Bedroom Basics: How to Choose the Perfect Headboard to Complement Your Bedroom Decor

A headboard is literally a board that goes at the head of a bed. One of their primary purposes is to aid in focusing attention on the bed as a design element as well as helping to visually integrate the bed with the rest of the room. If a bed were a fireplace, the headboard would be the mantelpiece. If a bed were a painting, the headboard would be the frame. A bed does not have to have a headboard, but choosing a headboard can really bring a room together as well as provide practical benefits. Headboards can be simple or fancy, decorative or practical, traditional or experimental. Buying or making a headboard can be a fairly easy way to dress up a room and express a person’s creativity and style.

There are many reasons to get a headboard, as there are many functions a headboard can perform. Part of choosing a headboard is knowing which of these functions is the highest priority. Although there is no functional difference between a practical headboard and a decorative one, it is easier to shop if the options are narrowed down to a particular style or group of designs.

Adding Visual Interest to a Room
A headboard offers a visual focal point for the room, just as the bed itself does. A headboard also helps set the mood of the room, whether that mood is traditional, modern, comfortable, or funky. A bed with a headboard also looks more formal than one without. A headboard makes it obvious that some effort has gone into the design of the room instead of various pieces of furniture haphazardly thrown together. 

To work well as a visual focus, a headboard must not only look good, it must also fit within the context of the room. An modern  headboard would clash with otherwise antique and romantic decor. Most broad design schemes include a choice of colors. The color of a headboard can either match the color scheme of the rest of the room, or it can offer a contrast. The key is for the relationship between the headboard and the rest of the room to look deliberate.

Functional Purposes
Headboards are not just decorative. Depending on the design, a headboard can also be useful. For people who like sitting up in bed, a headboard can provide a backrest behind the pillows. The wall behind the bed can also be a backrest, but a padded headboard will be more comfortable. Headboards that are attached to the bed also offer a more secure backrest than bare walls or headboards that are mounted on the wall; sometimes beds can push away from the wall, creating an annoying gap that swallows the pillows. Headboards that feature raised side posts can hold bathrobes or dressing gowns, and hooks can be added to some headboards for this purpose. Other headboards may include built in lights for reading in bed.

Types of Headboards

Headboards vary in shape, material, and construction. Knowing what styles and options are out there is an important part of choosing a good headboard.

Attached Vs. Detached Headboards
The first thing to consider when looking for a headboard is whether to get a bed with a headboard attached. Of course, the disadvantage of this arrangement is that there is no way to change the headboard without also changing the bed. Selection may be smaller, too, compared to separate headboard designs. The primary advantage is simplicity; if it is time to buy a new bed, buying one with its own headboard means not having to worry about finding and buying a separate piece. Attached headboards can sometimes be more secure. An attached headboard can also be important as a backrest if the bed cannot be placed flush against the wall, such as in a room with a low and slanting ceiling.

Detached headboards come in two types: those that stand on the floor and those that are mounted on the wall. Bear in mind that a wall-mounted headboard can be nearly as difficult to change as one attached to the bed, although these have the advantage of taking up less space.

Headboard Materials
Wooden headboards are classic and often feature decorative carving, and some are stained while others are painted. Metal headboards are also traditional, and these can be fantastically ornate, featuring curls and twists and leaves of iron or brass, either painted or left plain. Other popular options include wicker, bamboo, or upholstery. Upholstered headboards may have a wooden backing and are often framed in wood. One popular style is called both buttoned or tufted. The fabric puffs out between the buttons, giving a somewhat quilted appearance.

Shapes and Sizes of Headboards

There are several standard shapes for headboards, each with its own name. Some headboards leave standard shapes behind and explore new designs. Widths are also standardized, with some exceptions. Headboards are usually constructed to be the same width as standard size beds, so a queen-sized headboard will match the width of a queen-sized bed. The exceptions are headboards deliberately made wider than the bed in order to make a dramatic statement. In terms of height, a headboard needs to be proportionate to the bed, the occupant of the bed, and the bedroom. A very large headboard can dominate a very small room, especially if the ceiling is low or the room is dark.

In order to actually get a headboard, all design factors need to be brought together and considered. But beyond choosing what type of headboard to get, there is the question of how to buy the headboard. Headboards can be purchased from furniture stores or online, but they can also be made, either from scratch or by customizing or altering other pieces.

Making a Headboard
A headboard can be made from scratch. While traditional metal or carved wood requires specialized skills, an upholstered panel headboard is not difficult to make. Another option is to rebuild or reupholster an existing piece, such as the frame of a large mirror, as a headboard. A storebought headboard can also be customized. Plywood, particle board, fabric, covered buttons, and paint can come together to form a professional-quality headboard at a fraction of the cost.

Whether buying or making a headboard, choosing a design depends on asking and answering a few questions. How big is the bedroom? How big is the bed? What is the overall decorating scheme of the room? What mood should the room evoke? Are structural elements, such as shelving important to include? Is space at a premium? How can color and design express the person’s creativity and style while not going over the top? These questions will help you answer which headboard you should buy (or DIY!)

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