How to Build & Distress a Vintage Headboard, Shabby Chic Style {DIY}

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Have you ever just felt like your home needs a change in style…. whether it's your kitchen or the family room or maybe even the bedroom? We were so fortunate to acquire my grandparents' cedar headboard back before we had Jacob. While we loved the storage this headboard offered (it had a built-in shelf and drawers), we were ready to create something new and different…. something that would help set a peaceful tone for a room we've come to think of as a haven.

Last April I had the opportunity to attend the SNAP Conference, and I was especially inspired by a session I attended about power tools and paint techniques. I knew I wanted to incorporate some of the things I learned in making our new headboard, so I enlisted my husband's help with a few of his power tools. Knowing I can never seem to chop anything in the kitchen without cutting myself, Dan and I were both a bit nervous; in fact, the radial arm saw actually scared me to death at first. We set to work, though, and came up with a plan.

To give due credit, our inspiration came from a Pinterest photo of a headboard we’d seen…in fact, I’d seen quite a few similar to this. My husband had gotten a load of boards from our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and he’d actually already ripped them with a band saw, so we started out marking where we wanted to saw the boards and how we wanted to place them.

Here is the list of supplies needed to create your own vintage headboard:

  • 7 boards 1x6x5 (our bed is queen size)
  • 3- 8′ Furring strips
  • Speed square
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Brad nails
  • Brad nailer
  • KILZ latex primer (for a base color)
  • Paint (in whatever color you choose; we used Valspar Tropical Spray)
  • Saw
  • Wall fastener (we used 3″ screws)
  • Safety glasses
  • 80 grit sandpaper
  • Sanding Block

After prepping your boards for sawing, use a saw to cut the boards. We used a radial arm saw. This was my first time using this particular power tool; it felt really good to face my fear. In fact, it turned out to be quite a stress reliever. You might want to cut in different spots to really give a more rustic, vintage look. Then place the boards back into the pattern you prefer, as you cut each one. Next, it’s time to build a frame for the back of the headboard to give support and keep everything together. Measure and cut your furring strips; this will depend on the size of your headboard/bed. Attach the furring strips to the back of the headboard, using a brad nailer. You’ll see that after framing everything up, we still had some work to do to make the ends of our headboard even. We used a jig saw to cut the ends of our boards even. Finally, our headboard was framed up and ready for some beautification. The next step is to paint, but it might be wise to put down at least one layer of primer. I recommend using a dark primer if you’re going for a distressed look, but my husband came home with white, so that’s what we used. After letting the primer dry, it’s time to paint. You might have to add a couple layers of paint, depending on the look you’re going for. After letting your project dry overnight (or longer, depending on what type of paint you use), use sandpaper or a sand block to give the headboard a distressed look. Sand the cracks and corners, the raised edges, the knots, and more. Wherever you want an old, weathered look, that’s where you’ll want to sand. You can always touch it up with a bit more paint if needed too, so don’t be afraid to get creative with this step. After wiping it down really well, your vintage headboard is finished and ready to hang. We’re really happy with the look of ours; it just adds a vintage feel to our room, as well as a bit of shabby chic.

So, what style do you prefer when it comes to your home? Do you have any DIY projects in the works?

(Disclaimer: This post was originally published at, as a guest post authored by me, on 8/15/12.)


5 thoughts on “How to Build & Distress a Vintage Headboard, Shabby Chic Style {DIY}”

  1. What a great idea! I love this headboard. It can work with a lot of different types of decors. I can see itin a shabby chic room, or a nautical room, or even a country look. Fantastic!

    • Thank you so much! I love that about it too, that later on down the road if we want to switch up our decor, it’ll still pretty much go with anything.:) Thanks for stopping by.

  2. The bed headboard is lovely. My husband and I are planning on using your idea even right down to the blue color. Thank you for posting!


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