How To: Transform a Fireplace Mantel into a Headboard

I’ve never thought of myself as the upholstered headboard type, but I am a DIYer to a fault, so my first thought upon spotting a lonely mantelpiece at a local antique shop was, “great headboard.” When the shopkeeper offered it to me for $10, I convinced myself that upholstered headboards were the only way to go. Here’s how it went from hearth to dream space…

My main hang-up with upholstered headboards is their tendency to appear too fussy and overdone, so I decided to leave most of the mantel’s worn original finish untouched for a more casual look. Here’s a play-by-play of the updates I did make.

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1. I measured the inside of the mantel piece (where the fireplace would be), and then took the measurements to the hardware store to buy a board that I could use as my insert. I tacked on an extra 1 ½ inches to each side so that I’d have enough space to secure the board to the mantel. For price and sturdiness purposes, I used non-formaldehyde containing OSB board—big mistake! The OSB had an awful chemically smell that only goes away with time. I probably should have used plywood reinforced with a frame of 2x4s.

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2. I cut a piece of upholstery foam that was the same dimensions as the inside of the mantel (not the board insert), and attached it to the board with spray adhesive.

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3. I lay a sheet of painter’s canvas drop cloth (instead of fabric) on the floor, and put the insert foam side down on top of it.

4. I cut the canvas about 4 inches wider than the board.

5. Starting at the top of the board, I pulled the canvas just tight enough so that it was taught but not puckering, and secured it to the back of the board (the non-foam side) with a staple gun.

6. Once the cloth was secured in place, I flipped the board around and mapped out a grid for where I wanted the upholstery nails (a.k.a. nail head) to be.

7. I used a hammer to pound the upholstery nails in, creating a tufted look.

8. I painted the inner trim of the headboard to match the upholstery nails.

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9. I placed the mantel facedown on the ground, backed it with the upholstered board, and used 7 wood screws (1 in each of the 4 corners and 1 in the middle of each of the 3 sides of the mantel) to connect the upholstered board to the mantelpiece.

10. I secured the mantel to the wall with L-brackets painted the same color as the mantel.

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Total time: about 2 hours

Total cost: $65

As with a fireplace mantel, a mantel headboard gives you an extra place to play with arrangements--just be sure to secure heavy objects to the wall!

Resources: Home Depot: OSB board, screws, upholstery nails, drop cloth, L-brackets, staple gun.Jo-Ann Fabrics: upholstery foam, spray adhesive.

(Images: left side of 1: Traditional Home, right side of 1: Domino, 2-6: Leah Moss)