I said, it’s your judgment – remember that you will also be stapling fabric into place, and this will help hold the padding. It’s totally a matter of personal preference.

Step 4 – The Fabric

The batting is your second step in upholstering…and it’s the exact same as doing the batting. So follow the same steps.

The only difference: You may want to do this with the headboard leaned against something. It is crucial that you make sure the fabric is smooth as you’re doing the upholstering, because you won’t have the chance to “cover it up” or fix it with anything later.

So smooth the fabric as you go along; this should be part of your “pulling it tight” process.


The fabric we ended up choosing was actually incredibly stretchy…which isn’t great for beginner’s upholstery! So if you have stretchy fabric, pull it AS TIGHT AS POSSIBLE…even if it feels like you’re over-doing it. It will stretch out with time, and if you have it too loose, it will eventually look saggy and ugly.

Step 5 – The Legs

I’ve seen people put up DIY headboards many ways…

For example, many people just use picture hangers or wire and nail combos and hang it on the wall above the bed.

But this is a big headboard, and I also like to avoid putting large holes in my wall if it’s not 100% necessary. So I opted for legs instead.

1. Figure out how tall your legs need to be.

Essentially, you need to a) figure out how high off the ground the bottom of your headboard should be and b) how much “extra” leg should go on the headboard to support it. You can figure all of this out with a tape measure.

My bedframe is pretty tall because it’s on risers, so the top of my mattress (at the head; not in the middle where the “fluff” makes it taller) was at about 30 inches. I wanted the bottom of my headboard to sit right at the top of the mattress, so the “leg” part of the legs needed to be 30 inches tall.

As I said, this is a big headboard, so I wanted a lot of support. Thus, I made the part of the legs that would be screwed to the headboard about 2 feet long. Total leg length = 30 + 24 = 54 inches.

2. Cut the legs.

Once you know the length, you can either do this yourself (using a circular saw, jigsaw, chop saw…almost any saw) or, like I said before, you can ask the guys at the hardware store to do it for you.

The only thing: make sure AT LEAST one end of each leg is perfectly flat. Nobody likes a wobbly headboard.

3. Screw in place.

Don’t try to eyeball this. Measure the length of the “leg” part of the legs (in my case, 30 inches); draw a line and make sure that line is flush with the bottom of the headboard.

Also, because of the way my bedframe is made, I needed the legs to be at the very edge of the headboard. For yours, make sure that wherever you put the legs, nothing is going to get in the way.

Place AT LEAST three screws in each leg to attach them.


Screwing the legs into place.


Attached leg (objects are larger than they appear).

Step 6 – The Buttons (making them)

Just to be clear….You don’t have to make your own buttons.

But I really wanted the buttons to be the same as the fabric, so I opted to make my own matching ones.

I won’t put super-long instructions for this, because the kit you have to buy explains it better (they’re cheap at Joann’s). But here’s the gist:

1. Cut small circle of fabric and place it over the “button-maker-holder” (I don’t know what it’s called…the round, flexible plastic thingy in the very bottom right of the photo below). Make sure the “pretty” side of the fabric is facing down.

2. Push the button cover (round metal thing; not the button back, but the other part) into the “holder.” There should be fabric hanging out of the edges.

3. Tuck the excess fabric into the button cover, and put the button back in place. Push the back onto the button using the blue pusher (this part can be kind of hard)


This is my button-making station. You can see finished buttons o the bottom left. Next to those (by the super-glue) is the button cover (top) and a button back (almost under the glue). The round plastic thing in the bottom right is the “holder” that you push the fabric/button cover into; the hard, blue plastic thing is what you use to push the back on.

Step 7 – Tufting

For me, this was actually the hardest part. And I apologize beforehand for the lack of photos to explain: I was still figuring it out myself. But I’ve done my best to create illustrations that help!

1. Cut a long piece of waxed thread
(I think mine were about 2 feet…which may be excessive, but it’s easier to have too much than not enough)

2. Fold the thread in half (“double it”) and attach a washer
(it doesn’t really matter what size as long as it doesn’t go through your hole in the headboard; but I suggest 1 inch washers)


Fold thread in half; Put “loop” end of thread through the washer; Pull loose ends of thread through the loop


3. Thread both loose ends through your needle


4. From the back side of the headboard, push the needle through your button hole.

Make sure that you push the needle through as straight as possible.

Also (it may be too late to tell you), if you have trouble seeing your button holes, it may help to mark where they are with a big arrow or something when you are drilling them


Pushing the needle through the button hole.


5. Once needle is through, pull tight; unthread the needle, put both loose ends through the eye of the button, and then thread the needle again.


The loose ends of the thread SHOULD come through the headboard.



Remove the needle; thread the button; thread the needle again.

6. Now, you have to push the needle BACK THROUGH the exact same hole.


Push the needle back through the same hole and pull tight; now, the loose ends should be on the same side as the washer.




Pull the button as tight as you can (but be careful not to snap the thread!) Now secure the loose end of the string to the washer. Personally, I tie the string to the washer and then staple the washer down. But I don’t think there’s a standard way of doing this; you just have to make it where the button remains tight!




The tufted buttons should look like this; essentially, they cause an indent in the otherwise smooth surface of the headboard.


Step 8 – Done!

I placed the headboard above our bed, and voila!

To see a different headboard design, check out this post.

I did end up screwing the legs into the wall because I really didn’t want to wake up to an 80 inch headboard falling toward me, but like I said before…It’s kind of up to you how to put the headboard up.



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