Making a headboard from scratch allows for optimal customization privileges. Upcycling headboards is also a great way of collecting materials and possibly saving some effort and time. When you shop for headboards, many are made of wood, sometimes covered with a type of fabric to fit different styles of bedrooms.
The building materials vary depending on what kind of headboard you want to have in your bedroom. Some options include paint and stencils, others involve traditional use of wood and fabric. As interior design for bedrooms has changed, the materials available to make a stylish headboard have increased. Keep reading to learn more about what you can use to build a custom headboard.
What Can I Use as a Headboard?
Depending on where your bed is set in the bedroom and the size, there are more options than the standard flat, wooden headboard. Even items that are not marketed as headboards may be used as headboards, such as bookshelves or other shelving units. There are options for every room to accommodate space and to fit every aesthetic is style choice.
There is a wide selection of materials and furniture pieces to choose from and use as a headboard. Having a headboard does not have to only be a simple slab of wood, as it can be a fun decorative piece or a functional piece in the bedroom. The standard building materials for headboards include wood and metal, but other materials can be used for cosmetic and structural purposes, such as:
- Old doors and windows
This list includes only a few of the alternative options to consider when building a headboard. This list does not include the different types of fabrics or structures that the headboard can include. Headboards do not even need to be physical pieces of furniture or building materials, as one option for a headboard is to create the illusion of having a headboard.
Painted and Stenciled Headboards
The first option for those looking to add style to their bedroom and want a headboard, but do not have the extra inches to work includes creating an illusion headboard through paint. There are paint stencils for every project, including some that look similar to vintage headboards.
Using stencils makes creating an illusionary headboard easier because you only need to tape it in place of where the headboard needs to go and roll the paint on. Once the paint is dry and you peel the stencil away, you will have a headboard silhouette that adds an artistic appeal to the bedroom. Paint also comes in different finishes and sheen, including:
Freehand painting is a better option for those who want a little more creative freedom. By painting a tall rectangular or wide square space onto your wall, behind the front of your bed, again creates the illusion of a headboard without worrying about construction or space conflicts. Minimalist and geometric patterns are quite popular when choosing this route of headboard creation.
Chalkboards and Chalkboard Paint
Chalkboard paint is used in plenty of upcycling projects, and is a popular choice for kitchens and children’s playrooms or bedrooms. Chalkboard paint can be used as the base for your headboard, similar to how normal paint is used, but can also be used for painting your old headboard. Chalkboard paint does not only come in black, including as as many colors as regular paint, including:
Painting the section behind the head of your bed with chalkboard paint allows you to draw new headboard silhouettes on the wall, or can act as a quick note taking surface. This option might also be a better one for those who embrace their inner child, or have children, but chalkboard paint can add a rustic touch to any bedroom.
Wallpaper and Wall Art
Wallpaper comes in many colors, patterns, and textures that can be cut in any shape to fill the headboard space behind a bed. One of the easiest ways to use wallpaper as an illusionary headboard is to cut a rectangular slice of the wallpaper that is the same width as your bed, and gluing it behind the bed.
This technique mimics the retro style of headboards, where the headboards would be taller rather than wider, sometimes reaching the ceiling. This can make the room feel taller, while adding an attractive personal touch to the bedroom. Depending on the material, textured wallpaper might be prone to gathering excess dust and hair, though. Not all wallpaper is applied in the same way, and come in different types:
Framed prints or canvas art are choices that add more depth than a painting or wallpaper strip can provide, without taking up a lot of space. Other types of wall art to consider include:
Three-dimensional pieces, such as sculptures and signs, are options that can add alternative materials to the bedroom, including metal and glass. Three-dimensional pieces are also great headboard options as they do not take up space like traditional headboards, while still adding the depth that headboards bring.
Since headboards often work as focal points in a bedroom, artwork works the same way, so it is best to pick one large print or piece of art you love. For artwork to act as a headboard, the frames will need to hang lower than normal, almost touching the bed.
For physical alternatives to standard, commercial headboards, there are many interesting ideas of physical objects that act as headboards. As a quick note involving physical headboards, there are accessories to consider when building or remodeling your headboard, such as adding shelves or built in lighting. Before thinking about accessories, however, read on for your physical headboard options.
Tapestries and Curtains
Hanging fabric is another option that offers more depth, without taking up inches worth of space, yet can add an eclectic or softer touch to the bedroom. Tapestries are often a visually busier material to work with, often featuring famous paintings or artwork on them, while curtains range from simplistic to patterned choices. Typically different from tapestries, curtains come in different lengths and styles:
- Apron length, reaching 84 inches long
- Floor length, reaching between 84 and 96 inches long
- Cafe length, reaching average window sills, starting at 30 inches
- Puddle length, the longest length at 108 inches
Blackout curtains are best used for windows, but can still be used if your bed is placed under a window. Blackout curtains create a two-in-one option, where you can create a headboard effect, while being able to open the blackout curtains to let in the morning light.
Both options work best if hung from curtain or tapestry rods installed directly above the bed, on the wall. While possible, it is not recommended to hang these rods from the ceiling, unless specifically designed to do so, because there is a risk that the rod will collapse and fall on those in bed.
Curtains can be either patterned, solid, or sheer, which allows a bit more flexibility when styling the bedroom. A popular combination for using curtains as a headboard is using sheer curtains with small LED lights, also known as twinkled lights or fairy lights. The addition of small LED lights can add a warmer tone to the room, or create a fun atmosphere by using other colored lights.
Similar to curtains, half canopies involve more fabric and can be placed on the wall or be built to extend out slightly over the bed. This method differs from canopy beds or the types of canopies that are installed directly over the bed, since wall mounted half canopies are designed for the depth and style, rather than covering the bed.
Wall mounted half canopies are often installed closer to the ceiling, with fabric that drapes down and slightly around the front of the bed. They create an elegant and royal bedroom effect. It is possible to build a half canopy by creating a half circle made from wood, then draping fabric from the bottom half of the half circle when installed to the wall.
Mirrors are an option that can double as a headboard and illusion feature to the bedroom. Mirrors make rooms feel larger, so if you want a physical headboard with limited space, mirrors are a great choice, since they can be compact and hung on the wall. Mirrors also come in different forms, so instead of only having one mirror, there are mirrors that mimic room dividers, providing three mirrors as a headboard.
There are different types of mirrors to consider using as a headboard, including:
- Plane mirrors
- Spherical mirrors
- Silvered mirrors
- Acoustic mirrors
- Non-reversing mirrors
Mirrors come in a variety of shapes and colors, fitting different styles from vintage glam to modern contemporary. Just by changing the frame color, you can create a new aesthetic for the mirror to fit your current bedroom style. As a safety precaution, always ensure that the mirror is affixed to the wall to avoid it from falling forward onto you or others.
Old Windows and Doors
This option might involve more upcycling, depending on how old the window or door might be. There are safety precautions to consider as well before using windows or doors with glass windows in them as headboards. If you or someone else are the type to thrash around in their sleep, glass may not be the best choice for you.
Hanging old windows above a bed or attaching your bed frame to an old door can add a vintage country or rustic aesthetic to the room. Upcycling old building materials such as these also adds a sustainable message to the bedroom, as you have kept these potential materials from reaching the local landfill.
New and Upcycled Wood
Fresh and reclaimed lumber each have their own perks and are great materials for those who want to build custom headboard. Buying freshly cut, brand new lumber is often the best way to find the exact type of wood you want to work with. Brand new lumber also has not been altered by previous paint jobs, stained, or excessive weathering. However, new lumber can be quite the expense.
There are several types of lumber to be aware of, as each type has their own specifications and characteristics that are best suited for different projects. The two different categories and varies types of lumber include:
- Hardwood, including hickory, oak, mahogany, and maple
- Softwood, including cedar, pine, and spruce
- Structural lumber
- Appearance lumber
- Pressure-treated lumber
Reclaimed or upcycled lumber can be located through second-hand marketplaces or consignment home renovation supply stores. Shipping palettes are a great source of reclaimed wood that is sturdy, and either given away for free or sold at a reasonable price. However, reclaimed lumber needs a bit of work before it is ready to start building the new headboard with it, such as sanding, nail removal, and gluing small breaks.
Vintage books are popular accent decor that can be stacked behind the bed, in stacks that vary in height. Another option to use old books would be to attach the books, open, to the wall behind the bed. This method leaves book pages exposed, adding an eclectic bookworm aesthetic.
Vintage books that are easy to find often are the most expensive, while older books from the thrift store are typically cheaper, but might not be true vintage. How much you are willing to spend on either of these book headboard options should decide on which option to go with, since the stacks of books will cost more with the more books you need, while only nailing a few books to the wall will be the affordable route.
For easier installation, it is recommended to use thinner books, drywall screws, and wallpaper glue to adhere the books to the wall. Older books can have a musty smell, which stems from unharmful mildew due to age and long-term exposure to moisture. Remove the musty smell before installation with a light misting of white vinegar. The vinegar acts as an odor remover and cleaner that will not ruin the books.
Tiles and Bricks
Designing a thin headboard silhouette on the wall with tiles is one of the most inventive options to go with. Using porcelain tiles may not be the best idea, as they break easily, but can be painted or printed on to mix and match colors and patterns. The different types of brick and tile include:
- Ceramic tile
- Porcelain tile
- Cement tile
- Stone tile
- Natural tile
- Wood tile
- Cream city brick
- Acid brick
- London stock brick
- Brick tiles
Ceiling tiles are another tile option to consider, as creating a headboard with large ceiling tiles will take less time and require fewer materials. Ceiling tiles are often made of styrofoam or tin, most commonly used on ceilings in dining rooms and living rooms. Ceiling tiles can act as a headboard and only need to be glued in place. The most common colors they come in include silver, copper, and white.
There are thin tiles that are made of brick that are meant to be glued to a wall to create rustic, masculine appeal in the room. These thin bricks can be affixed to the wall behind your bed, either in a horizontal line or in a tall, slender vertical line. Brick tiles are easily paintable, and often come in grey, white, or red as base colors. If you like the brick look, but not the texture, brick style wallpaper would be the better option.
Console tables are popular additions to place by the front door and behind the couch. They are great for catching the little trinkets as the day progresses, but also for a recharging stand behind the bed. Console tables are a functional option that are slim enough for nearly any bedroom. If your bed is close enough to the ground, consider getting a console table with a draw for more storage.
Natural fibers include cotton, linen, and real leather. Most cotton and linen blends have some traces of polyester or rayon, which are synthetic fibers. For complete natural fibers, you will need to shop around for high-quality, organic sources. Other types of natural fibers include:
Natural fibers have antimicrobial properties that combat against dust mites and other allergens. They can last several years, when taken proper care of, but are easily stained. Organic cotton and linen can be expensive, as well, so for people who have children or pets, consider getting a tightly woven blend to keep various odors from easily seeping into the fabric.
A third natural fabric option is genuine leather. Leather does not have a large array of color options to choose from, but it is durable, lasting several years with proper care. The different shades of brown in leather are sophisticated options to consider adding to your headboard. Tufted leather sections are one way to style an executive headboard. Genuine leather is pricey, but lasts longer than faux versions.
Synthetic fibers are common in fabric, with polyester being the most prevalent for its affordable price and durability. Synthetic fibers are more often used in fabric blends than individually in furniture design. The blend does not exactly matter, but it does affect the feel of the fabric. Other synthetic fibers include:
Synthetic fibers can be stronger and more durable than natural fibers. They are also more resilient against stains compared to natural fibers, yet are susceptible to oil based stains. If you are a pet owner, synthetic fibers collect pet hair easily due to being more susceptible to creating static electricity.
Velvet is a synthetic fiber that is especially prone to attract pet hair and create static electricity, but is a great texture fabric to consider. Velvet is a rich fabric that comes in several colors and can add a glamorous touch to your choice of custom headboard.
Paint and Wallpaper
Paint and wallpaper are not only usable to crafting a flat headboard wall accent,as they can be key upcycling materials. Old doors, windows, and previously used headboards typically only need a fresh coat of paint to look brand almost new. The best paint finishes for headboards include:
Choosing to paint an illusion headboard should start with the best paint choice possible, to ensure your headboard stays vibrant, scratch-free, and is easy to clean. Both satin and matte are paint finishes that are great for all bedroom walls, but are common in painting headboards as well.
Satin paint is easy to clean and comes in both water based and oil based forms, which can affect the longevity of the paint job, but overall satin paint is a durable choice. Satin is also a good choice for those who want a touch of sheen on their headboard, physical or not, without paying the price of semi-gloss and gloss paints.
Wallpaper is a quick addition that is great for detail work since wallpaper comes in every color and pattern available for a variety of themes. Wallpaper can be used to create an illusion headboard effect, or be directly applied to a physical headboard. For the quickest application process, pre-pasted wallpaper is the best option for headboards. For easy cleanup, consider scrubbable or washable wallpaper options.
Best Materials for Physical Headboards
Wood is the tried and true best building material for standard headboards, as it comes in a variety of natural colors and levels of durability. Wood is vastly customizable, as you can use paint, stain, and other adornments to craft the headboard to your liking. With current lumber prices, it is not only sustainable to reuse old shipping pallets, but it can help cut cost investment of the entire project.
Wood is also a great combination of material that works well with bricks, paint, and fabric. Combining wood with brick tiles can create a rugged, industrial appearance, while wood painted a pastel or bright color can create an eclectic or bohemian aesthetic. Combining wood and fabric can lead to the previously listed half canopy idea, or can inspire other ideas that mix rustic with a softer exterior.
There are specific types of wood that are best for building headboards or for fixing headboards. For a strong and long-lasting headboard, consider using one of these types of wood:
When looking for durable materials for headboards, you can rely on any of these types of woods to get the job done.
Mahogany is a durable, medium to hard lumber choice that is perfect for carving. Mahogany is perfect for those looking to add character through whittling, spindles, and minute detail. This lumber choice is also great for its rich color.
Oak is a tough wood that builds durable furniture that lasts many years. Primarily found in three colors, red oak, white oak, and black oak, it is a beautiful lumber choice. Because of oak’s wide grain, this lumber choice is also perfect for staining.
Cherry lumber is durable and highly prized, being one of the most expensive types of wood used in furniture building. Similar to oak, cherry is a hardwood that can last a lifetime when cared for properly.
Walnut is a lighter lumber option that still maintains a durable nature. Walnut lumber is often darker, which is a nice choice for those who want to build a sturdy headboard and not have to worry about staining or painting.
Beech is light and is easy to cut. The grain makes beech lumber an easily sustainable choice with a sturdy weight. Beech, like other hardwoods, can withstand decent weight, as it is most often used to craft chairs, making it a great choice for headboards with built-in shelving.
Paint for Illusion Headboards
Paint is a great material for illusion headboards that will not take up space. Like wood, paint has infinite possibilities with enough creativity, as you can utilize stencils, different types of paint in different shades, and wall clings for depth and effect. Layering paint with metallic wall cling designs is another combination that utilizes one of the best materials for illusion headboards.
Combining painted headboard shapes with a layer of curtains can add depth with a creative twist that will not take up a lot of room. The trick behind two-dimensional headboard techniques and materials is to be innovative and find a combination that makes a visible impact on the bedroom.
Fabric is the second most versatile non-physical headboard material, as it includes tapestries, curtains, and cushioning on physical headboards. Adding cushions to physical headboards is the standard way to utilize fabric, yet can be used in other creative ways.
Alongside traditional fabric, fabric wallpaper is a great option because it can be easily removed, while not being overly expensive. Since the wallpaper is fabric, the material is breathable, making it mold resistant. Although it is vulnerable to water and fire, the texture of fabric wallpaper is more comforting than typical paper wallpaper and is not as frustrating to remove.