How To Choose A Headboard

In the past, headboards were necessary in homes that were poorly insulated or not insulated at all. They were made of wood and built to create space between the wall and the bed so that the cold air would sank to the floor rather than onto the sleeper.

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Today, our bedrooms are comfortably heated, even toasty, but, along the way, the headboard became an ordinary part of the bedroom suite. It adds greatly to the overall décor and keeps our pillows propped up when we read or watch television in bed.

A headboard is an important element in the well-appointed bedroom and could influence other design decisions, so choose carefully. We have here a "primer" on headboards to help you make an informed decision.

What Are the Different Types of Headboards?

Panel

This is your basic headboard. It is flat and rectangular and so-named because it features panels of wood. But not all of the time these days. Panel headboards now come in every style, from minimalist to ornate, and every material. No matter what your décor, you will find a suitable panel headboard. It's one of the easiest ways to upgrade and update your plain bedroom and give a bit of a boutique-hotel vibe.

Rectangular Upholstered Panel Headboard
Diamond Tufting Upholstered Panel Headboard
Manufactured Wood Panel Headboard
Upholstered Panel Headboard with Diamond Tufts
Linen Upholstered Solid Wood Panel Headboard

Wingback

The wingback headboard gives a fresh, feminine look to any bedroom décor. You can easily update a bedroom without doing major renovations. The headboard has two panels (wings) that jut out on either side of the bed's headspace. Most wingbacks are upholstered, and tufted upholstery has become a hallmark of this style of headboard.

Diamond Tuft Upholstered Wingback Headboard
Simple Rectangular Upholstered Wingback Headboard
Upholstered Wingback Headboard with Decorations
Rectangular Upholstered Wingback Headboard
Slim Wingback Headboard with Silver Nail Head Trim
Elegant Upholstered Wingback Headboard

Slat (Mission Style)

Also called Mission Style, the slat headboard has vertical or horizontal slats made of wood, metal or natural fibers. A simple outer frame may be curved or have flat sides. There are countless versions, including French country, rustic, traditional, contemporary, Shaker and coastal.

Reclaimed Red Oak Rustic Slat Headboard
Simple Black Metal Slat Headboard
Decorative Black Metal Slat Headboard
Simple White Metal Slack Headboard
Clean Simple Pine Wooden Slat Headboard
Minimal Contemporary Metal Slat Headboard

Open-Frame

An open-frame headboard brings a casual elegance to the bedroom. It has a simple outer frame, same as the slat headboard, but the inner bars or slats are elaborately intricate. Usually the open-frame is made of metal, but when fashioned from natural fibers, it has a definite coastal vibe. When made of wood with a design of geometric shapes, it works well in contemporary décor. It also makes a fun transition headboard when toddler Johnny grows into his "big boy" bed.

If your bed is in front of a recessed window, the open-frame will not obstruct the outdoor view.

Wicker Open Frame Headboard
Ornate Metal Open Frame Headboard with Solid Wood Elements
Ornate Open Frame Metal Headboard
Simple And Elegant Open Frame Headboard
Classic Open Frame Headboard
Elegant Open Frame Headboard

Sleigh

The sleigh headboard is definitely elegant, with a gentle backward slope such as a horse-drawn sleigh has. May be simple or elaborate. Simple for a farmhouse décor; elaborate for traditional European, such as French Provincial. Upholstered sleigh headboards provide extra comfort when you read in bed. Faux leather sleighs are ideal for modern decors. Carvings at the top of the sleigh, particularly open carvings with metal accents, "punch up" a rustic décor.

White Simple Minimalist Sleigh Headboard
Upholstered Simple Sleigh Headboard
Simple Wooden Sleigh Headboard
Wood and Upholstery Sleigh Headboard
Ornate Wooden Sleigh Headboard
Simple Upholstered Sleigh Headboard
Manufactured Wood Bookcase Headboard
Simple Design Wooden Bookcase Headboard
Country Style Wooden Bookcase Headboard
Modern Solid Wood Bookcase Headboard
Kids Bed Wooden Bookcase Headboard
Simple Manufactured Wood Bookcase Headboard

What Size Headboard Should I Buy?

The size of your room must be factored into the size of the headboard. If you have a large room, especially one with a high ceiling, you can go as large as you wish. If you have a small room, a large headboard would overwhelm the room.

Width

  • Make sure you have the exact measurements of your bed when you shop. If it is too narrow by only a few inches (centimeters), it will be noticeably "off." Think of back in the day when a boy wore slacks just a few inches too short. Yes, your headboard will look that "dorky." If it is a few inches too wide, it will not be a problem. The standard width is 0 - 3 inches (0 to 7.6 centimeters) wider than the bed frame.
  • There are situations where the headboard is ultra chic when extra wide: if it extends beyond your bedside tables, if it is twice as wide as a standard one; if the headboard spans the whole wall. Lucky you if you can manage that last one. It can be absolutely stunning. But tread carefully.

Height

  • Standard height ranges from 14 inches (35.5 centimeters) above the top of the mattress to 48 inches (122 centimeters) or more.
  • The wider the bed, the taller the headboard, but the headboard is never taller than the bed is long.
  • If you're tall, a taller headboard with be more comfortable when you read or watch TV.
  • Taller headboards add drama to the bedroom.

DIY Headboards

You do not need to be a carpenter to make your own headboard. In fact, you can do it even if you have never made anything before. Not only is it immensely satisfying, but you will also have a headboard like no other - one that reflects your style and personality. It is also a budget-friendly way to go.

  • Use reclaimed materials, such as old wooden doors, paneled room dividers, dismantled fences,  or antique fireplace mantels.
  • Wrap a piece of plywood with polyester batting then cover in any fabric you like, such as a wildlife scene, tropical flowers or Cubist art.  
  • Get a piece of wallpaper with a design you love and the size of the headboard you want. Paste it to the wall behind your bed, then frame it with decorative crown molding.
  • Put up a large piece of art or large wall accents.