Headboards 101

The right headboard can add the perfect touch to a bedroom’s look. In fact, most bedrooms would seem incomplete without one. Headboards can be attractive and practical at the same time. They give you something to lean against when sitting up in bed reading, and they stop the pillows from falling behind the bed! But they are also a perfect opportunity to express your style. With just this one item of furniture, along with a little research and planning, a headboard can make a huge difference to the overall look of your bedroom.

There are so many different shapes, sizes and styles of headboard available that choosing one can be a daunting task. Which is why we’ve put together a few practical tips to get you started. Remember, these are just guidelines. You’ll need to consider your own personal style, your bed size, the dimensions of your bedroom and the rest of the bedroom furniture.


Which Width?


The standard headboard width is from zero to three inches wider than the bed frame. Extra wide headboards can be twice the width of the bed. Some people prefer a full wall headboard for dramatic effect. It’s up to you. The decorators’ touch is to make the headboard as wide as the bed plus the bedside tables. This creates a nice frame and pulls everything together.


For the best results, measure your bedroom before you go shopping. If you like, test the size by cutting a cardboard template and taping it to the wall. Alternatively, you can mark off the shape on the wall with masking tape.


Try to keep the size of the headboard proportionate to the room. For example, if your bedroom is spacious with high ceilings, a massive heavy wooden headboard would probably look amazing. A smaller, cosier bedroom might be best with a smaller headboard which should be fixed to the wall to create a more streamlined effect.


Which Height?


Standard headboard height ranges from between fourteen and twenty-nine inches above the top of the mattress. It can be taller but generally shouldn’t be taller than the length of the bed. Your own height is a consideration here too. Tall people will need a higher headboard, while children are better served by shorter boards.


Which Material?


Headboards come in many different materials, from upholstered fabric with smooth or buttoned finishes, to leather, wood or even metal. If the bed fits in front of a window, think of getting an open wrought iron headboard to let some light through and keep the room light. Bamboo and wicker headboards are becoming more popular nowadays too.


To help you decide on a material, consider the rest of the furnishings in the bedroom. If you already have a lot of upholstery, such as bedroom chairs, then perhaps a wooden headboard would provide contrast and interest. However, if you have a lot of wooden furniture, then you might want to soften the look with an upholstered headboard.


It’s good to be aware of how hassle-free your finish of choice would be to maintain. For example, wooden headboards need regular oiling or polishing to maintain their finish and prevent cracking. Leather, in the same way, needs regular “feeding” to keep it supple. Fabric can become grubby over time, so make sure it’s sprayed with a fabric protector and that it gets steam cleaned every now and again. And depending on the finish, a metal headboard may need polishing every now and again.


Which Style?


A headboard can be quite a significant expense so make sure that you pick one you will be happy to live with for several years to come. Also check that the shape fits in with the lines of the rest of the room.


Decide whether you want your headboard to blend in or make a statement. Do you want it to be the focal point of the room, or would you prefer to avoid drawing the focus of attention from another feature of the room, such as a picture window? If it is to blend in, then go for something a little smaller as big headboards, (over one and a half meters high) make quite a bold statement. For a focal point, pick a shade that’s darker than the colour of your walls. Alternatively, if you want your headboard to blend in, pick one that’s the same shade as your walls.


If you like a lot of embellishments or detailing, then go for a fabric headboard. These lend themselves well to decorative buttons, braids and upholstery nails.


Special Features


You may fancy something that comes with special extras. Wooden headboards often have shelves or reading lamps attached. Some come all-in-one with bedside tables attached. Be sure to secure these firmly to the wall or bedpost, otherwise when you lean back against the board your coffee on the bedside table will spill! More modern headboards come with built-in lights and docking stations for charging your devices.


The Practicalities


The headboard is, well, a board for your head, so it needs to be comfortable when you rest your head against it. This is especially important if you do a lot of reading or watching television in bed. Be wary of ornately carved wooden headboards that could have sharp edges.


Another detail to watch out for are fabrics that can show the dust and dirt easily. That pure white satin headboard may appear stunning for the first month, but how is it going to look after a year?


Make sure you mount the board securely to the wall or bed to prevent it moving when you lean against it. It should also remain stable when you make the bed. Measure carefully to mount it at the right height. If your budget allows for it, buy a good quality headboard as it’s not an item you’re going to change very often.


A beautiful headboard can be the focal point of the whole bedroom. At the end of the day, if you love it and it works for you, you can ignore what the experts tell you! Now you just have to fit it through the front door!

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