DIY: Fabric Headboard

IMG_3497 New year, new DIY project!  HCG has had success with a super easy DIY project before, and, although this endeavor is definitely more involved than our last one, it's still extremely simple (believe me - HCG does not attempt to tackle complicated DIYs.  Life is too short, and there is too much DVR to catch up on).

Disclaimer: this isn't the first time Team HCG has made a fabric headboard.  Joe and I tamed this beast when I first moved into my law school apartment, and we learned many lessons from that inaugural DIY including: (1) what type of fabric works best (upholstery), (2) how much padding is needed (the more the merrier), (3) that fabric covered buttons are more effort than they're worth, and (4) that making a headboard in the middle of the night at the end of August in an apartment without AC can cause tensions to run high.

We gave it five years and decided to jump back in.  Because we haven't taken the plunge into home ownership yet, we're hesitant to purchase furniture to fit a temporary space.  But we were also sick of living like nomads without a headboard.  A fabric headboard is an inexpensive way to add polish to a bedroom without having to invest in a large piece of furniture.

Both times I've made fabric headboards, I Googled the subject to death and was disappointed at the lack of practical information available.  Hence, the HCG guide to DIY-ing a fabric headboard!

Step 1: Load your weapon.  If you think making a fabric headboard sounds like an intimidating task, take comfort in this: only ONE tool is required for the entire project - a staple gun.  Team HCG doesn't own a staple gun, but our dad does.  Fortunately, he provided a box of staples, too.IMG_0731
Step 2: Gear up your supplies. There are four essential materials required to make a basic upholstered headboard, all of which are shown below:
a. Plywood: The size of your plywood depends on (1) the size of your bed, and (2) how high you would like your headboard.  A standard sheet of plywood is 80 inches (about 6 1/2 feet) wide and 48 inches (4 feet) high.  We have a king size bed and a relatively high pillow top mattress, so a four-foot high piece of wood was fine with us.  If you have a lower bed, you may want to get the plywood cut down a little.  We decided on the width of the wood by measuring the width of our bed and adding a few inches on each side.  The final measurements of our plywood were 80 inches wide and 48 inches high.  Also, we wanted a relatively thick piece of plywood so we went with plywood that is 3/4 of an inch thick.

b. Foam padding: Padding is a critical component for a fabric headboard.  It adds depth and prevents the finished product from looking homemade.  We erred with the first headboard and used foam padding that was only half an inch thick, and I always wished it was thicker.  This time around, we went with one-inch thick foam padding.  The  foam padding we purchased for this project was only 41 inches high, so it didn't go all the way to the bottom of the plywood - there were about 7 inches of the wood that were not covered by the foam.  I thought this would look weird, but it really didn't make any difference (read below for more).  The dimensions of the foam we purchased were 41" x 85".  In retrospect, we should have purchased foam that extended further on the sides because this didn't leave us enough extra foam to pull around the back of the wood.  You'll see what I'm talking about.

c. Polyester batting: Polyester batting is used to cover the foam and add another layer of material.  You definitely want the poly batting to wrap all the way around the entire piece of wood, so it's best to buy it slightly larger than the plywood.  The dimensions of our poly batting were 54" x 85".  We bought both the foam padding and poly batting at Adler's Fabrics on Philadelphia's Fabric Row.

d. Fabric: For obvious reasons, the fabric you choose for your headboard is the most important piece.  Upholstery fabric is sturdy, easy to work with and looks the nicest.  We found the winner in an hour's time on Fabric Row: a chocolate brown and light blue flowered upholstery fabric at Jack B. Fabrics.  Upholstery fabric usually comes 54 inches wide, so that was enough to fit the entire height of our headboard.  We bought 8 yards (96 inches) so we would have extra fabric to pull around the sides of the wood.  The final dimensions of our fabric were 54" x 96".  I'm pretty obsessed with the fabric we chose.  See how soft and luxurious it looks up close?IMG_0818Step 3: Foam first. Now that you have all of your supplies, it's time to get cooking.  Note: You will definitely need a partner for all of the following steps. First, stand the plywood upright and position the foam against the wood a few inches higher than the top of the wood.  Pull the foam taut on both sides of the wood making sure it is smooth across the front, and pull each side around to the back side of the wood.  Begin stapling about one inch apart.  Once the sides are stapled, bend the foam that extends above the top of the wood over and staple again.  Make sure you fold the corner down smoothly so they resemble a regular corner as best as possible.IMG_1447Once the entire foam is stapled around the plywood, it should look like this from the back (as you can see, we really didn't have too much extra foam to work with on the sides):IMG_1458Step 4: Poly batting goes next. Do the same thing with the poly batting: position it against the foam-covered wood, pull taut and staple one inch apart around the back sides and top.  You'll need to be a little more careful when pulling the poly batting taut against the wood because it's relatively delicate and may tear.  NOTE: the poly batting should wrap all around all sides of the wood including the bottom.  This will smooth out the bottom of the foam that doesn't extend all the way to the bottom of the wood.IMG_1462Step 5: Finish with fabric. Finally, the pretty part: securing your fabric.  Now that the entire piece of plywood is covered in poly batting, do the same thing with the fabric.  Pull it taut, begin stapling one inch apart, and make sure the corners are folded down smoothly.  Don't worry about what the back of the plywood looks like - no one is ever going to see that.IMG_1464Step 6Tie the extra fabric around your head and waist and practice ninja moves in your living room (recognize the sweatpants?  I told you I wear them every night.  FYI, this photo was taken the night before our Halloween party at 2:00 a.m.).IMG_1474The finished product:IMG_3488Feeling adventurous now that you've read this?  Give it a shot!  What else were you planning on doing on MLK day anyway?

Breakdown of expenses:
- Plywood: $32.50
- Foam padding and poly batting: $44.13
- Upholstery fabric: $57.78

Total cost: $134.41