Should the Headboard Match the Bed?

Everyone loves a matching bed set. But before we go any further, we need to discuss something important: What really is a "bed"? In the old days, a bed was the bed frame and headboard, which game connected. But today people may simply have a platform under their bed or a simple frame. Some consider the box spring and mattress the bed, while others only consider a well-built bed frame the "bed" itself.

Headboards usually match the bed. In fact, headboards usually come with the bed frame. That doesn't mean that you can't add a headboard to another bed. But it's a little complicated.

Modern interior design of spacious bedroom with matching gray headboard, Should the Headboard Match the Bed?

What Exactly Is a Headboard?

A headboard is a piece of furniture that attaches to a bed frame. It's used to prop up pillows against or rest against or simply for decor. Sometimes it's padded and sometimes it's not. It can be made of wood, metal, leather, and anything else in between. But what's most important about a headboard is that it's attached to the bed frame.

Most headboards come attached to the bed frame or are attached later on, but very few of them are freestanding or otherwise supported. And that means that a headboard is a little tricky to connect to just any bed. So, when you ask whether a headboard should match the bed, you should know -- it generally does.

Why Do Some Beds Come Without a Headboard?

A beautiful bedroom with a blue curtain, blue table, and blue throw pillows

A headboard can be more expensive than just a frame, and that's why there are frames sold without headboards. Some people also don't want a headboard if their bed doesn't have its back actually against a wall. In some situations, for instance, a bed might instead have only its long side against a wall. And some beds do come without a headboard so that you can mix-and-match styles; box stores such as Ikea might sell a bed that comes without a headboard so you can select one later.

Either way, a headboard should usually be a consideration when looking to purchase a bed frame. If you want a headboard, it's almost always easier to purchase the headboard with the frame rather than trying to install it later.

But Does a Headboard Need to Match the Bed?

So, usually a headboard matches a bed. But that doesn't mean it has to.

Because of the way headboards are installed, most headboards can be installed to another frame as long as the size is the same. The headboard can usually be bolted directly onto the bed frame. Because a headboard doesn't bear any actual load, it's usually completely stable.

That being said, it can look strange aesthetically if the headboard and the frame are two completely different styles. A thick, ornate wooden headboard isn't going to match with a sleek, black, modern bed frame, unless some serious work is done to make it match through the use of other decor.

How Can You Match a Bed?

Gray and blue modern master bedroom with furniture and air conditioner

Let's say you have a bed frame already but it doesn't have a matching headboard. You know you can install a new headboard, but how do you match it? Usually you want to look at three elements: size, style, and color.

Size is easy to explain: beds come in standard sizes and so do frames. So if you get a queen bed frame and a queen headboard, you should be able to match time up.

Style is a little different. You need to look at how the piece is constructed. Heavier frames do better with heavier headboards. Lighter frames do better with lighter headboards. If there's complex designs on the frame, it may not match with something that's more minimalistic.

Finally, color likely matters most. If you have a black frame, it's not difficult to find a black headboard to match. But if your frame is a unique color, you might need to go with something that accents it, rather than something that is exact.

How is a Headboard Installed?

Most headboards are made of wood, in which case the headboard can be directly drilled and bolded onto the frame. If it's a metal headboard, either the holes in the headboard and frame will need to match up (such as if the headboard was always meant to be used in that type of frame), or it will need to be welded. Wood headboards are by far easier to install if the headboard and frame aren't part of a mix-and-match style set.

Can All Beds Have a Headboard?

Green themed boys bedroom with wooden furniture and bed beside the window

It should be noted that while a traditional bed frame can have a headboard screwed or bolted directly to it, not all beds can have a headboard.

Some beds just have a metal frame underneath the box spring and a mattress on top. In this situation, there's nothing to affix the headboard to. The person trying to do so would need to purchase a wooden bed frame before trying to install a headboard, so the headboard could be mounted directly to the wood.

Likewise, there are some low-profile platform beds that wouldn't do well with a headboard. If the mattress doesn't have a box spring, it may also be realistically too low for a headboard. A headboard can get cut down to size, but a traditional headboard might be too high. Before trying to install a headboard, the bed itself should be assessed.

Do You Really Need a Headboard?

For the most part, headboards are aesthetic. That doesn't mean they're entirely aesthetic. But much of them have to do with style. Without a headboard, the wall often seems bare. So, when choosing a headboard, most people go for a style that they're interested in. Usually that style is meant to fit everything else in the room, too.

There are some purposes for headboards.

  • They prevent pillows from falling between the bed and the wall. Beds do move around. With a headboard, it's much less likely that things will fall behind the bed.
  • They can be comfortable to lean against. A cloth headboard is more comfortable to lean against if you're reading in bed or working on a laptop in bed.
  • They sometimes have other features. For instance, more tech-savvy headboards may have lights in them or may even have USB chargers.

So, while the classic headboard is usually used for style, there can be some real reasons you want a headboard.

Ultimately, it's all about your own vision for your room. Most beds don't need a headboard, but they're better with them. If you have a bed that doesn't already have a headboard, you can get one, a long as you have the right bed frame. But you do need to size and style it correctly if you want it to look good, and that means taking a look at your furniture and surrounding decor and determining what the best option is for you.


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