How to get to the head of the board

Dressing up your headboard will give your bed — and your bedroom — a much-needed lift, says Kya deLongchamps.

A HEADBOARD creates instant focus in a bedroom, signalling the main event and giving some vertical thrust and anchorage to a recumbent mattress otherwise hovering in the room. If you don’t want to add a new frame or commercial board there are plenty of ways to a bit of DIY bespoke beauty.


The bare wall can act as canvas for instant economical design with an over-sized wall sticker termed a decal, staged over the bed. Use the sticker alone on a pale wall for vivid drama or paint a background first.

The more contrast there is between the stickers colour and the wall colour the more eclectic the results. Black on white or white on black is very New York penthouse.

My current favourites are the electricity poles and birds from (trust me) for €19.99, and French Wall lights, new in the 2012 Antique collection from, €27 for two.

Decals have a robust foil back and can be repositioned so don’t panic is you get something cock-eyed on the first try. Ensure the wall is dry, smooth and clean and don’t apply them to textured finishes. Group decals of flowery boughs, drifting leaves and butterfly motifs can even sway and flutter onto adjoining surfaces such as the front of bedside tables.


If you thought that stencils were purely a 1970s throwback to trim out the top of a woody kitchen, thing again. Pared back to a single dramatic design or applied to imply hand printed wallpaper or freehand work, stencilling offers great versatility. With a few key techniques, anyone can have a go. Ensure you have a good half can of your base wall colour to correct inevitable slops, bleeds through the Mylar and outright mistakes.

There’s nothing to stop you stencilling directly onto the wall, but if you fancy something more three dimensional a piece of plywood in one piece of two to three panels set horizontally or vertically can lift and segment the work. Apply a water based varnish to seal your finished stencil and resist the temptation to over theme the room with buds, bugs and curly bits loitering on every curtain and press. The Stencil Library has not only a eye watering selection of stencils from every genre and era imaginable but offers advice on everything you need to know about grids and paint types to create a stunning one of kind headboard in a panel or repeat motif. Delivery to Eire for orders £5.


Recovering a padded headboard is made easier by the fact that you have a nicely upholstered foundation to work on. If you can’t afford a new piece of material, a spare curtain in a chintz or cheque will look fresh and inviting teamed against crisp white linens.

Buttoned varieties offer more challenge and are best left to sewing heroes. If using a curtain, trim off curtain tapes and heavy hems and line up the more attractive part of the pattern on your board.

Ensure you leave yourself plenty of fabric to draw over the bottom, top and sides of the board. A staple gun is ideal for securing material, but pull taut as you work. To deal with curved corners where a simple fold won’t do, cut notches in the material on the excess to take out any puckers. You can line the back of the board to be very tidy, and apply a braid trim with brass tacks tapped in lightly with a small hammer for a vintage touch. Become a remnant digger to store pieces for this and other projects.


Here the headboard appears to be a large enthroned picture encompassing the area and framed on three sides. Use a large piece of MDF, measured to take a poster of attractive artwork at the top end and to fall behind the bed as your foundation.

Take a large poster as wide as your bed and measured to fit the MDF and paste it to the top portion of the board. Using a mitre box and saw, cut some picture moulding to ‘frame’ the poster. You can paint the frame first or gild it using a simple self priming metallic such as Plastikote Crackle Touch with base and top coat in Cream or Heritage Gold. €9.99. Apply the moulding around your poster with wood glue or a glue gun.

Attach the MDF to the bed frame to avoid a crowning with your own glory. To make a picture look old and authentic apply a crackle glaze varnish (try Polyvine products) and once dry, wipe some dark green or red oil paint into the cracks to define and dull the surface. Try for works from the organic Art Nouveau fantasies of Alphonse Mucha to the monochrome 20the century masterpieces of Anselm Adams.


Wrapping a rail headboard in clean, new rope adds textural interest. If you don’t have a headboard or existing frame, knock one together or look for a suitable bed end in any junk shop.

To calculate how much rope you need to wrap each post, divide the height of the post by the thickness of the rope and then multiple it by the circumference of the post or rail. Measure this against your rope, leaving 10%-15% extra for luck and cut.

A glue gun is ideal for this project as you should apply the odd dab here and there as you wrap. Make the final wrap finish at the back of each post and use smaller lengths to cover gaps neatly.

You can embellish corners with double wraps. Experiment without securing with glue first.

Stanley Heavy Duty Glue Gun, €24.49. Woodies DIY.


Use an old door as a headboard

Old timber doors hung on their side make lovely headboards. You can even buy a brand new plain interior panelled door if you prefer, or set layers of old paint under clear varnish to seal their history. The lighter the better as we’re hanging it up on the wall.


¦ A suitable panelled door painted or not, old or not. A salvaged one with no rot, serious warps or glazed panels is ideal.

¦ Saw (power saw preferable).

¦ Sandpaper.

¦ Sugar soap.

¦ Primer.

¦ Satinwood or Eggshell emulsion suited to interior wood and metal.

¦ Wood supports 2X2 or 4X4 to suit an L-shaped brackets to suit.


1. Remove any hardware, and wash down your salvaged door with a sugar soap solution, rinse and allow to dry.

2. If you want an exact fit to the bed width, measure your door and find its centre on any panelled design. Trim at both ends if you have the skills.

3. For a heavy door, screw square wood supports to the two door ends (the vertical sides of the bedhead), reaching the floor as legs.

4. For a more finished look add a final crown moulding to top edge of your door.

5. Fill any hardware holes with wood putty, allow to dry.

6. Sand the entire door with medium grade paper, prime and paint.

7. Add L-shaped brackets to secure your headboard to the wall.


Q: How can I make my bed more regal? I would love a four poster but cannot afford one and it would be huge in my room.

A: What about a sheer canopy? Run two rails down the long sides of the bed on the ceiling, pulling the sheers back to the wall when needed. Alternatively, hang your material from an ‘L’ shaped bracket to encompass the top of the bed. Ensure your fixtures are matched to the weight of your material and use plenty of generous drapes.

Q: When does my bed need to be replaced? It seems fine and is reasonably comfortable still, but it’s 15 years old.

A: After 15 years your back may have adjusted to a collapsing set of springs, but the population of dust mites inevitable in such an aging mattress mean it needs to go. Ensure you replace any divan with the mattress.

Q: Where can I find a reasonably priced antique brass bed? I have a period house and want to furnish it appropriately.

A: If you’re determined on buying an old bed (and new beds are often cast from old designs making them highly convincing) try an auction. Check you have the right side irons for your bed and be prepared for off standard mattress sizing and tiny singles.

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