How To: Make Don & Betty Draper's Mad Men Upholstered Headboard

(Welcome to Shelly! She is joining the AT:Chicago team as our resident DIY Upholstery and How-To expert. She'll be posting regularly on ideas and tips for home decor projects.)

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Contrary to what you may think, cushy, plush custom headboards are very DIY-able. We're not talking about the homemade looking ones that are flimsy, thin and wobbly. Professional headboards are simple to translate for those who are a little handy and don’t want to lay down a bundle for a new look in the boudoir. Jump below for the full step by step instructions:

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Don and Betty Draper’s headboard shown on Mad Men is a traditional design with a band and button tufting. You can make it for real on a piece of plywood, or you can try this off-the-wall-version I made in our guest room. You’ll need drywall as your base and you may want to know how to spackle if you ever decide to tear this off the wall.

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The Guestroom Bed, Before
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Materials you’ll need:
Fabric (1 1/2 yard for a full size bed, 54” wide fabric)
Trim or gimp to cover staples
Dacron or cotton batting
Staple gun*
Staples
Yardstick
Pencil
Covered button kit
Hot glue gun
Paper pattern
Chalk
Sharpie

*For any upholstery project you’ll want an electric, rather than a manual, staple gun. They range in price from about $32.00-50.00. I bought a new one for this project that cost $49.99. If you’re willing to spend more, go for a pneumatic stapler with a small air compressor. It’s worth it.

What you do:

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1. Measure the width of your bed. A standard measurement for a full size bed is 54”, a queen size is 60”.

2. Determine how tall you want your headboard. Measure from 3” below the top of your mattress to the desired height, that’s the height measurement. With pencil, measure and mark the middle point of the headboard. With a yardstick, draw a penciled line from the bottom center to the top center.

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3. Draw a “half” pattern of the headboard shape on paper. On pattern measure in 4” from the outside edge all around, mark and connect the line. This will be the band. Cut the pattern out.

4. Determine placement on your wall behind the bed, mark center top and center bottom. Using painters tape, tape pattern on wall lining up center of the pattern to the penciled vertical line.

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5. Trace outline of pattern on wall with chalk.

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6. On the paper pattern, determine where you want your first row of buttons. From the center point of that row, measure out 3” to the right and 3” to the left and make a mark with the Sharpie. The next row of buttons will be 4” down and staggered evenly from the top marks. This will end up making 8” x 6” diamond patterns for button placement. With a screwdriver or scissors, poke holes in paper pattern where buttons will be.

8. Place pattern on a piece of batting and cut out. Go back and cut off ½” more around outside of batting.

9. Place pattern on top of fabric, trace and cut out.

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10. Cut the “band” off of the pattern. Center remaining pattern on fabric with bottom edges lined up and trace the outline. With chalk, carefully holding pattern in place, chalk the button marks through the holes onto the fabric.

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11. Go to the wall and center the batting ½” inside the chalked outline. Staple in the center and move outward as you smooth the batting. Be sure the shape of the batting matches up with the chalked outline on the wall. Staple all around the top design, smooth the sides out to within ½” from the outline and staple in place.

Starting at bottom center, move out towards bottom corners.

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13. Repeat with fabric. Fabric edge should line up to chalked outline.

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14. Keeping staples in a nice line, staple around the band line.

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15. Add two staples next to each other at the button marks.

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16. Make enough covered buttons to hot glue on your headboard.
(You can take fabric to an upholstery shop to make your buttons or you can buy kits at the fabric store. You could also use plastic or decorative buttons, pompoms, medallions or anything you can think of.)
I made mine using a nail back to save time.

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17. Hot glue gimp or other flexible trim (I twisted three pieces of chenille yarn) on headboard to cover staples.

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Push your bed up against your new headboard and stand back and enjoy.

Photos: Shelly Leer