Bed head: Upholstered headboards are the 'crowning glory of a beautiful bed'

Universal UclickOctober 19, 2012 

There’s a lot to be said for bedding and luxurious thread counts. But it’s the bed itself that commands center stage. And these days, upholstered headboards are hot. They’re appealing for their soft touch and comfort.

Beds long have come in a range of styles as rich as their history. From simple forms in wood that are stained or painted to fanciful carvings or intricate veneers, from skinny twin sleighs to voluptuous four-posters, beds still are sold in suites with matched bureaus, tall chests and night tables.

But the desire for more eclectic looks has consumers scrambling for other options.

Upholstered beds have enjoyed a solid fan base among those seeking individuality, as coverings can express personal style, with patterns in cotton, textural velvet or leather and even luxurious silk damasks. In the last decade, beds clad in beige linen, often studded with nailheads, have become ubiquitous. The look is low-key and clean-lined, a handsome bridge between traditional and modern design.

So it’s no surprise that the upholstered headboard – flying solo – started showing up in that classic linen look, offered by an increasing number of furniture manufacturers. Besides the popularity of that simple expression, there’s an opportunity for customization. Now there are solids and patterns in cotton, linen, even wool, and patterns including chevron, Susani, toile, ikat, explosive florals, tapestries and menswear motifs – in a range of shapes – at a number of retailers.

Calico Corners, a fabric retailer, offers nine different frames, with a choice of 7,000 fabrics, embellished as you wish. The headboard, according to Calico Corners, is the “crowning glory of a beautiful bed.” Headboards can be tufted, channeled, quilted, accented with buttons and crystals, or edged with welting, cording or nailheads.

Thibaut, the nation’s oldest continuously operating wallpaper company, founded in 1886, has expanded its fabric offerings with a furniture line, and now offers headboards with dressmaker details.

“The bedroom is a protected environment,” said Michelle Lamb, director of The Trend Curve, a Minneapolis-based trade publication that tracks color and design in home furnishings. “Within it, on headboards, you can create such a personal expression of yourself. There are so many hard surfaces in a bedroom – perhaps more than a living room, where there is seating and chairs. Headboards act as a yang to the yin.”

The variety of shapes and heights dictates the kind of statement to be made. The headboard can be boxy, slim or deep, serpentine or sumptuous. Even the simplest rectangle can be dressed with an arresting pattern, or in a solid punctuated by contrasting welting or rope trim or nailheads.

For a guest bedroom, the mood might be tailored or romantic, perhaps expressed in a watery blue-green linen or a rich red on cream toile. For a child’s room, a playful print with animals, cars and trucks, or simply happy, colorful geometrics may brighten the space.

“You can be as low-key as you want or take center stage, if that’s where you want to go,” said Julie Morris, director of custom products for Calico Corners, which has 75 stores nationwide including one in Charlotte. “You can add some drama with more elaborate scale as well.”

The wingback chair has some marvelous interpretations as a bed, in traditional curved shapes and some more squared off – both styles offering a cocooning, sheltering element as well as an option as a room divider.

Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams’ book “Let’s Get Comfortable: How to Furnish and Decorate a Welcoming Home” (Meredith) describes one wingback style headboard: “This kind of headboard is pure pleasure when you’re reading in bed. At almost six feet high, the headboard becomes an architectural element. It also can divide space. Set away from a wall and backed with a desk, it forms an office alcove.”

An upholstered headboard may be a more affordable option than a new bed, a plus for those shopping for a guest room. But the price range is considerable, from about $250 at wayfair.com to thousands of dollars, where high-end styling, materials and construction can match the cost of luxury beds. An added plus: With a headboard and no footboard, decorating options for the end of the bed such as benches, stools or chests, have less visual competition.

Solid color headboards offer the most versatility in selecting bedding, which can change with the season. A petal pink headboard, like that available at Serena & Lily, for example, can be teamed with lime and white patterned sheets, accented with a crisp white pillow with pink embroidery. Alternatively, creamy mocha, navy or gray in solids or a combination of patterns, is a springboard for another dramatic aesthetic.

A textured leather headboard like one from Global Views takes a cue from its structural form with a tailored, quilted bed cover. Floral-appliqued pillows provide a whimsical yet sophisticated, textural touch.

Using a pattern can work as a standalone, pulling a color from the mix for accessories such as pillows. Or the pattern can be echoed in a dust ruffle, curtain or in seating, as in a chaise or chair.

With the popularity of upholstered headboards, some retailers and manufacturers already have jumped on a new bandwagon: slipcovers. Ethan Allen already offers them, and Calico Corners is set to roll out a choice of slipcovers come spring. They will have ties, buttons, dressmaker details, with a choice of a loose, shabby chic or crisp and tailored.

Such quick-change artistry can shift the vibe from Hollywood glam to beachy, as you wish. You can change up your headboard, just as you do your duvet cover.

“It makes it fun to change with the seasons,” Morris said.

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