A proper headboard will serve the functional purpose of providing support for your back when sitting up in bed, but they also have an aesthetic function. The design of a headboard can compliment your bedroom’s style and bring the overall look of your bedroom together. Therefore, you need to consider the proper size of your headboard.
If a headboard can mount onto a bed frame, then the headboard will not be smaller than the bed. However, a smaller headboard can be mounted on the wall or a free-standing headboard can be purchased instead. Wall mounted headboards and free-standing headboards can be smaller than a bed.
A headboard may come with the bed you purchase or be sold separately. It could be wall mounted or a standalone piece of furniture and is more than its original use of adding a level of insulation to the sleeper to keep them warm at night. Today, headboards have a variety of uses, and there is no standard rule when it comes to size. Keep reading to learn about headboards that are smaller than a bed.
Wall Mounted Headboards Can Be Smaller Than a Bed
Most of the time, a headboard is mounted on the wall because it is very tall or extra-wide and needs the enhanced stability and support. These usually look best with larger beds, like a queen, king, or California king. However, you can also mount a headboard that is smaller than your bed and this could work with any of the five-bed options listed above.
If you decide you want a headboard that is smaller than your bed, you will need to do some measuring to make sure the headboard has an even amount of space on each side (since it will not line up perfectly with the mattress). You can first measure the mattress’s length for clarity and then compare that to the shorter headboard length.
Mounting a headboard on the wall that is smaller than the bed can add an attractive visual appeal as long as the space on either side of the headboard as it relates to the mattress is identical. That way the headboard will not look uneven or strange when you walk into the room. Then you can do the following to mount the smaller headboard:
- Hold the headboard against the wall so that the bottom edge meets the height of the mattress. Mark this height on the wall with a pencil.
- Use a stud finder to locate the studs behind your wall so that you know where to drill the holes (they are usually spaced 16 to 24 inches along the wall). Mark each stud with a pencil.
- Measure from the top of the headboard 12 inches along the stud. Mark this point with a pencil.
- Repeat the step above on the other side of the headboard. These are where you will install the mounting brackets.
- Put one part of the two-part mounting bracket on the wall. The outermost screw hold should directly hit the stud. Mark this hole with a pencil.
- Repeat the step above on the other side of the headboard.
- Use a leveling tool (also called a bubble or spirit level) to make sure the two points are level. This step is very important in ensuring the headboard will not be crooked.
- Remove the mounting brackets and drill the pilot holes into the wall.
- Finish mounting the brackets according to their directions into the wall through the pilot holes on both sides of the headboard.
You can then hook the headboard securely onto the wall. If you find the headboard is not as even with the mattress as you had liked, you can always move your bed and mattress so that it is centered with the headboard. That way you do not need to take everything down and redo more holes in your wall to get the headboard perfect.
What Are the Most Common Headboard Measurements?
There are three types of headboards in which to choose: bed frame-mounting, wall-mounting, or a freestanding headboard, and the type is usually in the product description. If you are attaching the bed to the frame, the headboard is the same length as the mattress being used or, at most, two to four inches wider than the mattress.
If you decide you will be using a bed frame-mounting headboard, you cannot use a smaller size than the bed because the mounting holes will not line up. Mattresses come in different sizes depending on the size of the bed, and there are standard headboard sizes that complement each one. Below are the five mattress sizes and headboards:
- Twin bed – 41-inch headboard for a 38×74 inch mattress
- Full bed – 56-inch headboard for a 54×75 inch mattress
- Queen bed – 62 inch headboard for a 60×80 inch mattress
- King bed – 80 inch headboard for a 76×80 inch mattress
- California king bed – 74 inch headboard for a 72×84 inch mattress
Some beds come with their own corresponding headboards when they are mounted into the bed. On one hand, this convenience saves time in having to do extra shopping for a headboard that matches your bed and the style of your room. However, it means you will be sticking with a certain length of headboard and cannot get creative with its décor.
It is not recommended to get a headboard that is wider than the measurements above because it will more than likely overcrowd your bedroom. Very large bedrooms may be able to handle an extra-wide headboard, but most standard bedrooms cannot. However, there are circumstances in which you can use a headboard that is smaller than the bed.
How High Should the Headboard Be Mounted?
You can attach any headboard to the wall as long as you have the proper mounting hardware for the heavy weight of the headboard. You also must use the stud finder so that the mounting hardware is secure; if not, there is a great risk that the headboard could fall on you and cause physical harm. Another question is how high should it go?
There is no specific rule when it comes to how high your headboard should be above the mattress. If you want some standard lengths to help in the beginning stages of wall mounting, you could measure the following amount of inches above your mattress and mark it on the wall. This can help give an average of the height of the headboard:
- Twin bed – 14 inches above the mattress
- Full and queen beds – 28 inches above the mattress
- King and California king beds – 58 inches above the mattress
Some taller headboards that are mounted on the wall can be even higher, 65 to 70 inches above the mattress, but when the headboard is smaller than the bed, it should be closer to the mattress. Just make sure you never place the headboard directly onto the mattress, as the headboard should sit three to four inches below the mattress.
It is important to note that these measurements are just guidelines and the height of your mounted headboard also depends on your room dimensions, style and design choices, and the type of headboard as well as the size of your bed. You can always add pictures above the headboard and side tables to complete your new look.
Freestanding Headboards Can Also Be Smaller
Mounting a headboard on a wall takes time, tools, hardware, and patience. Although they can be smaller than your bed and still add dramatic aesthetics to your room, they are the most cumbersome headboard of the three when it comes to installation. If you do not want to deal with those challenges, a freestanding headboard is a better option.
Freestanding headboards are just as they sound—they are not connected to your bed, bed frame, or mattress in any way. They usually have a thicker base since they need to stand on their own and could be heavy to move upstairs into your bedroom. But, if you have enough space, they can definitely be smaller than your bed and still look great.
Freestanding headboards do not need to be mounted to the wall or bed frame. They usually come with bookshelves or storage space, so you can add décor, accessories, or books for further aesthetics. The installation of the freestanding headboard is the easiest of the three types and the smaller headboard can be centered effortlessly.
Once you get the freestanding headboard into your bedroom, you will need to move your bed so that there is enough room to get the freestanding headboard in place. Make sure it is where you want it to be in that these headboards are usually quite heavy. Then, push the bed back against the headboard to make it look like one component.
What If My Only Option is a Bed-Frame Mounted Headboard?
If you are using a standard-sized headboard, you can easily mount it onto the bed frame. However, this is more than likely not an option to be smaller than the bed in that the headboard should actually be three to four inches wider than the frame itself. Bed-frame headboards are used with all types of beds as long as they are size-compatible.
You may be able to drill new holes in the bed frame to use a smaller headboard for your bed, but this is not recommended. The headboard is secured by finding the pre-drilled holes on the back of your bed and then aligning them with the mounting holes on the headboard. You need someone to hold the headboard while screwing it in the bed.
If you want to use a bed-frame mounted headboard that is smaller than your original bed, you will need to make new holes in the bed or bed frame to make the shorter headboard work. This could end up just damaging your bed or bed frame instead of allowing the shorter bed frame to be mounted into the bed itself.
In the end, the rule with attaching a headboard to a bed frame is that a headboard can be attached to any bed frame—they do not need to be sold together—as long as they are both size compatible. If you have a twin headboard and just purchased a twin bed, you can attach them together. You cannot attach the twin to a queen or king bed.
How Do You Shorten a Headboard?
What if you already have a larger headboard and need to make it smaller? Maybe you have moved into a smaller bedroom or downsized your bed from a king to a queen. If your headboard is made of wood, you can shorten the headboard yourself with the right tools, some specific measurements, and minor DIY woodworking procedures.
The easiest way to shorten a wooden headboard is by using a table saw. If you have one handy, use the original measurements of your bed to determine how much you will take off each side. Remember that a king’s width is 76 inches compared to a queen’s width of 60 inches and a full width of 54 inches. A twin is an even smaller 38 inches.
If you are shortening a king headboard so that it can fit a queen bed, you will need to trim 8 inches from each side, totally 16 inches. You can use that same calculation, which is the original width subtracted by the desired width, to come up with how many inches you will need to take off each side (divide by two for each side).
If you have a padded headboard, a table saw could damage or tear the padding you want to keep. That means you should first remove the staples that are securing the padding so that it can be pulled back to display the headboard structure. Then you can cut the headboard safety and then pull back the padding and fit it back into place.
Other Types of Headboards to Consider
Wood is probably the most common material for a headboard in that they can add both a contemporary or classic aesthetic to any room, are durable, and are easy to install and shorten, if necessary. However, there are other types of materials that may make up your wall-mounted or freestanding headboard and can be smaller than the bed:
- Upholstered headboard – The most comfortable type of headboard that can also be shortened, if necessary, they add a classic look and come in a variety of colors and prints.
- Metal headboard – These are usually mounted on the wall and add a modern or vintage look to the bedroom.
- Storage headboard – These are usually freestanding, made of wood, and provide enough space for essentials like charging your smartphone, an alarm clock, books, or candles.
- Adjustable headboard – Usually have metallic legs that move up and down so that you can adjust the height to a shorter level to make your room look spacious or a higher level for larger beds or for an aesthetic effect.
You also can choose from different shapes of headboards to determine whether they will look appropriate when they are shorter than the bed. There are some shapes that may look better over others when it comes to them being shorter than your bed, but below is a short list of ones that could work very well being smaller than the bed:
Another type of headboard is called the box-type or cabinet headboard. These can be purchased smaller than your bed, but you do not want to try shortening them on your own. Cutting off the sides of this type of headboard will severely damage the structure of the headboard itself. If you want to consider this one, just purchase it smaller.
If you are considering a smaller box-type or cabinet headboard, your best bet is to purchase one used or second-hand if you want to save some money. That way you can ensure the headboard will be smaller than the bed, but you will not damage or destroy the headboard by trying to shorten it yourself.
You Could Also “Fake” Your Headboard
One last idea to get a headboard that is smaller than your bed is to actually “fake” a headboard. This could be done with wall murals and decals being placed behind the bed on the wall, using a very large piece of wall art that is just a bit smaller than your bed, or even placing wallpaper on a blank wall behind the bed.
If you are looking to redecorate your room and have a window, you can place your bed up against it as a backdrop. A window that is a bit smaller than your bed actually works really well because you can set everything off with curtains. Or you can purchase a faux window—yes they do exist—and then add curtains for a great look.
Finally, mounted shelving can make for a very artsy and creative headboard. They add structure above the bed, are a beautiful way to display art and accessories, and can complete the entire look of your bedroom. Just make sure you take the proper measurements so the shelving does not hit your head when you get out of bed.
A headboard can be smaller than your bed as long as it is either mounted on the wall or a freestanding headboard. That way, you can add a new look to your bedroom and go beyond the standard use of a headboard just insulting sleepers from the cold or having a place to sit up and read. Your smaller headboard can give you a brand-new look.
Wall-mounted headboards give you a new aesthetic as well as serve as an accent piece in your bedroom. They can be complemented with pictures above and around, and since they are smaller than the bed, they work perfectly with side tables and lamps. A free-standing headboard also adds a nice aesthetic and is hassle-free with installation.