No headboard? No problem!

There’s nothing quite like a magnificent headboard on a statement bed. Whether it’s the plush upholstered kind, a rustic wooden one or a cool, industrial-style iron bed frame, it finishes off a look and gives a real sense of the overall design style. However, there are many reasons why you might find yourself without a headboard. Perhaps you’re renting and just have a plain divan bed. Perhaps you’re tight on space and can’t afford those few extra inches. Perhaps it’s a budget issue. Or perhaps you’re simply looking for something a little unconventional.

Whatever the reason for the empty space behind your bed, try one of these ideas on for size. Who needs a headboard when your bed can look like this?

Wall stickers

Clockwise from top left:

  1. ‘Rise and Shine’ wall sticker by Oakdene Designs, £12.00
  2. Iron headboard wall sticker by Sirface Graphics, £32.00
  3. Blossom branch wall sticker by Oakdene Designs, £29.00
  4. Neon ampersand wall sticker by Nutmeg, £36.00
  5. Magnolia watercolour branch wall sticker by Oakdene Designs, £30.00

All from

Wall stickers are a fantastic way to add interest behind or above a bed and provide a simple, space saving, low-cost solution when you are without a headboard. Whether it’s emulating a headboard (did I fool you with the feature image?), a statement design, some quirky text or a burst of flowers, birds or stars dissipating up to the ceiling, the world is your oyster. The best thing about them is that when you get bored, you can just peel them off and swap them for something new. Perfect for those indecisive folk who find it hard to commit to a style or theme and ideal for renters as they won’t damage the walls.

Hang art and photographs
  1. Top left: image courtesy of H and G Designs featuring Black Leather + Blondie Shelf
  2. Bottom left: image courtesy of Drunk on Water featuring Starship print
  3. Centre: image courtesy of norsu interiors
  4. Top right: image courtesy of H and G Designs featuring Natural Leather + Blondie Plywood Shelf
  5. Bottom right: image courtesy of norsu interiors

You can create a fantastic visual impact by hanging art, prints or photographs over the bed. Without a tall headboard getting in the way, your chosen piece or pieces can take centre stage and draw the eye upwards, adding both height and interest. Cluster several pieces to create a gallery wall, go for one large statement piece, or position one to the side (see top right image above) for a casual, asymmetrical look.

Use a bed canopy

From left to right:

  1. Image courtesy of Houseology featuring the Gingerlily silk bed linen in Nude
  2. Image courtesy of Grigolite featuring the TINA mosquito net for double bed
  3. Image courtesy of Rock Ribbons featuring the black and cream Moroccan wool blanket with black pom poms

Drape a bed canopy over your bed and you’ll feel like freakin’ royalty, even without the majestic headboard. Beautifully ethereal and utterly romantic, there’s something so opulent about having light, billowy fabric over a bed despite the fact that it’s really not very expensive at all. The IKEA Byrne is a mere £7.50. Mosquitoes aren’t such a huge problem in the UK but for any readers in more tropical climes, the gauzy fabric of mosquito nets is both practical and pretty. It can also help to keep the bed cool and shady by diffusing light.

(N.B. That’s not a headboard in the rightmost image above, it’s actually a section of decorative wood that has been fixed to the wall above the bed. Read on…)

A wooden feature

From reclaimed wooden boards, salvaged vintage pieces and beautiful panelling, there are all kinds of ways to use wood to create a stunning headboard style feature over the bed. Take these fine examples for instance…

Panelling is pretty much always a good look in my book. Go grand and take it all the way up to the ceiling as shown in this image from ALSO Home or opt for the half height version creating a small ledge as seen in this tranquil bedroom from norsu interiors.
Image credit: Dreamy Whites via Houzz

Reclaimed doors make a beautiful, rustic headboard in a shabby chic style bedroom. Simply prop them up behind the bed. Easy peasy! You can also try antique shutters and oversized vintage windows.

Leslieville Lofts
Image credit: Aristea Rizakos via Houzz

This image perfectly demonstrates how you can literally use anything you can get your hands on!

This industrial style bedroom features the side of a salvaged wooden crate that has been hung over the bed.

Think about pieces of driftwood, rowing oars, antique floorboards, the quirkier the better!

Shelves or a picture ledge
  1. Top left: image courtesy of Walls and Floors Ltd featuring Alpine Wood plank tiles
  2. Bottom left: bedroom in Calamine by Farrow & Ball
  3. Centre: loft master ensuite by frenchStef Interior Design via Houzz
  4. Right: image courtesy of Houseology featuring Murmur Dune bed linen

The concept of shelves over the bed is not a new one but should certainly be considered in the absence of a headboard. How you style the look is entirely your own choice. Create a picture ledge, use it to display your favourite selection of trinkets, candles and decorative items or fill with your most intellectual looking books. When space is tight, it provides a useful and space-saving alternative to a bedside table and a handy surface to attach clip-on lamps. If a bed is against a wall, as in the bottom left image, you can also consider putting the shelves up alongside the bed instead which takes the focus off the head of the bed.

Tapestries and wall hangings

If you like the idea of a piece of statement art but crave the softness of a fabric headboard, a tapestry or wall hanging could be the answer. For those who are fans of a bit of boho chic, grand traditional styles and Eastern design, this is right up your street but don’t dismiss the idea if you’re a contemporary minimalist or a neutral addict. Tapestries aren’t all about tassels and overly fussy patterns. You can create any kind of look to complete all styles depending on the design, colours and size of your chosen wall hanging. Check out some of these inspirational images.

Modern City Loft Bedroom
This beautiful grey tapestry looks wonderful against the raw exposed brick wall in this modern loft bedroom by Jennifer Gustafson Interior Design via Houzz.
Ashton Woods Master Bedrooms
Keeping everything else pared back allows this magnificent wall hanging to take centre stage while still achieving a contemporary Scandinavian look in this bedroom by Ashton Woods via Houzz.
Los Feliz
Stick to a single colour for a simple elegance. This gorgeous blue tapestry adds a touch of colour to this bedroom by Peter Dolkas without disrupting the overall style.

Point. Proven.

Pile up large cushions and pillows

Left to right:

  1. Image courtesy of ALSO Home Ltd featuring Alyssa bed linen, and Olivia grey 65×65 pillow

There’s nothing more inviting than a mountain of cushions on a bed and an array of intentionally positioned pillows can be all you need to create a sumptuous, casual headboard effect. Go for the large square ones so that they sit higher than your regular pillows and line up two or three at the back in a different colour to your main bedding. Make sure the pillows are really plump and squashy – no saggy pillowcases here! Then you can arrange your standard pillows and scatter cushions in front of them. Just add a lovely throw and you’ve got a bed that looks like it’s straight out of a magazine shoot.

Put up a vintage sign
Image courtesy of Fishtail Cottage
Image courtesy of Fishtail Cottage

Vintage and antique signs look fantastic in industrial, retro and vintage interiors. Root around at local salvage yards, antique shops, eBay, and Gumtree for the real deal. Alternatively you can buy one (check out Etsy or or even make your own DIY version!

A clever use of wall coverings
A monochrome wall covering with a bold geometric pattern is used to create interest behind the bed in this room by Hart Associates Architects

Not being a fan of a feature wall, I’m not simply suggesting you paint or wallpaper the wall behind the bed willy nilly. However, a wall covering or contrasting colour can be used to great effect in the absence of a headboard. In the bedroom above, smart joinery beautifully frames the bed in this clean and simple room. A bold patterned wall covering has been applied within the shelving to create a headboard effect.

Rather than an entire feature wall, consider painting or applying a wall covering to just a section. Take the width of the bed and go straight up to the ceiling, stop part way up the wall, or literally emulate the shape of a headboard. This is more unconventional, a little unexpected and makes more of a feature of the bed (which is the whole point). Cover the whole wall and you’re not really sure what to look at.

  1. Left: a ‘headboard’ painted in Pale Powder No. 204 on a London Clay No. 244 wall by Farrow & Ball.

Before you say anything, yes I know there is *technically* a headboard on that bed frame in image 2 but you can hardly see it and I think it still illustrates my point. Ok?

Decorate with fairy lights

There’s nothing like fairy lights to introduce an element of magic to a room and what could be more romantic than using them around the bed? Zig zag them across behind the bed head, let them hang down one side or even create a quirky outline like this:

DIY string light headboard on Apartment Therapy
DIY string light headboard on Apartment Therapy. Read how to do it here.

Make sure the lights are LEDs which will last for ages as well as being safer and remaining cool to the touch. This is a great one for kids and teenagers but also perfectly acceptable in classy grown up interiors such as in this minimalist bedroom via Houzz:

Image by Tomás da Silva via Houzz
Position the bed under a window

I was in two minds whether or not to include this. A bed that is over a window, as in blocking a window, is something of a pet peeve of mine. I feel it gives the impression that a lack of thought has been put into the layout of the room by not factoring in the inherent features of the building. However, as always, there are exceptions and a stunning window that sits above a bed can be made into a marvellous feature. I think the key is to ensure that the window is entirely above the bed so that no part of it is behind the bed itself, which is probably why it works in a no headboard situation. Having an architecturally attractive window style will certainly help too!

  1. Image courtesy of norsu interiors featuring the Boho Bedroom collection.
  2. Image courtesy of PASX featuring the Elephants duvet cover set.
The less is more approach
AD Stenger Remodel
A beautiful bedroom without a headboard by Studio Tupelo Modern Interiors via Houzz

Sometimes the answer is staring you right in the face. Sometimes less really is more. Sometimes the answer is just to leave it the hell alone because it looks amazing already and you just need to get the preconceived idea that ‘all beds need a headboard to look finished’ out of your head!

It isn’t always going to work but on occasion, leaving the wall above the bed blank and embracing the space is the way to go.

You may have an interesting feature on another wall as a focal point and don’t want anything to fight with it, or perhaps you are fortunate enough to enjoy a spectacular view that you’d rather look at.

There are times when you can defy convention and make it work. A blank, empty space isn’t always a bad thing.

And that’s it! Bit of a long one today, but hopefully some good ideas for you to consider. Many of these concepts work well in combination with each other. Try fairy lights with a bed canopy or wall stickers amongst a gallery wall or pile up the cushions underneath a tapestry. You’ll notice many of the images used in this post show more than one of these features.

Do you have a bed without a headboard? Are you going to try any of these? Let me know in the comments section!

J x

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