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Upholstered Headboard With Nailhead Trim

Last year I committed on this little blog to attacking a certain project….remember this?
A year later I can finally call this baby done.

There are lots of tutorials out there for upholstered headboards so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here, but after a bit of trial and error, I thought I’d share with  you a few thoughts on the process of attaching nailhead trim to an upholstered headboard.

Eight years ago, way before I had ever heard of blogs, Mark and I made this headboard for our last house. We simply got a piece plywood from Lowes and trimmed it to the width of our king sized bed, then wrapped it with batting and a neutral coverlet I had found on clearance. A simple rectangular headboard.

This is what the back of the headboard looked like.
If you’re looking for an easy upholstered headboard, I highly recommend this method. It’s simple to do, just pay attention to squaring off your corners. You end up using more fabric than a headboard with legs, but the sheet of plywood is the perfect size for a sheet or coverlet. We just propped the headboard behind our bed frame and mattresses, but you could also mount it to the wall with d-rings or a Hangman bracket….for us it was tall enough to sit up in bed comfortably against it.
We were happy with our upholstered headboard for years, but over time, with three munchkins climbing in and out of our bed on a regular basis, the headboard got a little grungy. The only way to really clean an upholstered headboard is to vacuum and spot clean it, or take off the fabric, give it a wash and reattach.
I figured if I was going to take off the coverlet to wash it, I might as well change things up. And then this project had to go and get all ornery on me. The culprit? Nailhead trim.

It ended up taking me three attempts for the end result to look professional. What I learned:
If you are driving nails through lots of layers of fabric and batting, it is very difficult to make the nails all go in at the same angle, producing a wavy application. So – if you are attaching nailhead trim, minimize the layers it is going into.

I tried both loose nailheads attached individually, as well as a nailhead trim kit like this (in which you attach every fifth nail):

…and in both applications my end result was a wavy line, despite many attempts to straighten them out.

I LOVE the look of the nailhead on the front of headboard, but the waviness made it look DIY-gone-so-very-wrong. I could not get those strips to be perfectly straight, and it drove me crazy. I also don’t understand why the nails that come with the kit are not a perfect color match to the strip. They were so obvious.
What I learned about combating wavy nailhead trim if you want nailhead on the FRONT of your headboard: the trick is to end your batting about an inch before the top and sides of the board. Staple it onto the front before covering the board with fabric, leaving a 1-2″ border of exposed wood. When you attach the nails, they are only going through a layer of fabric into the wood and you have more control over the angle they go in at.
A lot of tutorials recommend using pliers to hold the nailhead while you hammer it in with a rubber mallet. Working alone, I found that method to be very cumbersome, but what worked for me was to put the tip of a flathead screwdriver under one side of the nail as you drive it in. For some reason this helped me to nail them in evenly. Also, be sure to measure and mark where your nails should go and not eyeball it, because trust me, you will regret it later.
For my final attempt, I changed up my design a bit. I loved the idea of Kristin at The Hunted Interior to fold a piece of the fabric and wrap it around the outer edge of the headboard for a finished look. It reminded me of the professional finished edge of the Pottery Barn headboards:
SO – I folded long strips of fabric, ironed a crease, and then glued the strip to the top and edges of the headboard with FabricTac glue. I then attached loose nailheads to the top and sides instead of the front.
And finally – I am happy with the result!
What I love about the placement of the nails? Even though some of them are not perfectly lined up, I’m not looking at them straight on and any waviness is obscured.
The nailheads are subtle, but definitely add a little visual interest to the headboard.

The strips of fabric underneath the nails give the headboard a nice finished touch. To make the corners square and attach the seams, I folded the top strip’s raw edge under and glued it with FabricTac to the side piece. I used a lot of glue and those corners are hard as a rock but you can’t tell at all.

I also decided to mount the headboard this time, using a Hangman bracket, to give it a bit more presence on the wall.

It’s a comfy backdrop for reading in bed and except for getting the nailhead trim right, it was easy (and inexpensive) to execute!

I used the leftover fabric for that fixed bedskirt you see above and I’ll share that with you next week. Tomorrow I have another fabulous kitchen renovation for you and hope you’ll stop by!

Have a wonderful day friends,

Blue Cheese Stuffed Peppadews
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Tuesday 21st of May 2013

I like the neutral color and the natural fabric for this headboards (it's similar to hemp which I love) and gives such a bohemian look.

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Monday 15th of April 2013

Girl, you were the original DIY headboard queen! Too bad you didn't know what you know now, and you coulda had one leg up on everyone else and started your blog 8 (was it 8?) years ago and been the FIRST to post about a fabulous headboard!



Friday 12th of April 2013

Very beautiful and elegant!


Friday 12th of April 2013

Wow Lisa, it looks great. I love your solution of putting the nailhead on the top. I don't think it looks wavy at all on the side in your picture. I like that you mounted the headboard. You're right, it does give it more presence:)

Cathy Wall

Friday 12th of April 2013

Love how you fixed this Lisa, a beautiful, professional detail!!!!