Tutorial: 7 easy steps to a DIY upholstered headboard with nail head trim

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

*Click here to download the simplified how-to guide*

I really enjoyed this project. I’ve been wanting to try it for years and I when I decided to redecorate my bedroom, I finally had an excuse to do it.

In the time that I’ve been wanting to try this DIY project, I’ve done a lot of research into different techniques, and ended up using what I thought were the best in my version of this project.

I’ve split this tutorial into 7 easy steps, with plenty of pics and tips included. Enjoy!

Step 1: Take Measurements

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

Before I cut or upholstered anything, I used painters tape to create an outline of the shape and size I wanted for my soon-to-be fabulous headboard.

TIP: To achieve a lush and professional look, you need to cut the width of your headboard at least 5cm wider than the wide of your bed frame. My bed was 160cm so I cut my MDF 165cm wider, keeping in mind that the batting and fabric would add even more wight to the look.

Step 2: Cut MDF

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial mdf

My MDF board (12mm) was made up of two pieces of equal size. Alone, each was too small. And together, it was too big. So out comes my handy jigsaw.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial mdf

I was actually quite nervous about using the jigsaw. I’ve never used one before and don’t have steady hands. In the end, it didn’t matter. My jigsaw only allowed me to cut very slowly, which meant it was easier to follow my cut-line.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial mdf

I then cut out the legs and the curved corners (to achieve the Belgrave shape I wanted).

You don’t need to cut out legs, but I liked this look and it was easy to do.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial mdf

Since I couldn’t get on single piece of MDF the size I wanted, I had to join 2 separate pieces together.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial mdf

To do this, I used Prydas (metal plate with teeth) to join the 2 pieces together. I used 3 Prydas on one side and 4 on the other, to make sure I achieved a strong finish. All I had to do was hammer it in.

Step 3: Build raised frame

This step will give you a gorgeous thick solid look to the headboard (24mm MDF :)). So if you want a professional look, don’t skip this step!

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

I used off cuts of MDF to create an additional layer of MDF around the edge and then drilled it into place with screws.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial mdf
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial mdf

Skipping this step will mean the difference between this…

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
{Sad and limp}

and this…

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
{Strong and mighty – 24mm thick}

Step 4: Prepare foam

I ‘borrowed’ the piece of foam (2 inches/5 cms thick) from my mum. She was planning on undertaking her own upholstered headboard project what feels like 2 years ago, so I decided to save the foam from the laundry room and give it some purpose.

I’m not sure what foam sells for in other countries, but in Australia it is quite expensive. So this was a great find.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

I drew the cut line for my corners on the foam and cut it using a bread knife. Long strokes always tilting forward.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

The foam was too long so I cut the excess and used it to widen the coverage. I ended up having just enough. Perfect.

TIP: After I positioned the foam in the right place, I drew an outline around the whole thing. Once the spray adhesive is on I would have little time to move the foam around to get the placement right, so the outline was super helpful.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

I sprayed the MDF surface and the foam with a spray adhesive. Follow the direction on the packaging for best results.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

I actually ran out of spray adhesive mid way through and I didn’t want to run out to buy more, so I just stacked a bunch of stuff on top to get maximum adhesion.

Mission accomplished.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

Once the foam was secured in place, I stapled down the edges.

TIP: Staple the perimeter of the foam to the MDF. This will prevent the unsightly appearance of the hard corner of the foam coming through the fabric. It will also make it easier to hammer in the nail head trim. You need to staple all the way around.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

Step 5: Assemble Textiles

MDF > Foam > Batting > Fabric

This step is pretty easy. I covered the whole thing with batting (I used two layers for an extra lush look and feel) and stapled it in place.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

I did the same with the fabric. You have to hold the fabric taut to get a nice smooth and professional look.

In other upholstery projects I’ve attempted, I’ve used thinner lighter fabrics, so I was always worried about pulling too hard for fear of ripping the fabric. This time I used real upholstery fabric so I could pull it taut as much as I liked without damaging the fabric.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

TIP: The corners are a little trickier. You need to ‘shred’ the corners so you can stretch them around the curve and create a smooth finish.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

I didn’t have enough fabric to cover the legs, so I used similar fabric I had lying around to finish it off. The difference it minor, but I tried to make it symmetrical so it looked intentional.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

Step 6: Double Nail Head Trim

This part really just involves drawing a straight line on the fabric with chalk and nailing your trim along that same line.

I considered using pre-made nail head trim strips to get a straight finish quickly, but I’ve never really liked this look. I prefer the vintage hand made look of individual nail heads (mixed bag of 8mm – 10mm diameter of nailhead).

The result, perfectly imperfect.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

Since I stapled down the edge of the foam, as described in step 4, it was easy to hammer in the nails. I used the edge of the foam as a guide – in addition to the chalk line I drew.

While the process is pretty simple, since I chose to use individual nails, this step took time. I finished this part in ~2 hours, but my wrist were aching by the end of it.

Simple, but bloody tedious! But oh so beautiful, so totally worth the pain.

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

Step 7: Fix to Bed

There are a number of ways to fix the headboard to the bed:

  • Actually attach the headboard to the bed frame by screwing it in place.
  • Don’t cut legs into the board and instead ‘hang up’ the headboard onto the wall using a bracket.
  • Position the headboard in between the bed frame and the wall. Just push the bed right up against the headboard to hold it in place. Beds are kind of heavy and don’t move about easily, so this is actually an OK solution.

I took the last approach – just squeeze it in between the bed and the wall a la…

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

I like to move my furniture around so I didn’t want to screw the headboard to the bed frame (which would make it harder to move around) and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of drilling a bracket into my wall.

This was the perfect lazy man’s solution.

The result…

Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial
Easy DIY upholstered headboard nail head trim tutorial

The result of one weekend worth of effort. Superb!

Project round-up

*Click here to download the simplified how-to guide*

MDF (12mm thick) – $40
Foam (2 inches thick) – Free! (thanks mum!)
Batting (1 layer) – $15 from eBay
Fabric – $40 fro Spotlight
Nail heads (8-10mm diameter of nailheads) – $15 from eBay

TOTAL – $110

I really enjoyed this project and was surprised by how simple and hassle free it was. I planned everything ahead of time, including all the materials I needed, so once it came time to bringing it to life, it was actually pretty easy.

There are so many more gorgeous fabrics and headboard shapes I would love to try. I would give this project another go in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for those damn nail heads. Once my wrists forget the memory of the pain they were put through, I’ll give it another go.

Till then, I encourage you to try this project and tell me about your attempt.

A few other upholstery projects I’ve tackled:

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Pamela

9 Comments

  1. Hey, do you still have the link/seller from whom you bought the nail heads from? I can’t find anything remotely close to that price. 🙁 Thanks!

  2. I checked my eBay records and found the original seller – gingernuts-2008. Look them up on eBay and search ‘nails’. I just checked and they still have a few listings. I bought a bag of 1000 for ~$15.

    They’re listed as 10mm in diameter, but I found the size was actually a mix of 8mm-10mm. I was ok with it as it just added to the ‘perfectly imperfect’ look.

    Good luck if you’re attempting your own nail head trim upholstery project!! Feel free to ask me any q’s and I’ll try to help. 🙂

    – Pam

  3. How thick was your foam? I bought 1 1/2 inch

  4. I used 2 inch foam, which is as thick as I would go. 1.5 inches is a great thickness – you’ll get a nice lush look. Good luck!
    Is this your first attempt?

  5. How many nails do you think you used?

  6. I roughly counted and it looks like I used ~1000. This includes a couple of mistake nail heads – the process is tedious so your hammer technique will probably get sloppy after a while and you might break some nails.
    – P

  7. Each MDF piece was 12mm thick. But i doubled this to what looks like a 24mm thick headboard by creating a raised frame around the edge of the headboard shape – see step 3 above.

    I highly recommend this for a really impressive and professional look.
    Good luck!

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