DIY | Ikea Fjellse Hack: How to Upholster A Bed

I recently upholstered a basic wooden bed frame from Ikea. It’s going to live in my little boy’s new bedroom – his first “big boy bed.” It’s a very budget-friendly and straightforward DIY – perfectly doable if you love the look of upholstered beds but not the price tag.

Tutorial: How to Upholster Bed - Ikea Fjellse Hack

UPDATE: Having lived with the upholstered Fjellse bed for over a year, there are a couple of minor things I would have done differently – read more about that here if you are planning your own DIY.

This room is at the back of our loft and gets almost no natural light. It makes taking decent photos challenging, so please bear with me on that!

Here’s how it went down…

What You Need To Upholster Your Bed

  • Wooden bed frame & slatted base – Ikea
  • 55 7/8″ x 31″ sheet of pre-cut plywood (UPDATE: use the good stuff – cheap plywood can contain formaldehyde)
  • 6′ of 1″ square pine beams
  • 1/2″ foam batting – Joann Fabric & Craft
  • Fabric
  • Staple gun & staples
  • Wood screws
  • Screw driver

The Process…

I started with the Fjellse bed frame from Ikea. It’s cheap as chips, solid pine and reasonably sturdy.

{ UPDATE: The Fjellse is now discontinued, but the Tarva bed frame is very similar. }

Step One: The Sides

I readily admit that I did not do this in the best order, but it worked. To begin, I started by cutting some 1/2″ foam batting and stapling it around one side. You don’t need to go crazy with the staples; there will be plenty more to hold it in place when the fabric goes on.

Foam batting on upholstered bed sideboards

I got a bit carried away wanting to see what it would look like finished, so I stapled the wool felt I was planning to use over the top. I stopped stapling about 6″ before reaching either end.

How to Reupholster Bed Frame Ikea Fjellse Tutorial progress

The wool felt cost me all of $5 for the entire five yards I needed to upholster the bed. I had reservations as soon as it went on… and then carried on anyway!

Step Two: Building The Headboard

I wanted a nice big headboard, about 10.5″ taller than the original frame. You could make it higher or lower, just depends what look you’re after. My ply was 55 7/8″ by 31″ – ask at the hardware store and they’ll cut it for you.

I drilled pilot holes and used wood screws to attach it to the headboard…

How to Reupholster Bed Frame Ikea Fjellse Tutorial progress

Then I added support beams to the back, built from 1″ x 1″ pine. I was feeling a little bit chuffed with myself at this point – I mean, I built something out of wood all by myself. (Heavily pregnant) girl power!  

Built up headboard DIY

I used a bit of wood glue to attach my vertical beams to the top of the Ikea headboard, then secured the frame to the plywood with more screws. Here’s where all the screws went:

DIY headboard - where to screw

I also bought plates to further secure the wood beams to the headboard, but it’s strong enough without them.

Step Three: Upholstering the Headboard

Next came the padding for the headboard. I’d found a single/twin size memory foam mattress topper on sale at Target for $5 – way cheaper than foam batting. I added more staples and trimmed the edges…

DIY upholstered headboard tutorial

This is how I dealt with the corners…

How to fold corners on foam batting 1
How to fold corners on foam batting 2
How to fold corners on foam batting 3

Next, staple the fabric around the headboard.

How to Reupholster Bed Frame Ikea Fjellse Tutorial

By this point, I was pretty sure that I hated the felt. But I still carried on.

Step Four: The Footboard

I hacked the top of the leg posts to make them flush with the rest of the frame before the foam went on. Obviously, this would have been easier to earlier in the process. This would also have been a good time to paint the legs.  

Ikea Fjellse - leveling foot board

Again, this is how the bottom corners went down…

Foam batting stapled on wooden bed frame
Foam batting for DIY upholstered bed

Step Five: Re-do the whole farking thing (Optional, and best avoided)

This is where I embraced just how much I wasn’t feeling the felt and committed to being a little less cheap. I ordered five yards of Waverly Cross Section in Charcoal.

I had another frenzy of stapling, until it was almost finished…

Spot the dog!

The bedding is another simple DIY. I used iron-on hemming tape to attach ribbon to a plain white duvet cover and pillow cases.

Step Six: The Legs

I had to wait to paint the legs for reasons I won’t bore you with, but obviously it’s better to do this right at the beginning. One coat of primer and then another of high gloss white paint.

Nailhead trim on DIY upholstered bed

The final step was adding a few decorative nails to the legs (left over from my coffee table re-do).

After!

How to upholster Bed Ikea Fjellse
How to Upholster Toddler Bed

DIY Upholstered Bed: Cost Breakdown

  • Bed frame – $50
  • Slatted bed base – $50
  • Plywood – $15
  • 6′ of 1″ square pine beams (for headboard) – $13
  • Memory foam mattress topper (for the headboard) – $5 (on sale)
  • Foam batting – $30
  • Waste of money wool felt -$5 (on sale)
  • Fabric – $70
  • Tools and hardware – already owned

Total cost: $238

Which, for an entirely upholstered bed, is really good. Just an upholstered headboard at Ikea will set you back $250, and then you have to add box springs, a bed frame and a bed skirt on to that. So yes, I am rather happy with my hack job.

DIY Upholstered headboard

Here’s a slightly more substantial peek at where the rest of the room is at now – it’s slowly coming together.

DIY upholstered bed - Loft Kids Bedroom

One final before and after:

How to Reupholster Bed Frame Ikea Fjellse-Tutorial-BEFORE
How to Reupholster Bed Frame Ikea Fjellse-Tutorial-AFTER
How-to-Upholster-Bed-Frame-Ikea-Fjellse

Click here to discover More DIY Ideas, check out the full toddler room makeover here, or see how it worked in a room with windows here!

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52 Comments

  1. December 23, 2011 / 7:18 am

    I've seen these done here and there but yours is definitely the best! I'm about to move and think I'll try it. If I went the mattress-topper route what thickness would you recommend?

  2. December 23, 2011 / 9:38 pm

    Thanks Joanna. I'd recommend a mattress topper 3/4" to 1" thick. The topper I used was 1" and I wouldn't get any thicker, because it'll be harder to attach to the wood (I had to go out and buy the longest staples I could find for the headboard). You could go thinner, but any less than 1/2" might not give you enough padding. I'd love to see if you do give it a go!

  3. December 29, 2011 / 1:30 am

    Awesome, thanks a lot for the advice. I actually just purchased the Fjellse today… I'm excited but also a bit nervous!

  4. December 29, 2011 / 1:44 am

    Oh, P.S. could you divulge how much yards of fabric you used? Thanks again!

  5. December 29, 2011 / 2:26 am

    Joanna – that's exciting you bought the bed already! I bought 5 yards of fabric and still have a little left over – I wanted a bit extra in case I fudged it, but didn't need it in the end. Good luck!

  6. January 24, 2012 / 6:34 pm

    This is a great idea. Thanks! I'm pinning this.

  7. January 24, 2012 / 6:36 pm

    Wow, great job! It looks amazing. I have a question. Do you think I could upholster it before putting it all together? I move A LOT and I want it to be easy to take apart and put back together after every move.

  8. January 24, 2012 / 6:50 pm

    Stopping by from Better After. Well done, that is super impressive! Turned out great!

  9. January 24, 2012 / 7:03 pm

    Hi Sylvie – I thought about that a lot, actually, because we also move a fair bit. I think it would be easier to just upholster it assembled and then, when you move, take the staples out and remove the fabric around the joints so you can disassemble the frame. I really don't think it would take long to take it apart and put it back together again – maybe 10-20 minutes tops.
    Otherwise, you may be able to upholster each piece separately, but the joints might not look as finished. Good luck if you do decide to give it a go!

  10. January 24, 2012 / 7:04 pm

    Please do! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  11. January 24, 2012 / 8:29 pm

    That looks gorgeous! I've just landed on your blog and am seriously impressed. Just lovely!!

  12. January 25, 2012 / 12:03 pm

    Amazing job! I just might have to give this a go for our guest bedroom! 😀
    Thank you for posting this~!
    -Jane @ urbanejane.com

  13. January 27, 2012 / 1:01 am

    Thank you 🙂

  14. February 20, 2012 / 3:24 am

    Trying to re-do our "tween's" bedroom. This was an awesome idea! You did a great job. I only hope that my husband and I can do just as well.

  15. February 26, 2012 / 1:55 am

    I am setting up a room for our tween daughter as well and am not finding anything we like in our price range. We came across your idea and thought your bed turned out amazing and decided that's what we are going to do. Thanks for all the pics and info.

  16. June 5, 2012 / 4:06 pm

    I love this! I'm exited to have a platform bed finally and this is a great way to decorate it. I have some none-decorating questions.
    You write you got the $30 bed base? How is it holding up? I'm not sure if I should upgrade when I get mine. Also, is the mattress from Ikea as well? And what size is it?

  17. June 6, 2012 / 6:13 pm

    Hi Anna. I did get the $30 bed base, and if I did it over, I'd upgrade. In fact, I might upgrade anyway. The cheap one comes in two rolls of planks. They're not cut uniformly, and quite often one side will fall off the center support (particularly when we have to pull the bed out from the wall to change the sheets) and the mattress will sag, even though I've added a few screws to hold it in place.
    We didn't get an Ikea mattress, we got one from a local mattress store only because it was cheaper since we didn't have to pay for delivery that way. It's a full/double.
    Hope this helps – I'd love to see if you do decide to give it a go!
    – Lizzie

  18. June 14, 2012 / 3:46 pm

    Hey Lizzie,
    Love your Ikea Hack. I'm not crafty in the least but on friday I am going to attempt this. Was wondering if you know what dimentions your 1" pine beams were cut to?
    I haven't bought the bed yet, and wanted to piggy back off your measurements get everything cut so I can spend the entire day stressing about making my upholstry seamless.
    Thanks so much,
    g

  19. June 15, 2012 / 3:32 am

    So sorry for the late reply! I'm not sure I'll be much help if you're kicking off tomorrow but the beams were cut to about 10" above the bed frame. It's a little hard to give an exact measurement now that they're covered in fabric and batting, so I'd probably get them a little longer and cut them to size of necessary.
    Good luck! I'd love to hear how it turns out!

  20. July 3, 2012 / 4:32 am

    Hi Lizzie,

    My daughter fell in love with this bed, and did her bed like this. At first I asked her if she was crazy for wanting to throw her bed away and get this frame. My goodness, I'm so glad she did. She made 3 pillows for the bed all different sizes, and went with a white down comforter. I think she finally was a room she will keep for awhile, thanks so much.
    JB

  21. July 3, 2012 / 4:34 am

    This is an awesome idea! I would love to try this for our guest room. I am a little intimidated though, I am pretty crafty on a small scale but the size of this project scares me a bit. I think I'll give it a try. thanks for sharing.

  22. July 3, 2012 / 4:35 am

    This is an awesome idea! I would love to try this for our guest room. I am a little intimidated though, I am pretty crafty on a small scale but the size of this project scares me a bit. I think I'll give it a try. thanks for sharing.

  23. July 3, 2012 / 6:51 pm

    JB – I would LOVE to see how your daughter's bed turns out and maybe feature it on the blog if she would let me. If you have any photos you'd like to share, please email me!
    All the best,
    Lizzie

  24. July 19, 2012 / 9:43 pm

    This looks great and I agree, I think it would good with the nail head trim….either way…adorable!!!

  25. August 12, 2012 / 12:06 pm

    I saw your post and planning on embarking on the same project. But I had a quick question, with 5 yards of fabric, did you only put one layer of fabric on the headboard and rails?

  26. September 7, 2012 / 3:57 pm

    Yes, I used one layer of fabric. If you use decent upholstery fabric, there's no reason you should need more than one layer.
    And I'm so sorry for the late reply! I thought I'd answered a while ago but apparently not – I blame Mum-brain!

  27. November 3, 2012 / 9:31 pm

    WOW THIS IS AMAZING!!!!!! thank you so much for the idea!

  28. November 30, 2012 / 1:54 pm

    You made the right decision.

    The Waverly Cross fabric pattern was definitely the better choice. Very dignified. Very expensive looking.

    The amazing amount of labor you put in got me thinking though. I'm one of those people who always tries to come up with a lazy man's solution to any problem.

    I was wondering whether an almost (but perhaps not quite) as good effect could be achieved with a foam backed "slip cover" sewn to fit and simply slipped over the bed frame? The corners at the foot of the bed would probably be the hardest part to pull off.

    Anyway, just spitballing it.

    Congratulations. You did a great job!

  29. December 8, 2012 / 8:55 pm

    For me, I think a slip cover would be harder to make – give me a staple gun over a sewing machine any day! And actually, it was a really simple process – it took a few hours, but worth it I think. 🙂

  30. January 7, 2013 / 8:45 pm

    This looks amazing, Lizzie! Thanks for sharing.
    I am eager to try this out but tend to develop allergies to fabric upholstery. Do you think this could work with leather or faux leather material? Would you have any recommendations? Thanks so much!
    – Jane

  31. January 8, 2013 / 2:16 am

    Hi Jan,
    I haven't worked with leather or faux leather myself but I'm sure it would work. You might need longer staples for the fabric, but that is all. Good luck if you do decide to give it a go! 🙂

  32. January 11, 2013 / 2:11 pm

    Amazing tutorial, really helpful when you want to build a bed on your own, you can save a lot of money by doing that as such kind of beds will cost more, really appreciate for sharing this with us.

  33. February 6, 2013 / 10:15 pm

    I just bought the twin size of this bed yesterday to make my big boy's bed! I'm debating on fabric but one is very close to the one you used. Thanks for the great inspiration!! One question: I planned on using the egg crate foam but also bought poly batting to top over that, followed by the fabric. Do you think that's overkill? I bought the batting before seeing your project…

  34. February 6, 2013 / 11:34 pm

    If you cut the foam the same size as the plywood, you can use the batting to wrap around and attach that to the back rather than wrapping the foam around (does that make sense?). Or just use the batting as an extra layer of padding – either way, it's not a bad thing. Good luck!

  35. March 18, 2013 / 4:17 am

    Thank you so much for these instructions! I'm hacking the Rykene (it seemed a little sturdier than the Fjelse for a guest bed for visiting parents). So far it looks like it's going to cost me 250 including a small footboard, and screws and staples I didn't have, etc. – can't believe what a good deal this is though! Thanks for letting me know about fabric.com too – life saver! Thank you again :).

  36. March 18, 2013 / 4:23 am

    Sylvie, just wondering what you wound up doing – did you upholster together or separately? I also want it to be able to be taken apart, so would love your feedback if you get this over 1 year later :).

  37. March 23, 2013 / 10:27 pm

    Hi Lizzie! I love the end result and I am currently in the process of doing this for my son's bedroom because I cannot seem to find a twin bed frame that looks kid friendly to me! I am planning on ordering my fabric from Fabric.com and would like to know how much Fabric you would suggest that I purchase. I am doing this for a twin bedframe. Hope to hear from you soon!

  38. September 4, 2013 / 8:48 pm

    Great Job on the upholstery. I was wondering if you also upholstered the back of the headboard? or just part of it? If just part, how far?

    Also, I will likely only upholster the headboard and stain the rest of the frame dark brown. How far would you recommend upholstering the headboard. Maybe to where it meets the frame… or lower?

    Thanks

    • January 29, 2017 / 2:31 pm

      Hi Greg,
      I didn’t upholster the back – just took the fabric round the sides enough to cover the foam. I thought about it but no-one sees it anyway and it would have made it harder to dismantle & move.
      If you’re just upholstering the headboard, I’d stop where it meets the sideboards. It’ll be the simplest way, I think. Good luck!

  39. December 4, 2013 / 4:17 am

    Dear Lizzie
    I'm thinking of taking up this project with my husband when we move to a new place in Jan. Do you still remember what type of upholstery fabric did you use? Is it Polyester, Woven fabric?

    • January 29, 2017 / 2:31 pm

      I believe it was a heavy cotton. I think any type of upholstery fabric would work though.

  40. December 4, 2015 / 5:47 pm

    I'm thinking of getting this same bed frame but would love to know the height for possible under bed storage. Online it says 13 inches

    • January 29, 2017 / 2:30 pm

      Hi Natasha,
      We don’t actually have the bed anymore so I can’t check but 13″ sounds about right!

  41. March 22, 2016 / 6:33 am

    Hi Lizzie! Do you mind if I ask why you got rid of the bed? I have a super cheapo frame right now (one that came free with my mattress) and would like to upgrade to something a bit sturdier, but a little nervous about this bed being something to use every night. My mom has the twin version in her guest bedroom but that barely gets used; tho its held up great for the past 3 years with stuffed animals! hahaha — Do you think this bed would hold up for at least 5 years for 2 adults? Thanks!

  42. March 22, 2016 / 6:36 am

    We only got rid of it because we moved to the UK and didn't think we'd have space (and we wouldn't have). I actually sold it to a good friend who still has it in her son's room and I believe it's holding up well. It depends a lot on the slats you choose – don't get the super cheap ones – because they kind of hold the whole bed frame together. I do think it would hold up for five years at least if you got decent slats. I'd love to see how it turns out if you do give it a go! 🙂

  43. April 25, 2016 / 8:48 pm

    Came across this article and am hoping to try this in the next month or so. How much foam batting did you have to purchase?

  44. April 25, 2016 / 8:54 pm

    Hi Elyse,
    I can't remember exactly – I used a mattress topper for the headboard and then measured each sideboard and the footboard to figure out how much foam to get. I actually think the batting I bought was wide enough to cut into three lengths and cover all of them, in which case I probably got 2.5 yds or so.
    Good luck – would love to see how yours turns out when you're done. 🙂
    Lizzie

  45. May 3, 2016 / 2:02 pm

    Hi. I have one of these FJELLSE beds and am very eager to make it look a bit better, hehe.
    I was just wondering hou does the back of the headborard looks. Did you finish it with something else?
    By the way, you did a great job 🙂

  46. May 3, 2016 / 2:05 pm

    Hi Amanda. Mine was just sitting against the wall, so I just left it as-is on the back – I'm lazy like that! If you wanted to tidy it up though, you could just staple fabric on the back with neat edges. Good luck!

    • June 20, 2017 / 9:13 pm

      So glad I could help! x

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