Upholstered Headboards and Beds

Upholstered headboards and beds have been popular design elements in bedrooms for well over a century. They are both cozy and glamorous and certainly know how to make a statement! When I was designing my own Nook Cottage bedroom (above) I fell in love with Aerin Lauder for Lee Jofa Watersedge cut velvet fabric. In. Love.

I’d always wanted an upholstered headboard and knew this was the perfect fabric for both the headboard and arm chair that I had from my parents house that needed reupholstery.

Linda Merrill nook cottage green bedroom lee jofa earin lauder watersedge accent chair
Design: Linda Merrill | Photography: Michael J. Lee | Location: South Shore of Massachusetts – featuring the late, great RoyRoy the dachshund!

The fabric was a stretch for my budget but the nice thing about a simple headboard is that it doesn’t take a lot of fabric to make a wow statement. I had it custom made by my upholsterer and it attaches to a basic metal frame, covered by a bedskirt.

Often, people worry about upholstered headboards and beds getting dirty. I do think we need to take into consideration how we live in our bedrooms. For instance, do we sit up in bed and eat? Do we have a lot of hair products that might rub off? For me, I don’t generally sit up in bed, I never eat or watch tv in the bedroom. So, my head rarely touches the fabric. Velvet has a nap so I do periodically smooth it all in one direction, but otherwise, it’s a pretty indestructible material.

As I am working on my Dream Home bedroom I am including an upholstered bed, probably in a deep claret velvet fabric, I thought I’d share my thoughts and suggestions when planning on using an upholstered headboard or bed.

Linda Merrill Dream Home Owners bedroom upholstered headboards and beds


First let’s enjoy some fun move and television examples of upholstered headboards and beds.

From everyone’s favorite Downton Abbey – a gorgeous upholstered head board with button tufting in a silk damask.

Downton Abbey Cora upholstered headboard
Cora, Countess of Grantham, Downton Abbey

Several years ago I worked part-time for a local furniture upholstery company who was hired to make this silk damask upholstered headboard for the 2008 movie The Women starring Meg Ryan. It’s very similar to the Downton Abbey version – and it came first! It was not a very good film, but the set decor was! As I recall, this wasn’t a full standard size due to constraints of the set – I think it was larger than a twin, but not quite a full-size bed.

Linda Merrill Upholstered Headboards and Beds Damask custom made The Women movie set


I do think you need to be careful with a silk fabric on a headboard – it would require special cleaning to keep it looking luxe! However, one very nice aspect of an upholstered headboard is that it’s not difficult to have reupholstered once cleaning is no longer doing the job.

Of course, there’s the famous upholstered bed in Erica Barry’s (Diane Keaton) bedroom in Something’s Gotta Give. A simple linen upholstered curved headboard with nailhead trim. Similar, if not the Colette bed from Crate and Barrel.


A simple linen headboard in a neutral color always makes a nice backdrop to pretty pillows and bedding. These are two of the upholstered headboards  from my Truro beach house project.

Modern Beach House bedroom in Truro, Massachusetts gray silk bedding, side table and purple hydrangea
Photo by Linda Merrill

Truro beach house bedding Linda Merrill design classic coastal colors

From The Holiday LA home set – this winged upholstered headboard and bed gained a lot of attention.

The Holiday LA House bedroom upholstered headboard Cameron Diaz Kate Winslet

It’s “shelter” wing style provided Kate Winslet’s character with refuge from the storm that was her life.

Image courtesy Hooked On Houses

This bed below from the movie Home Again made quite a splash – people all over the internet were dying to find out where the fabric came from. It was actually two vintage kilim rugs sewn together. A cotton flat weave rug is a great choice for a sturdy headboard material.

Have I made you into an upholstered headboards and beds convert? I thought I’d share some thoughts about patterns and headboard shapes and things to consider. Now obviously, a solid fabric with no real print is going to work on any shape or size headboard – with a solid or plain fabric, the shape and scale of the headboard design will be the star attraction. But what if you’re looking to add some pattern to the mix? Not all patterns work well on all headboard shapes.

Going back to my own headboard, as I said, I fell in love with this fabric. It is the star of the show. I personally don’t think it would work on a headboard with a curved shape to it – it cuts off the pattern in weird ways and the two sort of fight with each other. A simple square headboard shape shows the fabric off to its best advantage. This would be true of any strong linear geometric pattern unless it’s fairly small.

 Linda Merrill upholstered headboards and beds chevron

I think this fabric below is a good example of a smaller pattern that would work better on different shaped headboards. It also shows how you could split up the pattern to create a different design. Decorator fabric is usually around 54 inches wide. A queen headboard is usually at least 60 inches wide so the fabric has to be pieced together. As was done with my own headboard, the seams were matched so perfectly that it’s hard to see where they are closeup. A less patterned and textural fabric (such as a linen) will show the seams which becomes part of the design. If the headboard is low enough (under 40 inches) you can also railroad the fabric (run sideways off the bolt) and not require seams. The fabric below could be seamed so it would be undetectable, but as a design element, you could also disrupt the pattern to create something new and truly custom, as it looks in my renderings below.

Linda Merrill upholstered headboards and beds overall geometric

Similar to the headboards in the Downton Abbey and The Women examples above, below are two uses of a damask pattern. The first is a medium sized damask. The pattern in The Women headboard above is quite small and regular which as laid out looks a little dated I think. But using larger versions of the pattern can offer creative opportunities. The first is a medium pattern (more like the Downton version). This is a fabric that works well on both shaped and straight headboard styles as the pattern is curvy in its detail but geometric in its overall presentation. Pattern placement is absolutely a key decision and the size and shape of the headboard needs to work correctly with the scale of the pattern.

Linda Merrill upholstered headboards and beds medium damask

One thing I always love is when a traditional pattern is blown up to a huge scale but used on a traditional form. As you can see below, the large damask would be quite the statement on the shaped headboard – really focusing in on the details. But on the straighter headboard, it almost becomes an abstract pattern which feels very modern.

 Linda Merrill upholstered headboards and beds large damask

This fabric below – Scalamandre’s Baroque Floral Canvas – has a strong centered motif. On the shaped headboard, it plays up the curvilinear nature of the pattern. But on the straight headboard, it can take on a more abstract and modern feel.

Linda Merrill upholstered headboards and beds floral

Ikat patterns are always popular and work both on curved shaped headboards as well as straight – though I prefer it on the curved headboard. Again, pattern placement is highly important. The scale of the pattern needs to work with the shape and scale of the headboard.

Linda Merrill upholstered headboards and beds ikat

Let me know in the comments your experiences with upholstered headboards and beds. I’d love to hear!

Pin for future reference:

Linda Merrill upholstered headboards and beds pin

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8 thoughts on “Upholstered Headboards and Beds”

  1. What a great post Linda, I loved seeing all of your examples, and can see why you fell in love with the fabric you choose! Very well done, you’ve inspired me for sure!

  2. What an excellent explanation of upholstered headboards and the options to consider! Pattern and shape and application are so key to a successful outcome! Love your green cut velvet fabric – I can see why you fell in love with that!


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