I Turned a Busted Bookshelf into a Glam Upholstered Headboard — Here’s How

published Feb 20, 2023
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close-up image of a floral upholstered headboard

Sometimes, you just have a vision for the particular furniture you want in your home. And while you might get lucky and find the exact right thing ready to buy straight off the showroom floor, usually the best way to get just what you want is to do a little DIY furniture customization.

One vision that had been driving me lately was one of a fancy headboard for my bedroom — something upholstered, with a scalloped shape. While I’m pretty handy with a saw, the thought of buying a sheet of plywood and dragging out all the tools needed to fabricate a headboard from scratch seemed so intense that it was blocking my will to actually get going on the project. But… I really wanted the headboard. In an effort to get moving, I decided to look for an object with a similar shape to what I wanted that I could alter with minimal effort. In short, I wanted to, ahem, cut down the time this project took.

With my dream scalloped or pill-shaped headboard dancing through my brain, I hopped on Facebook Marketplace to eye up the available furniture. Eventually, I found a budget score: a crusty old flat-pack particle board bookshelf with just enough shelves to span the width of our bed. This was the perfect money- and time-saving hack I’d been hoping for — and it’s one you can use, too, if you have an old shelf gathering dust or find a damaged one on the curb or online. Here’s how to turn that stack of shelves into a gorgeous scalloped headboard that looks like a designer find.

Supplies You’ll Need to Make Your Headboard:

How to construct the headboard

1. Pull the shelves out of your piece, and cut foam to fit.

Disassemble the bookshelf and remove all hardware. Then, cut a piece of foam core the size of the shelf and use a compass or a round item (like a plate or lid) that’s the width of the shelf to draw the curved edge at the top end of the foam core. Cut around the curved line to create your arch shape. Use this piece of foam as your template, tracing the outline onto all the panels.

2. Cut the shelves into an arch shape.

Clamp the first shelving panel to a secure surface and use a jigsaw to cut around the traced outline. Repeat this step for all the panels. Use a sanding block to smooth out any rigid edges around the curve.

3. Cut the foam to match.

To cut the foam, line up the top edge of the arched panel with the top edge and left side of the foam sheet. Use a marker to trace the scalloped edge onto the foam, and continue tracing down along the right edge. The foam will be a bit shorter than the length of the panel, but that’s OK — once you hang the headboard, you’ll be tucking a portion of the lower panel down behind your mattress so you don’t want the foam to be as thick along the bottom edge. Instead of cutting exactly on the traced line to trim the foam, move your scissors in about one inch; cut so that you can see one inch of the arched wood panel around the edges of the foam when it’s laid on top.

Keeping the foam in place, lift one end and spray glue onto the panel; then, press the foam down onto the glue. Repeat the steps with the lower half of the foam so that the glue holds it in place. Continue this step with all of the arched panels.

4. Cut fabric and batting.

To cut your fabric and batting, lay the scalloped panel on top of the fabric and measure 3 inches around the edges. Mark with an acrylic ruler, then trim using a rotary cutter or scissors. If using a foam thicker than one inch, be sure to add on those additional inches to the bleed when cutting out around the fabric.

5. Staple the batting to the boards.

Position the panel foam side down onto the piece of batting so there is at least a 3-inch bleed on all sides. Using a staple gun, bring the batting around the foam side and staple it to the backside. I like to place one staple about midway down on the right side, then firmly (but not too firmly) tug the batting up and over the opposite left side and add a staple midway down to keep the batting in place. I go back to the right side and continue to gently pull and staple the batting until the entire right half is finished, then I do the same with the left side of the panel.

6. Staple the fabric to the boards.

Repeat step 5, this time with the fabric. You should now have a series of wrapped boards that will create your headboard.

How to Attach Your Upholstered Panels to the Wall

You can bring the individual panels together to create one unit using a few different methods. I wanted mine to sit as close to the wall as possible without any space behind the panels so I chose to connect the panels together using tie plates (they were cheap!) and mounted it using a French cleat. That’s a handy mounting system that features two long pieces that work together to hang your headboard. The piece attached to the wall features an open lip on top, while the piece attached to your headboard features an open lip on the bottom. Those pieces lock together securely so that your headboard can hang on the wall.

Supplies You’ll Need to Hang Your Headboard:

1. Fasten the tie plates to the boards.

Having an extra set of hands assist with this part of the project is very helpful. Line up the bases of all the panels and connect them together using tie plates. These pieces of hardware are extremely cheap and do the job required. Connect the side by side panels by placing one tie plate at the base of the panel and one higher up towards the top. Screw them in place using short screws (½-inch screws should be short enough to keep from popping out the other side).

2. Attach French cleat to the wall and the headboard, per the package instructions.

Once the tie plates are in place, attach the French cleat according to the package instructions. I chose a 30-inch cleat to keep the headboard super secure.

3. Hang the shelf using the French cleat system.

Employ those extra hands and carefully lift the headboard and hang it on the French cleat. Slide to make any adjustments. Then, step back and admire your hard work!

February is Bedroom Month on Apartment Therapy! We’re sharing stories all month about bedrooms — from how to sleep in them, decorate them, make the most of small ones, and so much more. Head over here to see them all!