Saturday, October 15, 2011

upholstered headboard

my dad & sister are about to embark on a headboard project, and she asked me for my plans. ahem. well, um, hmmm... the "plans" involved some trial + error, and most importantly, figuring it out as i went.

we built the upholstered headboard a few years ago to replace my 2004 DIY'd farmhouse bed --a project that involved a borrowed circular saw, a hand-me-down drill, knotty pine boards, and stain. oh, and my apartment balcony. the moving men laughed at my construction a few years later, but i was pretty proud of my handmade product. i was poor, new to the city, single, and needed a "grown up" bed. where was Ana White when i needed her?

the upholstered version was to give us the option to change up the slipcover [read: wash it to remove dog hair] from time-to-time....which i don't think we've done since making the bed 3 years ago. oh well.

anyway, the first thing is to decide what style headboard you want to build. there are umpteen options out on the web:

nailhead trim adds some masculinity...
[nailhead upholstered headboard from west elm: $349-$599]
 a scroll shape is elegant and can be as intricate as you wish...
[scroll headboard from west elm: $399-$599]
 slipcovered allows you to change it up as you wish, but requires some sewing skillz...a simple square design is easier to slipcover, and an intricate scroll may require professional help.
[slipcovered headboard. fabric is Aviary by Robert Allen]
 tufted is more glam, but less changeable, but you can always be fun with color...

the shapes are limitless, too. a few standard options:

so once you decide your shape, determine your size.

width is determined by the width of the mattress frame. if only building a headboard, you'll need leg supports to be the width of the bed frame's attachments.

the height is really up to you. how dramatic do you want it to be? do you prefer a lower profile? just make sure the bottom of the headboard is low enough for the mattress to brace it to the wall for additional stability. it doesn't need to go all the way to the floor, just enough that the mattress "locks" it into place. the higher the headboard you want, the lower the base should be...make sense? you don't want it to topple over.

a 4x8 sheet of plywood or pegboard is an easy starting point, so try to stick with 4' high or less.

for the headboard:
create your pattern using a sheet of wrapping paper at least the height of your desired headboard, fold in half width-wise. the fold should be the center of the headboard. draw the shape you want on the headboard. cut it out. unfold to reveal a symmetrical pattern. if you don't have a piece of wrapping paper large enough, you can always create a one-sided pattern & flip it over when sketching onto your plywood.

with your pattern in hand, trace the pattern onto the sheet of plywood [use pegboard if you are creating a tufted headboard]. use a circular saw [or jigsaw if intricate] to cut out the top of the headboard.

build the frame:
cut the two legs from 1x4s to the desired length [floor to lowest point on each side of the headboard shape, less 6"]. if the center of the headboard is 6 feet tall, and the edges are 5 feet tall, the legs should each be 4'6".

place the legs frame-width apart, and cut two 1x1s to fit between them. screw a 1x1 brace at the bottom of the headboard's position. screw a 1x1 to the top of the legs. use "L" brackets to support each corner.

if building a headboard for a king bed, or a very high design, you may want to add an additional vertical 1x1 in the center.

now you should have a structure that looks sorta like this:
with the frame constructed, it's time to upholster your headboard:
lay the headboard cut-out right side up.
coat with spray adhesive and apply a layer of 2" thick foam, pressing firmly to affix.
coat with spray adhesive and apply a layer of batting on top of foam, pressing firmly.
repeat with another layer of adhesive + batting. continue to repeat until you've achieved the fluffiness desired. let dry. trim excess from edges.

if tufting, turn the headboard over and mark the desired placement for tufting. use the grid of holes as a guide to keep the tufts evenly spaced.
[pegboard marked for tufting. image source]

attach the headboard to its frame:
place the newly crafted frame on a large work surface. place the headboard, right side up, on top of it, be sure to center.
screw the headboard into the plywood/pegboard frame. be sure to attach along all edges. 
you can use extra batting to fill any screw "divots".

finish the upholstery:
cut muslin to fit the board, and wrap it tightly around the headboard (front and back). staple into place. the muslin layer will keep the batting in place and also ensure that a slipcover or decorative fabric cover has a smooth finished look.

for tufting:
using your decorative fabric, cover the front of the headboard and staple to the back of the frame, being sure to cover all edges with fabric. the fabric should be taught, but not too tight that tufts will rip the fabric.
[back of headboard tied off with buttons. image source]
with the fabric in place, use a needle and thread to work from the back of the headboard. thread through the marked holes, through the front of the board, and back through the back of the board. pull as tightly as you wish to get the preferred look. tie off the thread, using a button if desired to hold the thread in place. repeat with all tufts.

Brick City Love has a great video tutorial for tufting.

for slipcovering:
use muslin to create a pattern for your slipcover, as this will be nice to have on-hand for future updates. depending on the shape of your headboard, this could be fairly simple or pretty elaborate. enlist a pro if needed.

sew a slipcover in your desired fabric, and place on the headboard.

attach to the bed:
now that it's finished, position the bed frame against the headboard frame and screw into place. place mattress & box springs into position, so that the mattress braces the headboard to the wall. make the bed & enjoy a good night's sleep!

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