How to Build a Highlighted Headboard

Learn how to make this custom-lit headboard that really shines.

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Materials and Tools:

six 3-foot one-bulb strip fluorescent lights
8x1 poplar boards
6x1 poplar boards
3x1 boards
Ace Sensations paint (ceiling white)
embossed trim (optional)
stain (optional)
polyurethane (optional)
wood glue
air compressor
pneumatic nail gun
drill/screw gun
paint brushes, paint roller and paint tray

Steps:

1. The highlighted headboard is basically an open C-channel that frames the existing headboard and is lit from within. It enhances the existing headboard and provides lighting at the head of the bed. The highlighted headboard attaches to a batten that is fixed directly to the wall, so it can be removed to change light bulbs.

2. Measure the headboard. The highlighted headboard will sit 5 inches away from the existing headboard. For example: If the headboard is 5-1/2' x 3-1/2', the highlighted headboard will have an inside measurement of 3'11" x 6' 4" and an outside measurement of 4'7" x 7'8". The highlighted headboard is 8 inches deep.

3. Cut a 3x1 to length for the batten. (The batten we used was 3 inches wide and 4 feet long.) For the C-channel, cut the sides, front and lip from 1x6 poplar, mitering the corners. In our project, we used the following measurements:

  • The left and right side segments were 4'7" long.
  • The lip pieces were 3'11".
  • The vertical front pieces, which had mitered corners, had an inside measurement of 3'11" and an outside measurement of 4'7".
  • The top had a 6'4" lip; a 7'8" top; and a front with two mitered corners with an inside measurement of 6'4", and an outside edge of 7'8".

    4. Assemble the C-channel by attaching to the front pieces, the side pieces and lip pieces with glue, nails and screws. The lip pieces attach to the inside margin and the side pieces attach to the outside margin of the front piece. Be sure to hide the end grain from the front view. Once you have the three C-channel segments assembled, reinforce the mitered corners with internal blocks, like a picture frame.

    5. Next, install the light strips by running them and the wiring continuously along the inside of all three segments of the C-channel. Fasten the lights affix to the back side of the front pieces so that they shine against the wall behind the bed.

    6. We added architectural detail to the headboard with molding and trim. Fill any screw/nail holes and sand the headboard frame. Stain or prime and paint it. Let dry.

    7. Screw the batten directly to the wall so that the inside edge is 9 inches away from the existing headboard. The batten provides an anchor for the headboard. Its precise placement vertically is not important, but its distance from the headboard is.

    8. Carefully align the highlighted headboard and affix it to the batten with two screws on each side. The screws will go through the side pieces and into the battens. These final screws are meant to be removable so that you can easily change the lights.

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