Like many millennials, my post-college bed situation has evolved: First, a leaky air mattress on the ground; then, mail-order memory-foam mattress on the wire frame it came with; finally, a new mail-order memory-foam mattress with a wooden bed frame and headboard.
It was a splurge, to be sure, but I can’t help feeling a smidge more adult when my floating mattress isn’t shoved up against the wall. Apparently, others feel the same way:
But unlike a bed frame, box spring or mattress, a headboard seemingly doesn’t actually do anything a wall can’t. So why is it so special?
According to Megan Davey, a designer in Chicago, headboards actually serve a number of purposes, starting with, of course, the overall vibe of your bedroom. “Headboards create a focal point and intentional ‘home’ for a bed, so it ends up really setting the overall design for the room,” she explains.
“Sure, they seem like a luxury because they’re not absolutely necessary,” adds Jessica Morrow, a freelance designer in Chicago. “But more than anything, they’re a sign that you’re more than some gremlin living by pure utility, sleeping on the floor with sheets over your windows. Instead, you’re a refined human being who puts effort into their home.”
Davey seconds this point: “Getting a mattress off the ground is a decision that some people take way too long to make, so getting a headboard shows you’ve really put that extra effort into caring about the look of your bedroom. It shows the room is worth more to you than just a place to crash at night.”
For her part, Morrow took the headboard #adulting plunge early — all the way back in college. “My room immediately felt different, like it went from a Super 8 to a Hilton Garden Inn,” she tells me. “I felt a weird sense of pride for my room, and it made me want to make other improvements to my room as well — like hanging curtains, which, yes, somehow came after the headboard.”
Still, Morrow readily admits that headboards can be both financially and physically cumbersome. In particular, she says, “They can be freaking expensive and super heavy. So it’s definitely like a nice couch or other ‘adult’ furnishings, in that it’s something you buy when you plan to live somewhere longer than a year.”
If interior design isn’t your thing, Davey swears headboards have actual utility, too. “Some headboards, especially fabric ones, help to reduce sound through them — especially if you’ve got noisy neighbors next door,” she explains. “Plus, they can help insulate against cold exterior walls, and some even include shelving for storage or incorporate lighting elements.”
More practically still, they also prevent you from “bonking your head into the wall or losing a pillow down the awkward crack above your mattress,” Morrow adds.
As for cost, she says that you can travel a cheaper route by finding one online or at a garage sale. Davey, meanwhile, advocates making your own. In fact, she argues, pretty much anything could become a headboard, “so long as it gives the bed some grounding.”
“As someone who has jumped from apartment to apartment,” she continues, “I’ve used carved wood panels as my headboard that attached to a wall with just a few screws, had a friend who used a reclaimed door as her headboard and another who used a macramé wall hanging.”
The end result, however, is always the same: a slightly more adult way to sleep and a slightly more adult way to present yourself to whomever you might sleep with.