How to Choose a Headboard

Time to make your bed... a stylish bedroom centerpiece, that is. Here's help selecting the perfect headboard.

By Jan Soults Walker

Headboards were designed to keep a sleeper cozy on wintry nights by serving as an insulator between the cold exterior wall and mattress. In the present day, however, a headboard is all about adding style and even comfort to your bedroom—not to mention keeping pillows out of the crevice between the mattress and wall. Here's a look at the basics for choosing the ideal headboard for your space.

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Jerry Locati

Size it right

Select a headboard to suit the bedroom dimensions and the size of the mattress:

Mattress Widths
Twin 38 inches
Full 54 inches
Queen 60 inches
California King 72 inches
King 76 inches

Keep in mind that a typical headboard is often a few inches wider than these stock mattress sizes. You can also choose a headboard to extend much further, serving as a visual anchor behind flanking nightstands, for example, or creating a custom look when stretched wall-to-wall.

Headboard height is a matter of preference too, ranging anywhere from about 14 inches above the mattress to as tall as you like it. In keeping with the scale of the bed, one rule of thumb suggests that the height of the headboard be equal to or less than the length of the mattress. In a room with low ceilings, don't be overzealous with headboard height or it could overwhelm the space. In a room with high ceilings, a tall, grand headboard can help make the bed more prominent.

One final thought about sizing: Remember that the thickness of the headboard will position your mattress further from the wall by as much as 6 to 12 inches, so take this additional measurement into account and ensure plenty of walking space around the bed.

Pick a material

Denis Furmanov
You'll find headboards in a wide variety of materials to complement other furnishings and suit your style, including wood or metal, or headboards covered in cloth, leather, vinyl, or natural materials, such as rope, rattan, or grass cloth. Some headboards feature a combination of materials. Besides choosing a material based on looks, also consider durability and comfort—especially if you sit up in bed to read or watch the news. Some fabrics, for example, don't stand up well to oils in skin and hair.

Get inspired with Head Over Heels Over Headboards.

Peruse the options

As you delve into your headboard hunt, you'll be amazed by the variety of shapes, styles, and functions. Take your time to check out the possibilities from plush upholstered pieces to storage headboards equipped with cabinets and open shelves. Some headboards offer integrated nightstands while others are equipped with lighting and a sound system compatible with a tablet or smart phone—perfect for playing tunes to lull you to sleep.

For more ideas and advice, check out:

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