Beginner’s Guide to Upholstering a Bed

June 30, 2014

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This is a beginner’s guide, by a beginner. I’ve maybe upholstered two other things (benches!) in my life and this was still a 2 on the hardness scale. And bonus, the outcome looks expensive! Last week, when I revealed our plans for the quick revamp in the guest bedroom, I mentioned we picked up a queen sized bed frame from the online classifieds. We actually got the bed frame and two matching nightstands for a whopping $50.

Beginner's Guide to Upholstering a Bed

I really don’t think the bed was too offensive to look at, but it didn’t look comfortable to us. There would be no leaning back on an opened wood headboard with steel rods–ouch. And above all, we wanted our guests to be comfortable. We bought the bed anyway because it was the perfect candidate for upholstering. I’ve always loved Daniel’s upholstered bed, and so we followed his lead of using a wool military blanket for the upholstery. Fortunately we have an army surplus store about 30 minutes from our home.

photo 5

They had a ton of blankets (I’m sure you can order online, too!). In lots of different colors, but my eyes narrowed on a charcoal one. We could of got by with just one, but I picked up 2 (at $22/piece) just in case.

photo 4

Other supplies needed?

-Army blanket
-Batting (I got a king-sized bag–too much. I do this a lot these days, since I can’t go out very easily. I’d rather have too much than not enough. A queen-sized bag would be perfect.)
-Staple gun. Spring for an electric one. We bought this Stanley one for $29 and it changed my upholstering life.
-5/16″ staples. You’re gonna need a whole box.
-Spare plywood
-Screws to secure

The first thing we did was screw some spare plywood we had in the garage to the original headboard to create a solid surface so our guests wouldn’t lean back into a hole.

Beginner's Guide to Upholstering a Bed

Then I just started stapling batting in place. I can’t tell you how amazing your life will be if you use an electric stapler for this project. I might be the last person on that train, but I’ll be tooting the horn from here on out. Electric staplers are god-sent. I did the headboard first and then two side rails and the footboard last. I made sure none of the batting stopped at a corner, but went around all the edges so when I upholstered it with the blanket, it would have nice, cushy, round edges. With the electric staple gun, this took about 30 minutes.

Beginner's Guide to Upholstering a Bed

Beginner's Guide to Upholstering a Bed

Securing the thick blanket took a little more time–maybe an hour? I was careful with my folds, wanting to make things look clean and thought out. There was green stitching at the edges that I really liked and wanted to quietly showcase it, so I made sure to show that on both sides of the side rails near the foot board.

Beginner's Guide to Upholstering a Bed

It wasn’t difficult. A few times I had to re-shoot a staple in place when the layers got too thick, but that was the only real problem I ran into.

Beginner's Guide to Upholstering a Bed

The result is a real stunner for about $85 ($135 with the cost of the bed).

Beginner's Guide to Upholstering a Bed

I couldn’t wait to make the bed with the painterly stripes sheet set from Schoolhouse Electric, a simple quilt from Ikea we had stored away and this new Turkish pillow I ordered last week.

Beginner's Guide to Upholstering a Bed

We still have more to do in here, but the main thing is done and it feels good that guests could arrive today and they’d have a (pretty) place to sleep. I think I’ll keep the night stands as they are–I like the warm, raw wood matching the legs of the bed–but I am still thinking about art, and accessories.

Beginner's Guide to Upholstering a Bed

Beginner's Guide to Upholstering a Bed

As soon as the bed was upholstered and dressed, I stood back and thought–well this is exactly what I was envisioning for OUR room–I guess I’ll have to brainstorm a little more before we tackle that.

Special thanks to our friends at Schoolhouse Electric for sending the sheet set our way. 

What do you think?

  1. Mara says:

    Can you disassemble the bed? I am still at the frequently moving stage of my life and would love something like this, but I don’t think I could move it with the frame fully assembled.

  2. Jenny G. says:

    Um, wow!
    We actually have this exact bed frame hiding in storage, waiting to be sold or donated. Now I may just have to keep it! Still love the night stands, though. I actually have them both pushed together to create a nice bench. :)

  3. Emma says:


  4. That looks so cool! I love the upholstered look!

  5. Marianne says:

    This turned out really nice! You have such a amazing talent!

  6. Lyndsey says:

    I saw this on Daniel’s website and thought it was a great idea, now i’m even more motivated to try it! Could you share some details about how you did the corners? Folds are always a bit daunting!

  7. Wow- love this! The army blankets are genius, and such a great shade of grey!

  8. Colleen says:

    That’s amazing! Who would have thought of upholstering with an army blanket?! (besides Daniel of course lol)

  9. This is a great idea to add an extra level of comfort to the room. It seems like a really simple upgrade that looks a lot more custom. Very cool!

  10. Maria says:

    This is awesome! I’ve never thought to use army surplus blankets — it looks beautiful. How much cutting did you need to do for the sides/footboard?

    • Julia says:

      I actually cut as I went so I didn’t waste any blanket. So I would staple the top in place, pull the blanket taut, staple the underside in place, THEN I would cut off above the staples. Hope that makes sense.

  11. Brianna says:

    Looks great!!! One day I will get around to doing mines but I’m still chickening out!!

  12. LizlovesCam says:

    Now that I know that you also read Daniel’s blog, I love you even more! The bed looks wonderful, too.

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