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Blog Cabin

How to Build a Fireplace Mantel Headboard (page 1 of 3)

Create a charming headboard by pairing a careworn fireplace mantel with a tufted upholstery backing.

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Step1: Size Up the Project

Bedroom dimensions and wall space dictate the size of the bed and headboard. These factors are important when “scouting” for the mantel piece. Ask these questions to help visualize the end product:

1. Where will the bed and headboard be located: in the corner, middle of the wall?
2. What size bed will be used: single, double, twin, queen, king?
3. What is the width of the bed being used?
4. How high off the floor will the top of the bed be?
5. What color fabric and tufting pattern will complement the room?
6. How will the headboard be attached to the wall or bed?
7. Will side tables be added? If so, how wide will the new design end up?

Ask these clarifying questions and visualize the design. This mental picture will assist in the planning process. Old mantel pieces can be a challenge to find. It takes patience and persistence. Country antique or consignment shops, reclaimed building material warehouses and architectural salvage and artifact websites are starting points for your search.

Finding the fabric to cover the headboard panel is much easier. Local fabric stores will have a selection and catalogs from which to choose. Thread weight and color, foam backing and upholstery batting are also available.

Step 2: Clean and Prepare the Mantel

After years of service around a fire box, mantel wood may be dry, brittle and fragile. Handle this pastoral piece of history with care. Carefully cut or saw off nails, screws or hanging wire (Image 1).

A plywood panel, used as the upholstered headboard, will be screwed to the back of the mantel so preparations must be made to accommodate this attachment. The Blog Cabin 2011 had architrave molding under the frieze (the mantel "face" below the shelf). A small flat bar, with a gentle prying persuasion, helped to remove the molding and make room for the upholstered panel (Image 2). If you remove molding, be careful not to scar or chip any of the nearby frieze (Image 3).

Step 3: Secure the Pilaster and Base With Trim

The pilasters and base form the "legs" of the mantel piece. These two "legs" must be connected with a support trim piece of wood across the bottom. This 3/4" x 2" support piece will secure the pilaster and base, and it'll minimize breakage during handling and square the opening for the upholstered panel.

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