Traditionally, headboards were used to block out drafts and provide a barrier to the cold air generated by stone walls in poorly insulated buildings.
And whilst modern day heating systems thankfully render headboards obsolete for many of us in that sense – headboards still have their place in the bedroom at both the practical and stylistic levels.
For example, if you like to sit up in bed and read, then a nice padded headboard could make all the difference between a relaxing read before dozing off – or battling with neck pain as you struggle to get comfy by stacking your pillows haphazardly against the wall.
Plus, a headboard is typically going to be easier to clean than your actual wall and it can protect it from damage too.
But that’s not all.
The right headboard can turn your bed into the centrepiece of your bedroom – commanding the eye and infusing your senses – whilst the wrong choice can leave you battling with pangs of nausea every time you cast your gaze upon the garish monstrosity that clashes with your decor.
That’s why I’m going to show you how to buy a headboard that’s right for you in 5 easy steps.
(Or you can take a look at the best headboards to buy here and speed the process up significantly).
How to Buy a Headboard in 5 Steps
Are you ready to find your dream headboard and transform your bedroom – but without having to suffer the agony of structural incompatibility and stylistic clashes?
Then here’s the 5 steps that you’ll need to follow in order to find the headboard that’s going to ignite your room with elegance.
1: Take Measurements
Because if you get a headboard that’s too short then you might never see it behind your fortress of pillows…
And get one that’s too tall – or too wide – and you might end up eclipsing your window… inadvertently turning your cosy room into a poorly lit and sinister dwelling.
To get the right sized headboard, you’ll want to measure the width of your mattress and add 2-5 inches either side. So if you have a mattress that’s 38 inches wide, then you’ll typically be looking for a headboard that’s 42 to 48 inches wide.
This extra bit accounts for the space taken up by your duvet to avoid the whole thing looking weird.
However, you can also get extra wide headboards (usually wall mounted) that can be 2x the size of your mattress and can be used to include the space taken up by your nightstands.
Next you’ll want to consider the height.
How tall does the headboard need to be if you’re wanting to sit up in bed and read without your head hitting the wall?
If the headboard goes beyond a certain height, will it interfere with objects such as pictures or overhead storage units?
You’ll probably find that standard headboard heights will range from 14 – 29 inches but you can get taller ones too.
Plus, there are also adjustable headboards – that can be fitted and then adjusted to your desired height.
2: Decide On The Fitting
The surefire way to make sure that your headboard fits your bed frame is to get a frame that includes a headboard.
But if you’re looking to find a separate headboard and you’re concerned about it not fitting the frame – then you need to consider how the headboard is fitted.
In the case of a wall mounted headboard – you don’t have to worry so much because the headboard is fitted to the wall.
The picture below is an example of what a super-wide wall mounted headboard looks like:
But in the case of an independently attached headboard – you’ll need to look at the width measurements to ensure that the struts of the headboard align with the points on the bed frame that allow for a headboard to be attached to it.
Usually, there will be stickers on the bed frame indicating where a headboard can be attached.
The exact fitting measurements – or size compatibility specifications (headboards that fit a twin, queen, full, bed frame etc) – can often be found on the product listings when buying your headboard online.
In terms of actually attaching the headboard, most come with the fixtures and screws that you’ll need. If you do decide to use additional tools such as an electric screwdriver or hex wrench then whatever you do – make sure that you don’t accidently overtighten anything because this could strip the thread and cause loosening.
3: Get Practical
I’ve already mentioned the importance of considering the height and width of your headboard before purchase.
Some more practical considerations to keep in mind include:
Will the headboard obscure a window?
If so then you might need a metal headboard that will let light in and allow access to the window. Alternatively, if the window is higher up, then you might be able to get a shorter headboard that will sit entirely below it.
Are you going to be leaning against the headboard?
Then you’ll probably need an upholstered headboard to allow for some comfort (or opt for an adjustable bed to preserve your posture, decrease neck pain, and improve your sleep).
Will there be enough room for extendables?
As is the case with bunk beds and Murphy beds that have extendable elements – such as drawers and trundles – you’ll need to check that the height and width of your new headboard isn’t going to block the functionality of nearby cupboards, wardrobes, doors, or anything else that opens into a space.
Is your bed adjustable?
Then you might prefer a wall hung headboard for decorative purposes since raising the bed up can account for the practicalities of using your headboard for reading, working on your laptop, or watching TV.
4: Choose Your Style
Now it’s time for the fun bit.
You’ll need to check that your headboard will complement your existing decor.
The best way to do that is to obviously look at the picture of the headboard first when buying online, but also consider the type of material it’s made from and the general styles of headboards available.
Here’s a quick rundown.
Solid wooden headboards are perhaps the most traditional and versatile headboard type because they can take on light, medium, and dark tones.
Oak and pine are popular choices because they will match a wide range of decor and may come with different stains to offer a richer look.
Plus, they are typically easy to clean and maintain.
Other types of wooden headboards can include wicker – offering a more rustic, distressed, far eastern, or even ‘beach’ feel.
Metal headboards can be both stylish and surprisingly cheap.
Made from wrought iron, stainless steel, chrome, or even brass, contemporary metal frames are often minimalistic in design – with large gaps created by elegant spacers.
One thing to keep in mind with such headboards is possible entanglement and pillows being pushed through.
Upholstered headboards consist of padding that’s attached to a backboard.
Headboards that have regular depressions in them are called tufted headboards and are usually topped with a button (‘button tufted’) and may be arranged in the shape of a diamond (‘diamond tufted’) or squared off circles.
A wingback headboard comes with extra bits of material that encapsulate the ends of the headboard to add a classic and stylish feel.
In terms of materials, upholstered headboards can be made out of real leather, faux leather (‘fake leather’), vinyl, velvet, and even linen-like materials.
The benefit of an upholstered headboard is the dramatic effect they can have on the feel of your room.
For example, a black or white leather headboard can look sleek and stylish – whilst a deep blue velvet would make a richer and bolder statement.
Neutral tan colours can be subtle and complement a wide range of decors without being too overbearing.
Wall Mounted Headboards
Wall mounted headboards can take away a lot of the messing about and worry of trying to get the headboard to fit the bed frame.
They can also make your bedroom look amazing with their panelled styles and upholstered finishes.
Headboards With Storage
If you’re trying to maximise the amount of space in your bedroom, then you might want to consider a headboard that comes with added storage.
Shelves, drawers, and even added bookcases can take your headboard from being purely decorative to a truly functional part of your bedroom.
5: Buy Your Headboard
The final step is to actually go ahead and buy your headboard.
So if you’re ready to buy your headboard then click the button below to see the best headboards that you can buy online.
I’ve ordered them by specific qualities such as the best types of headboards relative to their style and practical use.
Image Licencing and Attribution
All images used with permission under the terms of Canva’s One Design Use License Agreement.
Dan is the founder and head content creator at Bedroom Style Reviews.
He has been working as a professional online product reviewer since 2015 and was inspired to start this website when he ended up sleeping on a memory foam mattress that was too soft and gave him backache.
Through in-depth research and analysis, Dan’s goal with this website is to help others avoid such pitfalls by creating the best online resource for helping you find your ideal mattress, bedding, and bedroom furniture.
Dan is a qualified NVQ Level 2 Fitness Instructor with 6 years’ experience helping clients improve their health through diet, exercise, and proper sleep hygiene.
He also holds several college and university-level qualifications in health sciences, psychology, mathematics, art, and digital media creation – which helps him to publish well researched and informative product reviews as well as articles on sleep, health, wellbeing, and home decor.
Dan also has direct personal experience with insomnia, anxiety, misophonia (hypersensitivity to sounds), and pain from both acute and long-standing sporting injuries – he enjoys writing insightful articles around these subjects to help fellow sufferers of such conditions.
Learn more about Dan here.