MattressFirm Logo
Bed Basics
Bed Basics

Need a Headboard? Here’s How to Find the Perfect One for You

A beige, upholstered headboard behind a beautifully made bed.
Bailey Biffert

Each of us has an idea of our perfect bedroom. Some prefer a plush, cloud-like sanctuary, while others prefer a minimalist, earthy retreat. Of course within those bedrooms are the bed—with mattress, pillows, sheets, duvet and decorative accents to fulfill that design vision. But where many people get tripped up is the headboard. A headboard can offer additional style and function, depending on what you’re looking for.

First, you might be asking yourself: Do I even need a headboard? The simple answer is no, you don’t need a headboard. But we also don’t need coffee, dessert or white sandy beaches either, yet they each enrich our lives somehow, and a headboard can, too.

Your mattress won't be impacted by a headboard, and it’s unlikely it’ll affect how well (or poorly) you sleep each night. Instead, a headboard provides extra support, especially if you sit up in bed. It can also protect your head and prevent wall damage, all while adding some pizzaz to your bedroom decor.

Here’s how to scout out and buy the perfect headboard for your bedroom.

Headboard Materials

Like choosing your mattress, you’ll have many options when it comes to picking your headboard’s material.

Upholstered headboards can be a comfortable option, especially if you sit up in bed to read or watch TV. The type of fabric you opt for with an upholstered headboard depends on your style, taste, and the look and feel you’re seeking. Velvet, including flat velvet and crushed velvet, are popular options, though they can look heavy in the summer. Linen is another nice option that looks good and has a minimalist vibe, whether woven linen or brushed linen. Other choices include microsuede or faux suede, faux wool and even custom headboards upholstered in designer fabric. The styles can be tufted or accented with nail head trim.

Keep in mind that if you choose an upholstered fabric, you’ll want to be sure that it’s stain-resistant, especially if you have pets or plan to eat or drink in bed.

Leather or artificial leather can add a distinguished, refined look to a bedding setup, with the added bonus that it’s easy to wipe clean. Leather can also be ideal for those with allergies, since it won’t allow dust or pet hair to accumulate inside the material.

Wood is also a popular material in modern headboards, as it’s durable, while also easy to wipe clean, though it’s less forgiving for those who want to lean against it to read. When opting for a wood headboard, choose a stain of wood that matches the rest of the room’s décor, so that it’s not too light or too dark for the setting. For example, a light birch headboard might clash with mahogany bedroom furniture.

Additional popular materials include wicker and rattan.

Common Headboard Dimensions

You have some wiggle room when it comes to headboard dimensions, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. When shopping for a headboard, you’ll have the option to buy it in your coordinating mattress size, but keep in mind that, given the similarity in width, full and queen are often interchangeable, and a twin-size headboard will also fit a twin XL mattress, since both sizes measure the same in width. Keep in mind that some headboards can be mounted to the wall and others should first be attached to an existing bed frame. Wall-mounted headboards can be narrower than the mattress, as a stylistic choice, especially for mid-century looks.

What Size Should a Headboard Be?

Headboard Width

Typically, your headboard will be a few inches wider than your mattress on both sides, but there’s no standard measurement for how much wider. Some headboards are designed to be the same width as your mattress, while others go for a wider look. A few designs are slightly wider than your mattress, and some even slightly wrap around the sides of your mattress, almost as if the headboard is hugging the top of the mattress.

Headboard Height

Just as there’s no standard width for a headboard, there’s also no one standard height for a headboard—it’s really all about your personal style. Some headboards offer a lower-profile look, while others are significantly taller, depending on the style. The shape of the headboard can also vary, with some as straight lines, and other peaking in the middle. How tall you prefer your headboard will depend on whether you’re going for a minimalist look or want something to make a bold statement.

Popular Headboard Types

Two things to consider when shopping for a headboard are whether you’d like one that’s separate from the bed, and what shape you prefer. Some headboards are separate from the base of your mattress, but some come as part of the bed frame itself, for instance if you have a frame with under-bed storage or a platform feature. Others are wall-mounted headboards that can be placed at any height you desire to accommodate the height of your mattress.

When shopping for a headboard you’ll also notice the range of shapes. Some are traditional rectangles while others are a wingback design, slatted wood or panels.

When it comes to headboard styles, Nicole Delmasto, associate category manager of merchandising at Mattress Firm, says mid-century modern and rustic farmhouse are popular options right now. The Sleepy’s Harper Headboard has a farmhouse vibe, designed with inspiration from the French countryside.

For a modern look, Delmasto also mentions the popularity of tufted furniture. The Sleepy's Mackenzie Headboard is an upholstered headboard with a tufted design and wingback shape for a classic elegance.

Other popular headboards serve more function than offering a padded backrest when sitting in bed. Sydney Decesare, category manager of merchandising for Mattress Firm, lives in New York City, where extra storage space can be harder to come by, so she chose the Sleepy's Storage Base with Reversible Headboard. “I wanted that multiuse bed frame for the storage space,” she says.

This headboard is an all-in-one package serving as a mattress base and headboard with an under-bed storage area. As a bonus, the storage base’s upholstered headboard is reversible so you can quickly change the look of the headboard, which updates the feel of the whole room. Another great feature of this setup is that the base can be assembled by one person and it doesn’t require tools, which is great for those who live alone and are looking to furnish or update their bedroom.

If under-bed storage is what you’re looking for, another option with a different look is the mid-century modern Atwater Living Ryder Linen Upholstered Bed with Storage, which has a button-tufted headboard and base with easy-to-access underbed storage drawers.

If you move often, it might not be convenient to have a wall-mounted headboard. Instead, shop for something that can be easily moved, like the Zinus Maddon Platform Bed, which fits together with no assembly.

Finally, you may want to look into additional features for your headboard. Some contemporary options are USB ports and built-in lights. If you use an adjustable bed, your base may offer these options, so you may not need additional features, but you should be sure that your headboard is compatible with adjustable beds.

How to DIY a Headboard

If you’re not interested in buying a new readymade headboard, you can take a do-it-yourself approach. The easiest may be a trompe l’oeil: While it won’t give you a cushioned backrest while sitting up in bed, painting the wall behind the head of your bed can give the appearance of a headboard, without the actual furniture. You can also create the look by hanging a textile behind your bed or installing a curtain rod to hang a curtain panel. Another simple way to frame your bed is by placing a room divider screen flat behind the mattress.

Headboard Price Ranges

If you’re looking to buy a headboard, expect prices to start around $150, Decesare says. Prices will also depend on the size, with the price typically increasing with size. A twin headboard is probably going to cost less than a king headboard, for example. The price will also depend on the material. Leather will likely be more expensive than an upholstered headboard. Also, if your ideal headboard comes attached to a mattress base, that package will probably cost more than buying a headboard on its own. Keep in mind that high-quality materials in a headboard could mean it’ll outlive your current mattress and you’ll be able to use it with your new mattress, too. Just be sure to regularly clean and vacuum it to extend its lifespan.

Your mattress doesn’t require a headboard to be functional, but it’s a great addition to your bedding setup. Not only can it help protect the wall behind your mattress, but it can add stability to your base and give you extra support when sitting up in bed.

Other Headboard Questions

What is the purpose of a headboard on a bed?

Headboards are used as a barrier between the edge of one's bed and the wall. This would keep a person's head from getting too cold at night, since walls would get very cold without insulation.

Do people still use headboards?

Headboards serve more of a decorative purpose than anything and can help elevate the look of your bedroom, tenfold. They are also a great option for smaller rooms that can't accommodate a full bed frame. 

Is it better to sleep with a headboard?

By adding a headboard to the frame, you stabilize the bed. You will minimize the amount of movement, ensuring that you have a steady base all night long. A headboard and rails will provide even more stability for an even better night's sleep.

Are headboards good feng shui?

Headboards are very important in feng shui bedroom design as a source of strength and stability. The headboard should be solid and well-attached to the bed, so it doesn't move. It should be made of wood or upholstered rather than made of metal, as this is cold and encourages magnetism of negative energies.

Should the legs of a headboard touch the floor?

Generally, they do not touch the floor. The headboard attaches to the bed by means of headboard bolts.

What is a floating headboard?

A floating headboard, also known as a hanger headboard, is a headboard that is mounted on the wall at the head of your mattress instead of being attached to your bed frame. 

Shop Headboards in a Variety of Styles