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What is a Headboard?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated May 16, 2024
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A headboard is the portion of a bed that is located at the end where one rests his or her head while sleeping. Usually, it is attached to the frame of the bed, but in some cases, it may simply rest behind the bed.

The primary purpose of the headboard is to help keep pillows in place while the bed is in use. It can, however, serve several additional purposes. For example, a headboard may include shelves that can be used to place decorations or lamps to use while reading in bed. Similarly, it may incorporate cabinetry and other storage areas. This style became particularly popular with the introduction of the waterbed to the public.

The headboard may also be an integral part of the bedroom décor. Often, the bed frame is designed to match the dressers and nightstands in a bedroom. Available in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and designs, one can be found to fit nearly every homeowner's personal taste.

A headboard may also have a matching footboard, which is located at the opposite end of the bed. Its purpose is to help hold blankets and sheets in place, as well as to add to the decorative element of the bed in the bedroom. Usually, the headboard stands taller than the footboard if both are attached to a bed, although in some cases, they may be of equal height and size. Rarely is the footboard taller.

While a headboard and a footboard are not necessary pieces of a bed, they can both be useful. In addition, both can help transform a plain and ordinary bed to the centerpiece of a bedroom.

In addition to being used in the home, a headboard is often included with hospital beds as well. In this case, it serves as an area to store vital medical materials that need to be accessed easily. It may also serve as a storage area for hygiene products or items nurses may need to access easily when cleaning the room, such as extra linens for the bed or napkins and other items the patient may need.

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Discussion Comments
By seag47 — On Apr 13, 2012

I like to read in bed, so a bookcase headboard seemed like a good idea to me. The one I got has two long shelves that run the width of the bed. It has cabinet doors on it, so I can shut them and lean against it while reading.

It seemed like the perfect setup until we had an earthquake one night. I was lying in bed asleep when everything started moving. The headboard doors swung open, and books started falling on my head.

It was bad enough that the room was shaking, but having things chunked at my head sent me into a panic. I think I just scooted toward the footboard and held the covers over myself until it was over.

By orangey03 — On Apr 12, 2012

@lighth0se33 – Handmade headboards are the best kind, in my opinion. If you have a skilled person making one, then you can get it done in any shape you want.

I don't like to be ordinary, so I got my friend to make me a seashell shaped headboard. It fans out elegantly from the center, and I painted it with an iridescent paint to make it resemble mother-of-pearl.

The rest of my room is done in ocean décor, so the headboard fits in perfectly. It also keeps all the bedding from falling off, but that is just a perk. Its main function is aesthetic.

By lighth0se33 — On Apr 11, 2012

I started out without a headboard just because I couldn't afford one. After my family came for a visit and I let them have my bed to sleep in, I discovered that I really did need a headboard.

I did have the bed about a foot from the wall. The morning after my family's first night with me, I came into the room and saw that they had pushed the bed up against the wall. I asked them why, and they said that their pillows kept falling off during the night, and they needed something to keep them in place.

My dad offered to build me a wooden headboard while he was there, and I let him do it. I knew I would like having one, and if I could get it for free, that would be even better.

By wavy58 — On Apr 11, 2012

I got rid of my headboard and my entire bed frame when I moved into another house. I had always had a tendency to scoot up during the night and hit my head on the headboard, so I found it annoying.

I like having my mattresses flat on the floor. In addition to not having anything to whack my head on, I also don't have to worry about anything hiding under the bed. If I should fall out of bed, I don't have as far to fall now.

I understand why people who sleep without a whole lot of tossing and turning would want a headboard. For me, it is just a nuisance. I need all the room I can get to flop around.

By anon135414 — On Dec 18, 2010

When we moved to our our we did not have a headboard or foot board. We have a draft coming in the window which we covered with plastic and styrofoam which relieved some draft. I am really thinking the headboard would be the solution to this draft and my husband does not have to wrap his head like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

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