5 Headboard Alternatives You Can DIY This Weekend

Fake it till you make it.

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As much as we appreciate the transformative role a good bed frame can play in a bedroom, we know one isn’t always in the cards. The fixture is definitely an investment, which is all well and good if you’re in the position to splurge on a piece of furniture, but not everyone is—especially if you’re moving into your very first apartment. Enter: these genius headboard alternatives.

From repurposing a vintage screen to painting a punchy pattern straight on the wall, there are tons of ways to fake a headboard while you save up for the real deal. Given that you’ll literally have your hands on every aspect of the design, going this route will also result in a totally one-of-a-kind design. The best news? You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to make it look professional. These five rooms show us how it’s done.

The Flea Market Find

The hack: Courtesy of none other than boho style queen Justina Blakeney, this headboard alternative couldn’t be easier. Simply prop a vintage screen or room divider (opt for wicker or rattan for a similarly laid-back vibe) behind the bed, and you’re good to go. This low-lift look is particularly painless because it folds up for easy transport, should you want to rearrange the room or eventually move out.

The must-buy: A thrifted screen will lend inimitable character to your space—not to mention, it will likely be cheaper—but there are also tons of brand-new ones on the market that’ll get the job done just as well. For a pop of pattern, check out The Inside’s collection of bold fabric room dividers.

The Late-Night Reading Partner

Photo by Whitney Leigh Morris

The hack: Give yourself something cushy to recline on by fashioning a headboard out of a couple throw pillows. Pick your cushions of choice, sew on loops of a durable material like leather to hang the whole thing on a slim wood rod (which you can fetch from your nearest hardware store), and then attach it to the wall. For an added bespoke touch, paint the bar a fun hue.

The must-buy: Opt for colorful cushions to bring warmth and brightness to your space. If you’re working with a double bed, look for pillows in a larger size so they will span the width of your mattress.

The Pop of Pattern

Photo by Sara Tramp | Design by Emily Henderson Design

The hack: To craft this extra-long makeshift headboard, Emily Henderson glued a foam pad onto plywood, covered the whole thing in a pretty striped fabric, and trimmed it with painted molding. If all that sounds like too heavy a lift, you can actually hack Henderson’s headboard hack. Frame a piece of fabric cut to the same length as the width of your mattress and simply nail to the wall behind your bed. Granted, your version won’t stretch out as dramatically as Henderson’s (or be as plush), but you’ll save a few bucks without losing the visual impact of her idea.

The must-buy: You can purchase your textile online if you know your dimensions. Might we suggest one of the color-saturated prints from our collection with Calico?  

The Natural Touch

Photo by Sarah Sherman Samuel

The hack: Add some texture to your wall with this super-easy project, the brainchild of Sarah Sherman Samuel. It’s as easy as nailing a series of jute place mats and runners to the wall. If your bedroom is already filled with earthy neutrals, this is the headboard alternative for you.

The must-buy: You’ll need a runner that’s long enough for the base of this “headboard.” Samuel used this one, flanked by round place mats, and they work like a charm.

The Mini Mural

Photo by Meghan McNeer

The hack: Los Angeles’s new Firehouse Hotel is a Technicolor playground, and even its White Room is no exception. The space features this smart, rainbow-effect paint trick to frame the bed. If you have the patience (or an artsy friend you can recruit), outline the shape of your faux headboard before filling it in with the hues of your choice.  

The must-buy: The beauty of this hack is that all you need is paint; you can even use leftover gallons from past projects. Start with one bold color to inform the rest of your design scheme; we love this terracotta hue.

See more DIYs to try: If You’ve Got an Hour, You Can Reupholster a Chair The Case for Painting Your Door Frame…Yes, Just Your Door Frame How to DIY a Woven Wall Hanging—No Loom Required

Elly Leavitt

Writer and Editor

Elly enjoys covering anything from travel to funky design (tubular furniture, anyone?) to the latest cultural trend. Her dream apartment would exist on the Upper West Side and include a plethora of mismatched antique chairs, ceramic vessels, and floor-to-ceiling bookcases—essential to her goal of becoming a poor man’s Nora Ephron. You can probably find her in line at Trader Joe’s. You will never find her at SoulCycle.