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Bedroom Makeover: DIY Nailhead Headboard

UPDATE: My headboard was featured in iVillage! Click here to see it along with some other very creative solutions.
Wood and power tools are not usually my cup of tea. But to complete our master bed's transformation, I was willing to try something a little out of my comfort zone.  

We got this done in just 2 days, plus one day of sulking (read on to find out why). There's definitely a trick to diy headboards, as we found. But overall the project went pretty smoothly, and only cost me $80! You can skip to the end to see my cost break down.

The nailheads were certainly a pain, but with a little practice, and a TON of patience, I think it's definitely worth the beautiful results!

Shaping Up
In my typical overkill fashion, I debated, pondered, and agonized over the shape of this headboard for approximately 2 months. That there's a ton of gorgeous options out there really didn't help.
Top left:,  top right: Crate & Barrel Colette bed
bottom left: Centsational Girl (she has an excellent headboard tutorial!), bottom right: Amanda Teal Design

In an effort to visualize the shapes better, I auditioned some silhouettes by taping them up on the wall with painter's tape.
It helped a lot to see the shapes up there, in full scale. I could imagine how they would look with the size of the room and if the shape would jive with our nightstands and other furniture. Fast forward through more agonizing days (days this time instead of months!) and the winner is? the middle one!
After a little online homework, I had a pretty good idea of how this was suppose to go, and dove right in.

This is for a Queen Headboard
  • 6 x 4 Plywood, 3/4" thick
  • 2" Foam, 2 yards 3"
  • Batting, 2 1/2 yards
  • Fabric, 2 1/2 yards
  • Spray adhesive
  • Nailheads, 300 ct.
  • 2 Wall Mounting Brackets, 100 lb. rating each

  • Jigsaw
  • Staple Gun + staples
  • Scissors
  • Rubber Mallet for nailheads
  • Ruler
  • A Friend to help maneuver the board! Unless you are dude, or freakishly strong, this is not a one person project! :)
Step 1. Now Boarding! 
A major money saver on this project was bumming some plywood off my friend Madeline. She had a piece laying around in her garage, and let me have it for my project. And it was the perfect size! Thanks, Madd. :)

If you can't get your hands on a free board, some other budget friendly options might be to make over an existing headboard, or nail a few smaller boards together. We priced 6 x 4, 3/4" thick plywood boards at Home Depot for about $40.

It was the weekend, and Jason was home and offered to work the power tools for me. Thanks Baby! I have a healthy respect for power tools, and always feel like a "real woman" whenever I get one to work. But I'm also happy to leave it to others if the opportunity presents itself!
Jason raised the board off the floor with some bricks, and trimmed a few inches off our board using a jigsaw we borrowed from my dad.  The final board measurements were 6' 3" x 4'.

Husband shout out: I have a wonderful Man who not only gets as excited as I do about my diy, but whenever he can, jumps in to help me. Love you, Babe!

Now, as J started sawing, Andrew was in his walker watching Daddy saw and Mommy snap pics from the garage doorway. When J fired up the saw, this happened:

Crying, sobbing, and "I-am-going-to-die" screams. He got so freaked out and scared. Poor guy! I felt sooo bad, and I'm pretty sure we went negative on the parent points on this one. We halted everything to love on the Munchkin for awhile.

Step 2. Just Cut It Out 
With Andrew calmed down, happy again, and relocated to the living room where he could safely play away from the saw noise, we got ready to make the corner cuts.

If you choose a shape other than a basic rectangle, it's imperative to make some sort of pattern. Lopsided headboards not being "in" this year. I made a pattern using a paper grocery bag, but any other sturdy paper or cardboard would work too. 
Everything was straight lines except for the corners, so I only needed to make a pattern of the oval swoosh cutout. I taped my piece of paperbag to the wall over my swooshy shape, then pulled the paper back and creased the outline underneath with my fingernail. I flipped back the paper and traced over the line with a sharpie. 
Another method is to draw the shape on the plywood and cut it out, then take the cut piece and use it as a guide to mark the other side. That makes me a little nervous though. What if it wasn't a perfect cut? The pattern option seemed less risky. 

Jason took my paper pattern and marked the corners, flipping it over to trace the reverse shape on the opposite corner. 
Cut, cut, and done. He makes it look so easy.
Jason carried the board (it was super heavy!) onto our back patio and hoisted it up on our outdoor table for me to work on the next step.

Step 3. The Tacky Part
You know I'm guaranteed to get a little tacky at some point along the way. :)

I bought 2 yards of a 2" foam alternative called NU-Foam. It is fibrous like an air conditioner filter and rough sort of like a scrubby sponge. This stuff was $8 bucks cheaper than regular high density foam, and worked just fine for my needs.
I trimmed off the corners of the foam and adhered it to the board using a nice even coat of Aleene's All Purpose Tacky Spray.
I was reminded that using tacky spray is a time sensitive operation. I made sure I worked quickly since the adhesive starts to dry as soon as it is sprayed on.
Another money saver- I decided not to buy enough foam to cover the whole board. I would have had to buy  another whole yard to fill in the last 1 1/2 feet, which will be hidden behind the bed. Instead I used a thrift store comforter I'd picked up to finish it off.

Rather Dis-Comforting
Originally I had an idea that I could save money by padding the whole headboard using a comforter instead of foam. I felt so lucky when I found this white duvet insert at Good Will for $5!
I tossed it in the wash to remove the "thrift store" smell...

But in what can only be seen as a providential act, it somehow managed to get itself half eaten by the washer, then half melted, yes MELTED by my dryer.
seriously, what the hey?

As I said, it turned out to be providential, because, after I cut it and stuck it to the plywood with the tacky spray, I could see why it's totally worth it to spend the money on real foam.

The comforter (I even used the non-mangled part!) was Mr. Lumpy Lumperson. It didn't help that the stuffing had bunched up during the mangling washing process.
I'm so glad I didn't use this on my whole headboard!! It would have been ruined. It was a nice idea, but the foam is much more uniform, professional looking, and holds its shape way better than my substitute. This comforter business was just sad.

Step 4. Batting Above Average
After the foam, the next layer is batting. I bought 2 1/2 yards of 40 oz. batting, the cheapest stuff they had.

Most of the tutorials I read included this added layer of cushion. I suppose it acts to smooth things out and make a nicer surface for the fabric to lay on top of. I wasn't convinced I really needed it though.

After some debating, I went ahead and bought it, mainly because I was too scared to find out what would happen if I didn't use it!

I smoothed the batting over the foam, making sure it was even on all sides of the board, then stapling it to the back of the plywood. Instead of working clockwise around the board, I stapled it in from opposite sides to get an even tension. Left then right, top then bottom, stretching as I went. On the corners I folded it over and wrapped it like a present.
The batting was not quite long enough to wrap under the bottom of the board. But that's ok, I knew the bottom half of my headboard would be completely hidden by the bed anyway.

Step 5. Fabric
Joann Fabric has a great Red Tag section for fabric, I highly recommend it! I picked up 2 1/2 yards of this dusky blue "rough silk" textured material at 50% off the discounted price. Woo hoo for a sale!

After ironing to get the creases out, I did the same thing as with the batting. I laid the fabric out on the plywood and adjusted it til it was even on all sides. I alternated sides during the stapling too, left then right, top then bottom. 

Most tutorials show laying the fabric down wrong side up, then positioning the board on top of it, and wrapping it up that way. I liked working with things "facing up" instead. I could see how the material was behaving and how much it needed to be stretch it as I stapled.
It was a little tricky to get the edges just right. Too much stretch made the foam round down and I had to remove and redo a few staples til it looked right. My bad for no photo of how the headboard looked after this phase, let it add to the suspense!

Jason lugged the whole thing upstairs while I spotted him. We managed to get it up there, with him playing Ross and me playing Rachel, like that scene from Friends... "Pivot!!!" :)

Step 6. Marking for the Nailhead Trim
I marked 3" down from the edge with a pencil all the way around the headboard, where I wanted my border of nailheads to go.
To figure out how far to space them spacing I pushed a few into the fabric without hammering them in. After a little playing, I liked the look of a 1 cm. gap, and marked dots all the way around the board at the 3" line I'd already made.

**Stop at this point, and go get a Starbucks, foot massage, or whatever makes you feel relaxed. 
This next part requires saintlike patience!**

**I warned you.**

Step 7. Nailed It!
Omg, I was warned. From what I'd read about adding a nailhead trim made me scared I might want to claw my eyes out rather than finish this step. It was tough, but not impossible. I got better as I went, and by the end I had my system down. 

I bought 300 "French Natural" nailheads from the Victorian Upholstery Company on Ebay. 7/16" diameter and 1/2" shank. I swooped on this bargain and got a good deal on shipping.
Not sure how many nailheads to buy? I wasn't sure either, but bought twice as many as I thought I'd need. That might sound like overkill, but after I ruined almost half of them, I'm glad I bought so many!

**Are you drinking your Starbucks yet? Go get some before proceeding. Or ice cream, ice cream will do too. **

**You've been warned.**

A rubber mallet is needed to torture hammer the nailheads into the plywood. They are really inexpensive, around $5. 

The first nail was the hardest. Jason had to push down the foam so the nail would set in the plywood. 

Positioning the nail firmly into the foam, pointed straight down, and giving it one firm tap straight down with the hammer gave us the best results.

It got easier as more nails went in. Make that, as every THIRD nail that actually went straight in, into the plywood and stayed there.

Sometimes we wouldn't hit it hard enough and the nail would bend. Or we would hammer at a slight angle and the nail would bend. A few times it looked like the nail was actually in good, only to shoot out at us a few seconds later!!

See what I'm saying about that foot massage?

Our one mercy was if a nail went bad, (more like when it went bad) we could work it free with pliers and try again. The fabric was pretty forgiving and didn't "scar" much from the holes.

And so my suspicion was confirmed with resounding clarity,
And that's where these pictures stop. Why? Because I got fed up. And Jason got fed up. We were both completely mad and completely fed up with nailheads and this stupid headboard. Out of spite, I ignored the project for a day.

The next day, wisely sipping a mocha choco late and determined for a fresh start, I pivoted that headboard into our bedroom and laid it down on the floor to sign up for more torture try again.

As soon as I had the board flat on the floor and started nailing straight down, I was getting almost a 1 to 1 success rate with the nailheads. 
Lesson learned!

If I ever do this again- I'll remember, the board must be flat on the ground in order for the nailheads to cooperate!

Step 8. Hanging Up
For safety reasons, I entrusted the hanging part to Jason, a real life engineer. He picked out two 100 lb. rated OOK brackets from Home Depot, $9.97 each. 

These are nice because there is no way the headboard can slip off the wall and crush us in the middle of the night. There are more options out there, but whatever you chose just make sure it is rated to fully support the weight of your headboard. 

Jason screwed in the brackets to the back of the headboard and into the wall while I made dinner. Way to tag team it, Babe.

Getting Results
And so we ended our epic ordeal with this diy headboard! After all that misery, I have to say I think it's one of the most beautiful things I've diy'ed IMHO, it's exactly what I was hoping for, and completes the look of our bed so well!

I was so happy I even grabbed some decor from around the house to play Decor Stager with the nightstands. :)

We made the headboard slightly larger than the bed to give it a grander look, and trick the eye into thinking the bed is bigger than it really is.  

How Much Did It Cost?
Here's the breakdown of the costs for this project.

Free = Plywood
$24.59 = 2" Foam (50% off coupon)
$7.49 = Batting (40% off coupon)
$10 = Fabric (clearance plus 50% off sale)
$2.79 = Rubber Mallet (50% off coupon)
$15.69 = Nailheads, 300 ct.
$19.94 = 2 OOK Wall Brackets
Total: $80.50

Now if I'd bought my plywood instead of bumming it off a friend, and gotten everything else at regular price, this is what it would have cost me.

$40 = Plywood
$49.18 = Foam
$12.48 = Batting
$30 = Fabric
$5.59 = Rubber Mallet
$15.69 = Nailheads
$19.94 = Wall Brackets
Total: $172.88
That's a $92 difference!
I timed my purchases during a big coupon weekend at Joann Fabric. If you have a Joann Fabric near you, make sure you are on their mailing list. And did you know if you have a smart phone you can download the Joann app and get even more coupons on your phone?

Hope you have a great weekend,
<3 Alyssa
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