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DIY Caroline Headboard

Alter the look of your bedroom by following these simple instructions to make your own Caroline headboard.

May 2018
By Amy Howard
Photos by Quentin Bacon

rescue restore redecorate cover

In Rescue, Restore, Redecorate: Amy Howard's Guide to Refinishing Furniture and Accessories (Abrams, 2018), Amy Howard brings beauty back into the furniture abandoned by others. She brings her artistic vision to every piece, and helps guide her readers to do the same. Not only does Howard offer her favorite refurbishing tips and tricks, she also shows readers how to get the best deal at flea markets. The following excerpt is the directions to her Caroline headboard project in Chapter 10, "Transfers."

That spot at the head of your bed is crying out for something beautiful, but the months are slipping by without a solution. Maybe all the headboards you've considered seem too bulky or too expensive or you're just not sure which direction to take. Here's a simple remedy that allows you to tailor the look to what's already in your bedroom, or maybe even to inspire a fresh decor scheme if you haven't achieved your ideal bedroom style. Here I was going for a playful bohemian look that mixes pattern on pattern with the pillows, but because you are découpaging the planks with the image of your choice, the options are infinite — French Provençal, midcentury modern, art deco, animal print, you name it. The découpage glue needs ample time to dry, so give yourself several hours for this project, or preferably overnight.

caroline headboard


  • 1/4-inch-thick raw wood boards (preferably oak) in your preferred width and height to create your desired headboard shape (the white oak boards shown are 5 inches wide and 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 feet in length)
  • 1 quart of white chalk-based paint
  • 1 bottle of white cerusing wax
  • 1 bottle of transfer solution or découpage glue
  • Two 3-inch flat foam brushes
  • Image of your choice, printed on a laser printer on 100# paper and cut to size
  • 3 or 4 clean, lint-free rags
  • Small washable container

Getting Started

Prepping the Surface

A single coat of chalk-based paint creates a nice, clean base for your découpage images. As long as you are using clean raw wood, you do not need to do the typical degreasing step first.

caroline headboard

1. Dip a foam brush into the chalk-based paint. Remove any excess paint by running the side of your brush across the inner lip of the can. Apply the paint to the wood in long, even strokes that overlap at the edges. Allow the paint to dry completely (about 20 to 30 minutes).

Play With Color

You can play around with the color of your base coat of paint, which will show through the découpage. Other great options that won't overwhelm your image include grays and soft blues or pinks. If you like the idea of going bolder, try a tartan plaid image on top of a black or forest-green painted base!

Découpaging the Boards

Because of the length of the boards, you will probably need to print and trim several pages of images or words and lay them end to end to cover each board. Don't worry about making them perfect. I encourage you to work on découpaging only one board at a time, though, to ensure the best adhesion with the board.

caroline headboard

2. In the washable container, dip a clean foam brush into the découpage glue and remove any excess. Apply the glue evenly to the board and to the front of the paper with the image on it, not the blank back. Before you proceed, be sure there are no "holidays" (gaps) in the glue coverage or the image won't transfer completely.

caroline headboard

3. Adhere the front of the paper to the board, pressing out any bumps. Repeat with the rest of your images and boards. Let them dry completely (at least 2-1/2 to 3 hours or preferably overnight).

caroline headboard

4. Once the découpage glue is completely dry, saturate a clean rag with warm tap water, squeezing out any excess. In a counterclockwise circular motion, rub the wet rag over the entire wood segment. You may need to wet the rag more than once. As pellets of paper start coming off the surface, gently remove them and the pattern or image will emerge clearly. Repeat with the rest of the images and boards. Let them dry completely (at least an hour).

Waxing the Boards

A soft white cerusing wax helps give the découpaged image subtle depth without too much shine. You could do a light and dark wax combination if you prefer a more aged finish.

caroline headboard

5. Squeeze some cerusing wax directly onto a découpaged board. Using a clean rag, rub the wax evenly over the entire surface in a circular motion. Repeat with the rest of the boards.

caroline headboard

6. Let the wax dry completely (about 1 hour). Using a clean rag, buff it to a soft shine. Attach the boards to a frame or apply them directly onto the wall.

More from Rescue, Restore, Redecorate:

Excerpted with permission from Rescue, Restore, Redecorate by Amy Howard. Published by Abrams © 2018.

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