How We Do It:
the Ins and Outs of Upholstered Headboards

I’m on record as saying that my favorite place is my bed. 8 hours of my day (1/3 of my life) is spent in my bed. I’m also a firm believer that we should all invest the energy and resources in making sure that our beds check the comfort box on all levels. As a designer, I’ve witnessed that the details of comfort are individualistic, i.e. hard vs. soft mattresses, cotton vs. linen sheets, goose down vs. down-alternative pillows & duvets, and so on. But all parties concur that when propped up in bed they prefer to lean back against a soft, padded surface. I have a long list of bed favorites that have backboards in wood, iron, or rattan but for me and the other comfort junkies in my orb, I recommend an upholstered bed.

The design options for upholstered beds are vast. Most of our designs are customized to the project needs. For example, if we have tall ceilings, we will capitalize on the height by creating a floor-to-ceiling installation such as the bedroom below.

In some cases the fabric will dictate the headboard design as in the headboard featured below. The bed shape follows the lines of the embroidered fabric.

A pop of color in an otherwise quiet room, the sunny yellow velvet of this headboard is just the right color contrast to the cool gray of the wall color. We often use indoor/outdoor velvets or other high performance fabrics for headboards.

In our ‘Map Room’ at our beach cottage, I had twin headboards fabricated in a woven raffia fabric. Metal nailheads outline the edges and the whimsical cutouts in the centers.

We elongated the height of this red and khaki ticking headboard to accommodate the backplate of the reading light. Have you ever tried to reach up for a bedside reading light and it’s too high or too far away? Problem solved!

Headboard height…. to go high or low?

It’s not unusual for us to propose headboards that are 6 or 7′ tall. We like the drama of a taller height as shown with the mattress ticking headboard below. The extra height is useful in keeping the bed as a focal point. Another height advantage is that once a bed is styled with sleeping pillows and decorative pillows, many off-the-shelf lower headboards are all but invisible. And back to that comfort quest, if you are over 6′ tall there’s not much to lean back on without a generously scaled headboard height.

And then there are projects when the bed has a quieter profile like this simple rectangular headboard. Generously padded and dressed in a washed linen slipcover, it is anchored with ties on each side. A lower headboard opens up the opportunity for something decorative above like a beautiful painting.

Standing tall at just under 7′, this arc-shaped bed mimics the circular motif of the fabric. An exaggerated height gives ample room for pillows while still revealing a broad expanse of the bold, style-driven fabric.

Lower ceilings and the option for creating a future gallery wall above this beach house headboard called for a simple shape and a lower overall profile.

Graphic Patterns

A boldly patterned fabric on the headboard can be the driver of design schematics in a bedroom. The shape of the arched headboard below is one of our most popular designs and orange and pink were a favorite of the college-aged daughter who was our design muse.

A twin bedroom in the guest cottage of our beach house serves as a small gallery for children’s artwork while the headboard sports an inexpensive Ikea upholstery fabric, reminiscent of a Marimekko design from the 1970’s.

Outlining the shape of this pair of twin headboards with a darker teal blue helps to define the details of their shape. The cornices above, draped and upholstered in the same fabric create a cocoon feeling.

Quiet neutrals are often a request from clients when designing their bedrooms. While we stayed with a soothing palette of creams and grays, we amped up the visual impact of the headboard by running the bold stripes horizontally.

Pink Three Ways

No surprise to many, I love pink. When I find a kindred spirit who is open to pink in their bedroom, it’s cause for a celebration. My favorite upholstery for pink headboards is a linen velvet. The fabric content places it in a high performance category while the nap of the velvet causes it to have subtle changes in hue as you view it from differing angles. The color gray is a natural compliment to pink as shown in all three rooms below.

A boho mix of furnishings in my own bedroom….

Our client was all-in for glamming up her bedroom with antiques, silver-leafed bedside chests, and an Art Deco-inspired headboard shape (one of my favorite designs).

While we are all sheltering in place, I hope your own bedrooms are providing a safe and comforting haven.

Be safe,