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The DIY Headboard You All Wanted To Know About

Y’all saw this bedroom story up on the blog a few days ago, and some of you were keen enough to notice that YES, that is my bedroom. A secret mini reveal if you will. In order to keep sets safe, we’ve really scaled back on crew and locations. So when it came time to shoot Target’s new Casaluna bedding we decided a safe option would be using my practically empty bedroom as the location, and we kept the crew down to just Emily Bowser and myself (with Em checking in virtually and then popping by on the day of the actual shoot for a bit). 

When it comes to building room sets that no one will actually live in, this wasn’t our first rodeo. One thing that we’ve found that makes these sets feel more unique, when there’s a lack of personal propping, is a good DIY. Take the DIY canopy idea from this bedroom story, or the ultra-cool gallery wall from this staged living room as examples (both of which were concepted and executed by Bowser and Julie).

When we started brainstorming how to bring in some character to my blank slate of a bedroom, while keeping the styling minimal and bedding focused, we decided a simple DIY headboard would be the best option.

The room was already painted Sherwin William’s Greek Villa with Sherwin William’s Heron Plume as the trim, and already had these amazing stone-colored, blackout roman shades from Decorview installed (which look so pretty as a tone on tone with the painted window trim). Otherwise, we had very little going on in terms of design.

Hemp Sheet Set | Linen Shams | Comforter | Quilt | Throw | Side Table | Table Lamp | Tray | Reed Diffuser | Botanical Art | Bookends | Rug | Bed Frame

To start, in order to keep the story bedding focused, we decided that we need to opt for a bed frame that didn’t come with a built-in headboard. That way we could easily take headboard-less photos to pass along to our client, Target, for their use.

Our existing bed had a huge, solid wood headboard, so for the shoot we were going to have to swap it out. I saw this as an opportunity to accomplish a dream I’d had ever since upgrading to a queen bed . . . upgrading to a KING BED. My parents always had a California King bed, and we’d all pile in there to read, cuddle, and sleep when we were little. I have such good memories of growing up like that and knew that eventually, we’d want a king bed for our family too.

Mirror | Vase | Knot Object | Flushmount | Roman Shades | Wall Paint | Trim Paint

Enter Article’s Basi bed frame in Oak – a super clean, minimal, and headboard-less bed frame. I had actually originally ordered the bed frame in the darker Walnut color, but had to pivot due to shipping lead times. The lighter Oak color ended up working even better and turned out to be the perfect match for the pine headboard we made. Article actually has separate headboards your can order to go along with this bed frame, but buying a headboard-less frame allows you more creativity and customization with the headboard.

A bigger bed frame meant we needed a bigger mattress. After laying on both Julie and Bowser’s Tuft & Needle mattresses while shooting their bedrooms, I knew that when Mac and I DID eventually upgrade from a queen bed to a king bed, we wanted one of those mattresses to sleep on. Months ago Mac and I had gone to the Tuft & Needle store at the Americana in Glendale and tried out all the different kinds, settling on their Hybrid mattress. It’s both supportive, and soft, and absorbs my constant moving so much better than our old Ikea mattress.

AND NOW WE FINALLY HAVE A KING BED. It’s a luxury for sure, but one that 6’1″ Mac, our two cats who sleep with us every night but refuse to touch each other, and myself who likes to move A LOT in order to get comfortable each night, all really appreciate. And we were able to pass along our queen bed frame and mattress to my brother, Shade, who had just recently moved into his own apartment and, at 26, was ready for something bigger than a twin.

That was a really long tangent, but one that I was passionate about, haha. BACK TO THE HEADBOARD.

I originally sent Bowser a few different DIY ideas for cane headboards (like this one). But she did me one better and modified a concept for a DIY dowel headboard. Her inspiration came from a DIY wood dowel floor mat for a mudroom. We figured out all the measurements on the first day of install, had Shade do all the dowel prep, and then we put the rest of it together in an hour on the second day of install.

The end result? A super unique, beautiful, and customizable headboard that we still have up in our bedroom right now.


  • 15-20, 1″ diameter Wood Dowels
  • A saw of some sort to cut your dowels to size
  • Access to a press drill
  • Rope or leather to hang the dowels from
  • Leather straps
  • Leather punch
  • Nails (preferably gold or brass)


Ok, now for the part you really came for, the step-by-step how-to for this DIY wood dowel headboard.


For our headboard, we used 1″ diameter round dowels. At the Home Depot., where Shade shopped for dowels the longest size they came in was 10ft. We wanted the headboard to be just a little bigger than the bed frame (which is 79 inches wide), so we bought nineteen 10ft (120 inches) dowels and cut them down to 81 inches. You can use a hand saw, a table saw, or like Shade, improvise and use a tile saw, because he didn’t have anything else on hand. They may even cut the dowels for you at Home Depot.


Shade then used a press drill to drill holes in either end of the dowels, 1.5″ in from the ends. Make sure that your holes face the same direction since you’ll be stringing them from ropes on either end. It would be a bummer to have one hole on the dowel drilled vertically, while the hole on the other end was drilled horizontally. This was something Bowser and I didn’t consider, but luckily Shade did.


Cutting them and drilling into them will create little splinters all along your dowels. Smooth these out by quickly running a piece of fine grit sandpaper over them.


We choose to keep our dowels as-is, in the natural pine color and finish that they came in. But staining them a darker walnut color, oiling them, or painting them is definitely an easy way to customize the headboard to whatever style you want for your bedroom.


This is another step where you can customize your headboard. We choose to use a rough sisal rope to tie together all our dowels. But you could go with a smoother hemp rope, a white cotton cord, or even a leather rope.

Bowser strung together the dowels one side at a time, using a little piece of cut rope to measure how far between each dowel she tied a new knot, so that it was roughly the same each time. She left a long tail at the end of the bottom dowel that we frayed, aesthetically of course.

Hot Tip

If your rope is unruly, you can tape the end of it to make it easier to get through the holes of your dowels.


First I’ll say that this headboard did get HEAVY. You don’t think wood dowels are gonna add up, but they do. So we used a stud finder to figure out where the studs were in the wall behind the bed, so we wouldn’t have to use drywall anchors. Once we figure out there were just two, we decided on having two leather straps to hold up the headboard, which we’d nail directly into the studs.

Bowser cut two pieces of leather strap she had from a leftover project, folded them over to create a loop, and using a leather hole punch she pierced holes into both of them for the nail to pass through.


This part is a two-person job. Measure where you want your straps nailed in and put those penciled dots up on the wall. Then, have one person hold up the headboard, while the other person loops the leather straps around the top dowel, passes the nail through the holes, and hammers the strap into the wall.

Then gently let your headboard hang to see where it needs to be adjusted or supported. You should be able to slide your headboard around on the leather straps, once they’re nailed in, to get it perfectly centered.

We also found that the headboard was putting a lot of strain on the top dowel, so we hammered in a small gold nail behind a rope knot on either side of the headboard a few dowels down and let a lower dowel rest on the nails to help take some of the strain off the top dowel.

AND THAT’S IT! All in all the headboard cost us about $120, most of that being the wood dowels, and took about 3 hours start to finish. Bowser is super tempted to start taking orders for these, because it turned out so well, and if I didn’t already have an original Bowser headboard I would be her first customer. Also, do you remember the one she made for her primary bedroom????

If anyone makes a dowel headboard of their own don’t forget to tag us (my Instagram, Bowser’s Instagram) so we can see!

**Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp (ME!) | Styled by Emily Bowser

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3 years ago

Super Cool ❤️

3 years ago

cool..ty for sharing it

3 years ago

So awesome! I’m going to try this but with wooden beads instead of knots between the slats. Should be even quicker and perfect spacing is guaranteed.

3 years ago
Reply to  Ally

🙂 Ive just posted that suggestion without reading yours first!

3 years ago

Very cool.
Wonder what long skinny branches (like the ones I pruned off my linden tree) would look like?
Might be too rustic, might be cool.

3 years ago

Saving this for my future house!

3 years ago

Feels like it’s been a while since there was a DIY. Always happy to see the process!

3 years ago

Looks really great!

Question about the curtains – I want room darkening roman shades in my room and ordered swatches from a different company, and they all felt very plastic-y, like roller blinds, and I can’t tell if they’ll look soft at full size – do you feel like your curtains *look* soft in person? I want the look of folded fabric to soften the room, and can’t use curtains because the heater is below one window and the other window is in a corner right against the other wall.

3 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

Could you maybe inside mount a room darkening roller shade and then outside mount a lighter fabric Roman shade? The Roman would hide the roller, and then you’d have two options for light control.

Emily J
3 years ago

you could put wooden beads in between the dowels to space them out perfectly

3 years ago

Nice work, ladies!

3 years ago

So good! I must admit that I wish it spanned the whole length of the wall as an cool architectural feature. But that might be a bit out there. So pretty either way.

3 years ago

We desperately want a King bed but there is no chance it will fit in our bedroom, but Cali King has a chance. I guess I just wonder does that mean you are less likely to find sheets to fit – or do you just buy king sheets – or is it a fairly standard size offering? Love this room.

3 years ago
Reply to  Julie

Follow-up q! Is there room under that article base for storage or not really?

3 years ago
Reply to  Julie

You can buy sheets in California king size.

3 years ago
Reply to  Julie

I have a Californian king, and it is a fairly common sheet size. There are a few specialty store that don’t have it, but big box stores always have something. Also, don’t try king size sheets, because they won’t fit right at all.

3 years ago

love this. To brighten it up for a more colourful room, how about spacing the dowels by putting big coloured wooden beads in between each one rather than knotting the rope?

3 years ago

This is a great diy! I love this look! As an aside note do you know how difficult it is to read your posts ?? This hasn’t always been the case but recently the ads are so ,so distracting. They pop in and out while you are trying to read the text ,actually moving a whole paragraph you are trying to read up or down and completely off the screen! If there is a remedy for this on my end please let me know The delay in trying to type this message is also frustrating. Very slow response to my actual texts.

3 years ago

Awesome DIY! I don’t need a headboard, but I love the look, so I’m considering creating dowel artwork.

Kristine C.
3 years ago

My creative brain thinks this headboard is beautiful, but my no-fun logical brain thinks what a pain to hear “clink, clink, clink” all night as the dowels continually tap against the wall while you sleep. I think it needs to be fastened to the wall in several other places to avoid this, and to avoid the whole thing crashing on your head (those two little nails don’t look so strong for the weight).

3 years ago
Reply to  Kristine C.

Same. Also dreading what happens if any weight is out on it while awake and leaning back in bed.

3 years ago

Sara, what color is your rug and throw blanket? They look completely different colors from different angles. Shooting toward the bed looks more beige-y, like a rosy glow. But a few shots in your previous post toward the dresser appears to make the throw look white and the rug look gray. Can you share?

3 years ago

I love your designs

3 years ago

This is nitpicky, but it’s called a “drill press”not a “press drill”. And this is a super cute headboard!

3 years ago

Off topic but your ceiling light is exactly what I have been looking for. Do you mind sharing?