We made a headboard!

During the many years of our less than stellar bed situation, I’d periodically search the internet for how to build a headboard and I’d find results like this one that sure looked pretty, but still cost a pretty penny as well. Or I’d find silly DIY solutions that involved hanging a quilt for a headboard or painting one right on the wall. Even more substantial looking tutorials where you actually built something like an upholstered headboard often had you hanging the headboard right on the wall, rather than bolting it to the bed frame, which wouldn’t solve our moving bed issues or keep our pillows from getting lost down the giant crevice behind our heads.

I did, actually, try to build an upholstered headboard for our old queen size bed which is now in our guest room. I figured if it went well, I’d make another for our king sized bed. HA. My husband watched me wrestle with batting and thrift store fabric and his staple gun with a bemused expression on his face. When he helped me stand it up we both fell to pieces laughing. Seriously, it’s awful, this photo makes it look sort of okay, but it’s really bad.

Let’s get on with it shall we? Enough of this pathetic bed history. On to awesome!

We had a lot of lumber left over from finishing the basement and I used left over paint and glaze so this felt practically free. My husband estimates it would have cost someone between $50 – $60 to build purchasing all the wood for the project – especially if they don’t mind saving wads of cash buying furring strips – they’re in rougher condition that need sanding, but they’re a lot cheaper, and you can face the worst bits to the back.

zippity do dah!

We used the plans for the Mason headboard from Knock Off Wood. We could not believe how quickly it all went together. My husband already has an arsenal of tools, but all you need is a table saw (or have the Home Depot guys cut your pieces for you), wood glue, and a nail gun. (You could nail the old fashioned way or screw the bed together as well).

it went together so fast!

The headboard went together in about an hour and a half. We were so excited to see how great it looked and couldn’t wait to get it in the bedroom. We did add these metal supports (I don’t know what they are, my husband had them in the garage from building garden boxes two years ago) to the back to keep the center boards from flexing. I don’t think you’d need these on a queen size headboard.

we added supports

As everyone says, the finishing/painting process took the longest. We had paint and primer left over from our basement projects, so I primed the whole thing, and when that was dry painted on an off white color. We found the paint tricky to stop from pooling in the seams, so we ended up filling them with caulk, pressing pretty hard as we filled them so you would still be able to see the boards and individual panels… I didn’t want it to look like one big, solid piece of wood.

Next, I wiped on a brown glaze (Valspar) I had left over from when I painted and distressed my kitchen stools. When that dried, I applied another thin coat of the off white paint, then sanded carefully down along the edges. I wished I had read this guest post before I’d started, as I would have loved to do a turquoise underlayer but didn’t know how. I did like in that piece, how she talked about creating a story as you distress, so we sanded areas we knew would have worn down as they aged, especially the area where our heads would lean against the headboard.


I’m drawn to the modern look on decor blogs and in magazines, but I like the farmhouse style too. And when you’ve got four wild hooligans running around your house, the distressed look makes all the dents and scratches they can create look intentional.

After I sanded the edges and corners to let some of the glaze show through, I rubbed on a bit more glaze to darken up any exposed wood. We sprayed the whole thing with some cans of polyurethane we dug up out of the shop (hope they’re not too old), sanding in between 3 coats of it for a nice semi-gloss shine.


Now, we didn’t build Ana’s Farmhouse Bed, which is adorable, because we didn’t want to have another footboard I’d bang my freakishly long and awkward extremities into. So we decided to keep our metal bed frame, but we wanted to dress it up a bit. We’re both tall folks so we decided to put it up on bed risers which would make it feel more like nice furniture… I think metal bed frames are so low to the ground. My thighs may not miss my old footboard, but I do miss the nice furniture legs the bed was raised on.


After we had the frame on the risers, we measured and drilled the holes in the headboard for the bolts. (If we ever decide to take the bed off the risers, we’ll be able to just drill new, lower holes for the bolts and no one will be the wiser.) Now, we should have measured our metal bed frame before diving into Ana’s plans. If we had, we would have shortened the headboard a few inches. The way the legs are constructed, you’ve got a hollow area which is where our metal bed frame ended up lining up to. We glued some more wood in there so our bolts would have something more solid to go through.

We used 4″ hex bolts with like, 7 washers to make them fit/work right. We were using bolts my husband had left over from building the t-frames in our garden last year. If you buy hex bolts new for the project, you’ll want 3″ hex bolts with only a couple of washers. Our hex bolts were also a bit too wide for the slots on the metal bed frame so we had to file the slots down so they’d fit.

Making do, you know?

Here you can see the end of the bolt sticking out into the mattress area. The back of the headboard post/leg had the 7 washers and the hex bolt end. It doesn’t bump into / gouge the wall as the lip on the top of the headboard and the baseboard provide enough room back there. Phew.

bolting the headboard to the metal frame

Now, our box spring mattresses were really high with the risers, so I had to finagle a new bedskirt. Using the super simple bed skirt tutorial at Chez Larsson, I hemmed a 7 yard piece of fabric I picked up at the thrift store years ago. It was a weird polyester, but it hung nicer than the bolt of muslin I had on hand. My machine hated sewing it and the seam puckered a bit, but oh well. I safety pinned it all in place, and we were good to go. Risers hidden… AND no ruffles or pleats that refuse to hang right like we always experienced with store bought bed skirts.

Making a bed skirt

Ta dah! Wrinkled pillows and all!

Wrinkly pillows and all

About two years ago, I picked up two Adair Sconces for a song at a Pottery Barn outlet store (DownEast Home for the locals) and they have waited patiently in my closet for their time to shine. After painting our walls a very light cream color (we were very tired of the dark tan that made our room feel like a cave), we positioned the bed and hung the sconces. The bookcases we used as nightstands when our bed was under the window no longer fit so we’ll have to see if we can build a couple of Ana’s Simple Nightstands with the rest of our scrap wood.

I’ve no idea what to do about decorative pillows or a curtain for the window, but it feels better already.

For now we’re so happy to have a light, bright room again. This room does not get great light, even at midday so we’re enjoying our lighter walls. It doesn’t provide a lot of contrast behind the headboard though, so maybe down the road I’ll do something like this:


Or maybe we’ll just paint the nightstands we’ll build a fun color. We’ll see.

We love our new bed, a big huge thank you to Ana for all her hard work and her amazing, easy to use and follow plans!

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