How to Make a Statement Headboard Using Old Books

Calling all bibliophiles: Build this unique display for your well-loved works.

Photo by Sakharova Anastasia/Shutterstock (headboard), jafara/Shutterstock (room) | Graphic design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist
Photo by Sakharova Anastasia/Shutterstock (headboard), jafara/Shutterstock (room) | Graphic design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

A book collection can reveal a lot about its owner. Do they prefer nonfiction to fiction? Are they sci-fi fans or romantics? Have they ascribed to a self-help doctrine, or is it escapism that appeals? No matter the subject, the arrangement of the books itself can set a collection apart. A corner bookshelf makes sense in an old-world office, while an open credenza is perfect in a mid-century modern living room. It’s easy for voracious readers to outgrow traditional book storage, though, especially over time. Instead of parting with your beloved volumes, try enlisting your home decor creativity.

A unique, permanent display is a fantastic solution for volumes you’re doubled up on or books you haven’t cracked open in ages. During your next free weekend, tap into your design side and attempt a statement-making headboard made from surplus hardcovers and some scrap wood. If your bookshelf is caving under the weight of your growing collection, build this alternate display for those well-loved works. It may just be the reminder you need to put down the phone at bedtime and wind down with a bit of reading instead.


– Hardcover books
– Nails
– Hammer
– Pencil
– A large piece of plywood or similar
– A two-by-four plank, cut into two equal lengths
– Measuring tape
– Spray adhesive
– Safety goggles
– Safety gloves


1. Find many similar-sized hardcover books
For this project to look complete and professional, you’ll need to source plenty of hardcover books. Libraries and donation centers toss thousands of books every year, so those are great places to start. You can also try a used bookstore or yard sale to grab discount volumes in bulk. Aim for books of approximately the same size for the most cohesive result.

Illustration by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

2. Measure the headboard
Determine the target size for your headboard by measuring your bed first. Typically, headboards are one to three inches wider than the bed frame, but for a high-impact look, add a few inches to both sides of the bed. Add enough height to take your headboard at least halfway up the wall toward the ceiling, but go higher for more of a statement.

Illustration by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

3. Cut a piece of wood to size
Select or cut a piece of wood that matches the intended size of your headboard. The wood won’t be visible when the project is complete, so plywood or oriented strand board are solid options. If you don’t have a set of power tools at home, you can order a precut piece from most hardware stores. Looking to cut down on costs? Use a few pieces of scrap wood patched together with some sturdy wood glue or a few anchors and nails.

4. Add support beams to the headboard
Attach your large piece of plywood to the cut two-by-fours, spaced so the plywood begins about an inch below the mattress top and the two-by-fours hit the floor. Space the two-by-fours one-third of the way into the center from either side, so they’ll be hidden when the headboard is installed and the bed is in place. Wearing safety goggles and gloves, nail the plywood to the boards (as a general rule, you should nail from the thinner piece of material to the thicker).

5. Arrange the books
When the base of the headboard is constructed, lay it flat in a well-ventilated area. Arrange the books across the front of the plywood and open them to their approximate center. Position the books to find an arrangement you like, then either snap a photo for reference later or mark each book with a number inside the front cover.

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Illustration by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

6. Attach the hardcovers to the headboard
Wearing safety goggles and gloves, nail each book to the plywood. Saving just a few pages in the center, nail through the rest of the pages and the front and back covers. Check periodically to ensure the nails are piercing through the covers and attaching to the wood, but not entirely through it.

Illustration by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

7. Secure the pages together
Spray the adhesive to glue the loose center pages to the nailed ones, camouflaging the hardware. Use a light touch of the spray adhesive to avoid ripples in the paper. Allow the books to dry in a ventilated space.

8. Position your headboard
Install the headboard by leaning it against the wall and positioning the bed frame against it. While this setup is great for renters looking to keep the drywall pristine, a more permanent alternative would be to screw the support two-by-fours into the wall studs.

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