Iron Headboard Makeover

Rescue an old iron headboard with this clever upholstered cover-up. Our quick steps will give your bedroom a totally new look for not a lot of money.


Give an iron headboard a soft and dramatic new look. This upholstered plywood board clamps around rails on the iron headboard and can be easily removed when it's time for a change.

What You'll Need

  • Kraft paper or newspaper and tape
  • Plywood (We used 1/2-inch-thick plywood.)
  • Jigsaw
  • Batting
  • Staple gun
  • Fabric (We used natural linen.)
  • Fabric glue (optional)
  • Two-hole steel straps designed for supporting conduit and pipe (available at hardware stores and home centers), sized to fit snugly around rails of iron headboard (We used nine straps.)
  • Drill (optional)
  • Screws (We used 1/2-inch sheet-metal screws. Standard plywood thicknesses can vary slightly, so test to make sure screws do not protrude through the wood.)


1. Use kraft paper or taped-together newspapers to make a paper pattern of the iron headboard, excluding side posts. (The pattern should fall below the top of the mattress, but to save materials it does not have to reach the bottom of the iron headboard.) Note: To simplify, make a rectangular-shape headboard, covering the arched top of the iron headboard.

2. Trace the paper pattern onto plywood; cut out with a jigsaw. Test the fit of the plywood piece on the front of the iron headboard. Also determine places to attach two-hole straps, which go over the iron rails and screw into the plywood piece from the back of the iron headboard.

3. Cover the plywood piece with at least two layers of batting, wrapping around all sides and stapling to back. Place fabric facedown on the work surface. Place the batting-covered plywood piece facedown on fabric. Smooth fabric wrinkles, then cut fabric about 4 inches larger than the plywood piece (make sure you have enough fabric to wrap around the back of the headboard, taking into account the thickness of the batting).

4. Begin stapling fabric onto the back of the plywood piece. (If using a patterned fabric, make sure it is centered and straight.) Start with a 12-inch section at the top center, followed by a section at the bottom center, smoothing wrinkles and pulling fabric taut. Continue working in sections, alternating top to bottom and stopping about 4 inches from corners. Staple the sides to the back, then complete corners, folding fabric squarely. For rounded corners, fold over and staple the center, then fold and staple the rest of corner, trimming fabric as needed. If desired, finish the back of the plywood piece by covering it with fabric; fold edges under slightly and attach with fabric glue or staples.

5. To mount the upholstered plywood piece, have a helper hold it in place on the front of the iron headboard. Working from the back, place two-hole steel straps over selected rails. Depending on thickness of plywood used, drill pilot holes. Screw straps into the plywood piece, securing it to the iron headboard.

iron headboard plain

Upholstered with batting and $5-a-yard linen attached to a plywood piece, the wispy iron headboard gains stature and style.

Split Personality

Optional ribbon detailing: For a striped effect, detail the headboard with different colors and widths of grosgrain ribbon. Plan the design and spacing, then attach ribbons with fabric glue, extending them to the back.

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