DIY Upholstered Bed Frame


I can’t believe I’m writing this – we built a bed frame! When we moved into our new house last December, we upgraded from a queen to a king mattress. Everything for a king bed is bigger – pillows, sheets, bed frames – and that often means it’s more expensive, too. I didn’t want cost to stop us from having exactly what we wanted, so when I stumbled upon the McGee & Co. Faris bed I knew making our own version would be the perfect project to kick off 2023.

Now, this isn’t a step by step tutorial, but I wanted to share a little bit of our process and some tips we found helpful in case you’d like to give this build a try yourself!

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Research & planning

I began by researching how to build a bed frame and sketching up a plan on my iPad in Procreate. There are many YouTube videos and blog posts that document the process, but I found this post by Shelley, of Crazy Wonderful, to be the most informative and aligned with the look I was going for. Make sure to check it out for a more detailed tutorial!

Sketch has been updated to reflect any changes we made while building!

I modified her footboard design to match the height of the mattress and designed the frame structure as a platform bed since we didn’t purchase a king box spring. After checking measurements not twice, but thrice, I jotted down a cut list and went off to Lowes to pick up materials with Matt.

Materials & cost

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My goal was to keep the frame as lightweight and stable as possible, without compromising on design. Here are the materials we used:

Our total cost for materials was $610.23. The biggest savings was buying the upholstery materials on sale. Compare that to the $5,335 bed frame we were modeling ours after and I’d say this was a pretty solid win.

In hind sight, I probably could have eliminated some of the pieces of my frame and replaced the 2×6 exterior construction with a mix of 1x6s and 2x4s to save money and weight (similar to what Shelley did). That said, the four sides of the frame are light enough that Matt and I can move them as a team.

Pro tip: Buy the straightest boards you can find – even if that means digging through the pile. It’s a little more time consuming up front, but it makes assembly easier and less wonky in the long run!

Building the frame

With our cut list in hand, we measured, marked and cut all of the wood needed to construct the frame at once. This made assembly far more efficient. My pre-planning almost immediately paid off!

We glued and screwed all pieces of the frame together. Before attaching the panels we ended up adding in a few extra pieces of blocking to support the rails for the stringers and slats. It was easiest to assess these add-ins before attaching the panels and covering the frame.

Pro tip: Mark where your interior supports and blocks are along the outer edges of the frames before covering with the wood panels. This way, when you add in the brackets and supports rails you know exactly where to screw them in.

Next, we installed the brackets making sure to leave clear space for the support rails that had yet to be installed. We checked to make sure the brackets were in alignment and the frame assembled without a hitch before adding support rails.

Please disregard Matt’s labeling, ha!

Lastly, we screwed in the support rails and cut the stringers and slats. The rails on the head and footboards would support the stringers, and the rails on the left and right sideboards would support the slats (that would also cross over top of the stringers). That said, the placement of the rails had to account for the different heights. We added legs with adjustable feet to the stringers so we had the ability to raise or lower and guarantee contact with the floor. To ensure our slats stayed put when we assembled the bed frame, we installed spacers along the sideboard rails.

Pro tip: If installing spacers, use a thick piece of paper (greeting card, or even a few post-it notes folded up) on either side of the block as an added spacer. This way when you go to lay in all of the slats, there is enough breathing room that they’ll drop into place, instead of being a super tight squeeze!

Upholstering the frame

I’ve never upholstered anything before, so I sort of learned this part on the fly. Thankfully I do have a sewing machine and sewing experience so that skill (albeit rusty) came in super handy. Another key ingredient here was our pneumatic stapler. My hands would have been so sore and callused without it, so I’d recommend it if you anticipate doing anything like this again in the future.

I started by attaching a double thick layer of batting on all outward facing sides, and a quadruple thick layer of batting along all top edges. I made sure to start from the center and work my way out as I wrapped the batting around the inside edges and stapled.

Then, I covered all of the batting in a layer of muslin fabric. This helped even out any lumps and bumps in the batting and created a smooth surface for the upholstery fabric to lay over top of. As with the batting, I pulled tightly and stapled to the inside edges to minimize any staple indents from showing through the upholstery fabric on the sides that mattered!

Finally, I cut the upholstery fabric and fleece headboard backing to size and pinned it in place (in reverse) directly on the frame to ensure a snug fit. I sewed (straight lines only!) and slipped the covers over the frame to test fit. I took this step very slowly to avoid making mistakes and that paid off big time. With all of the slip covers in place I wrapped the open edges of the cover snuggly around the edges of the frame that wouldn’t be visible and stapled.

Pro tip: Think twice with every line of staples you pop in. Will the edge you’re stapling be visible when the frame is assembled? If so, can you wrap the fabric around another edge to hide those staples? It’s much easier that pulling out a ton of staples after the fact (don’t ask me how I know that!)

The finished product

The only adjustment we had to make for assembly was trimming down the slats to squeeze them over the sideboard batting. Aside from that, everything clicked into place perfectly!

We’re really pleased with the outcome and are already talking about a DIY day bed we want to build for the office/guest room to make better use of the space. Now that we have this under our belt, that should be easy, right?!


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