It always seems as if the bedroom is the last room where we concentrate our decorating efforts. This is usually because we end up spending the bulk of our design budget showcasing the public spaces in our homes first. We run out of money and we realize that our disaster bedrooms are easy to hide behind closed hallway doors, unloved and undecorated. Well, after living with just a standard metal bed frame for the last 5 years, I finally decided to get my act together and make over my space with the tufted wingback bed I’ve been wanting for what seems like forever. Then I saw the price tag. Over $1000 for JUST the headboard!!! After several days of pouting and frustration over my dreams of having a wingback headboard being dashed, I decided to WO-man up and make my own!
A few notes before you get started. This is a day or weekend project. Don’t expect to whip this one out inside of a few hours. Some of these instructions might seem a bit confusing at first, but once you get started they will all become clear. Also, make sure to pay special attention to the pre-drilling steps. Although it takes a little extra time, they will keep your fabric from warping during this process. Trust me on this one!
Below is your materials list. I spent a little less than $150 on the entire project (and that was for a Cal King using a linen/poly blend fabric). You can certainly get this price down if you use a more inexpensive fabric or are making a board for a smaller bed size.
- ½” Plywood, cut to the dimensions of your bed (Use your bed frame as your guide for measurements so that your mattress can easily fit when you’re finished.)
- 4 – 1×4 pieces of lumber. These will make up the side and top supports of your bed frame.
- 2 – 2×8 pieces of lumber. These will be your wings.
- 1 ½” and 2 ½” wood screws
- 1” foam
- ¼” to ¾” batting (depending on how much extra cushion you want)
- Fabric of choice
- Button kit
- Embroidery thread
- Embroidery needles (at least two are ideal)
- Nail gun
Step 1: Get your materials in order. The ½” plywood is for the main headboard portion. This can be cut to specification at your local hardware store. You’ll want to make the dimensions of your headboard around 2 inches wider than the width of your metal bed frame. I created a headboard for a Cal King bed, so I made my plywood measurements 73 ½” long by 34” high. Quick tip: Make sure to measure the width of your bed where your metal bed frame is at its widest.
While you’re getting your plywood cut down, you may as well get your 1×4’s and 2×8 cut as well. The 1×4 pieces are meant to frame in your plywood. This not only gives your wings something to attach to, but it reinforces your plywood frame. Cut down two 1×4 pieces the same length as your headboard. These will go at the top and bottom edges of the plywood. The 1×4 pieces meant for the sides should be cut down to the measurement left in between your top and bottom 1×4 pieces. Since my headboard was 34” high, I subtracted the width of the two 1×4 pieces and had around 27” left over. I know, the math is off. However, a 4” wide board is never really 4”. It’s always a little less. This is true for just about all lumber, unless it’s custom-milled.
Your 2×8 pieces will be cut to your overall headboard height. I decided on 58” for my project. Feel free to make yours shorter or taller. You just want to make sure enough of your headboard peeks out from behind your pillows once your bed is made.
Step 2: Attach your 1×4 pieces of lumber to the front of your plywood, framing in all 4 sides. Since your plywood is ½” thick and your lumber is roughly 1” thick, you’ll want to use a wood screw that is 1 ½” in length.
Step 3: Decide on your tufting configuration and mark your holes. Once everything is marked, use your drill to puncture the button holes. Want to go a little more modern? Line your future tufts in a grid pattern. Love the traditional look? Go for the staggered approach.
Step 4: This is a prep step that will save you some time later on in the process. Once you have your main frame built, line your wings up to your main frame and pre-drill 5 holes down the side where they will ultimately connect. Make sure to use a drill bit that is smaller than the screw you will ultimately use. If you make the pilot hole too big, your screw will have nothing to grab onto later.
A safe bet is to place your first hole 1” from the top of the frame and your next hole about 1” from the bottom of where the front of your headboard terminates. Then drill a hole between those first two points. Add at least two more holes for added security.
Step 5: Put your wings off to the side and lay your 1” foam out across the front of your headboard, keeping it inside of the 1×4 pieces. This way, the face of your surface will level out. For added security, use spray adhesive to help keep the foam in place.
Step 6: Now is where you’ll want to add a layer of batting for extra cushion and to create more uniformity on the face of your headboard. Put the batting down on the floor then lay your headboard (face down) on top. Keeping the batting tight, pull it around to the back and staple it in place every inch or so. For extra cushion, use thicker batting or just add an extra layer.
Step 7: Using the same process you did with the batting, you’ll want to start adding your fabric to your main frame. Lay your fabric flat on the floor (good side down) and lay your frame on top of it (face down). Pull your fabric evenly and begin to staple in 1” increments. The more consistent you are with the tension and stapling, the more even your fabric will look from the front. Money-saving tip: use curtain panels or bed sheets for your fabric! The linen I wanted from the fabric store was over $10 a yard, so I bought a 2-pack of curtain panels for under $30 instead. That’s half the price!
Step 8: Here is another prep step. Now that you have your fabric in place, feel along the sides of your frame for your pre-drilled holes. Wherever you feel a hole, create a puncture with a screwdriver, or small pair of scissors. You can even use your drill as long as you drill slowly. Adding these holes in your fabric will keep it from shredding in a later step.
Step 9: Now it’s time to create your buttons. Button cover kits are easier to use when your fabric isn’t super thick. If you’re using a heavier weight fabric, you’ll have to apply a little more elbow grease to the process. Don’t be discouraged if the button doesn’t come together right away. If it keeps popping apart, trim your fabric around the sides of the button a little shorter so that there is less to hold inside.
Step 10: With a long embroidery needle and your embroidery thread, poke through your headboard from the back side. Once your see your needle come through the front, thread your button onto it and lay your headboard flat on its back again. This allows you to depress the fabric and foam so you can more easily find the pilot hole to thread your needle back through. Trust me on this one. If you keep your headboard vertical through this process, you’ll spend MANY, MANY minutes on each button versus just a few seconds. I also prefer using a few embroidery needles at once so that I can have at least 2 or 3 buttons threading at the same time. It makes the process even faster! Also, since you’re using embroidery thread, you’ll only have to do this step once for each button. Your last step is to just pull your thread tight to create the tuft and tie it in place on the back side. It may sound strange, but my favorite item to use is a bobby pin to keep my thread in place. I’ve found that with staples, the thread can slip over time and you’ll lose your tuft. If you use bobby pins, you can tie your thread around it, ultimately making it more secure in the long run.
Step 11: Now it’s time to go back to your pre-drilled 2×8 lumber and staple a layer of batting and fabric to one of the 2” sides. Then sandwich the batting and material between your 1×4 and your 2×8. Now you want to take your 2 ½” wood screws and begin drilling them into your 2×8 until they find those pre-drilled holes you made in Step 4. Allow the screw to poke through the opposite side and slowly let it make contact with your main headboard frame. Then keep going until your 2×8 and 1×4 are attached to each other. Take this step slow so that your fabric doesn’t begin to twist around your wood screws. After all this hard work, you don’t want your headboard to warp because of too much fabric tension.
Step 12: One your 2×8 is in place, pull your fabric and batting tight around the front of your 2×8 and staple on the back side of your headboard. Use hospital corners to create a nice seam on the top of your 2×8.
You’re done! For extra embellishment, add upholster nail heads, or you can just leave it clean. All you have to do now is move your new headboard into place and, voilà, you have a custom wingback headboard for under $150!