‘When one door closes, another one opens,’ or so goes the age-old adage to describe the hope of future, yet undiscovered opportunities. I like to think of thrift store goods much in the same way: items that a previous owner has closed the figurative door upon wait for another to breathe in to it new life, new purpose.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a door as ‘a movable piece of wood, glass or metal that swings or slides open and shut so that people can enter or leave a room, building, vehicle.’ In the most literal sense, a door is an object in which we must cross through on any journey we take, regardless how trivial or significant.

So, it is when we throw open a door, then, that the world is exposed before us; revealing not just one, but the often many paths we may choose to try out. It is fitting that we transform a simple thrift store door into a headboard, for it is at the headboard where we might rest our weary heads at night. And it is here where we close our eyes that we open the doors to our dreams—of possibilities, of journeys, of yet undiscovered opportunities.

What makes this project extra special is that despite its appearance, it is really quite simple and inexpensive to create. In fact, custom headboards often sell for hundreds of dollars while you can very easily make something you love for under $50. And with hundreds of doors—ranging from vintage to modern—with a variety of design elements, you can create something totally custom to your taste.

I will be demonstrating how to construct a very basic door to headboard, but don’t be afraid to add more elements: molding at the top or fabric in the inserts, for example.

You Will Need:

  • Door
  • Quart of paint in desired color (I use a paint+primer in a semi-gloss)
  • Mini paint roller and tray
  • Medium/fine sandpaper
  • 2 D-Rings
  • Heavy duty picture wire
  • Picture hook for hanging up to 100 lbs and accompanying hardware (screws, screwdriver, etc)
  • Optional decor (nailhead trim, fabric, hammer, spray adhesive, etc.)
  • Optional legs and hardware (three pine or plywood legs cut to bed height)

The Hunt: Many thrift stores feature a variety of doors, but for this project, I turn to a local building re-sale shop like Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Habitat for Humanity ReStores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, building materials, and appliances to the public at a fraction of the retail price. They are owned and operated by local Habitat for Humanity affiliates and the proceeds go directly to building homes in your community and around the world. If you are lucky to have one in your neighborhood (or even within 50 miles) check it out. You will not believe what kind of wonderful treasures you can find! Win-win! My local Habitat for Humanity Restore has, literally, HUNDREDS of doors ranging in size, variety and age. It didn’t take me long to find this door among the group. And, I paid only $18.00.

Step One, Sand: Regardless of the shape of the door, I always recommend a light sanding of the surface to provide better paint adhesion.

Step Two, Paint: When painting any smooth surface, like a door, cabinet or piece of furniture, use a mini paint roller. They sell these paint rollers designed specifically for painting cabinets and smaller spaces and furniture. Since it is likely that your door is a very smooth surface, go for the ‘better’ paint roller to provide the cleanest finish. This will give you the smoothest paint job aside from spray paint.

Step Three, Décor: Here’s where you can get creative! I found these decorative nailheads at Joann fabric for $21.00 for 5 yards. I love this product because it cuts your time in half and makes for an easier straight edge. All you do is measure the amount of nailhead trim you need and cut it with a regular scissors. Every fourth nailhead will have a specially designed nailhead with a hole. You will then hammer the provided nails in those spots and voila! Another great idea: if you have decorative cut outs on the door, like I do, upholster them! So easy! Simply cut your desired fabric to fit in the spaces and attach with spray adhesive. Then, line the edges with nailhead trim to hide the edges. So cute.

I have also seen people take a piece of plywood that runs the length of the top of the door and attach that to the top of the door so it makes a small mantle. Then, attach molding on an angle to create a very regal look. You can find plywood and molding in any hardware store, and since it requires very little material to complete, you can probably purchase both for under $20.00.

Step Four, Install Hanging Hardware: To attach the headboard, view it as you might a very heavy painting or mirror. Screw two D-rings to the back of the headboard a few inches from either side. Then, stretch heavy-duty picture wire between the two D-rings ands twist to secure. You can almost never use too much wire; make sure it is totally secure. Then, find the stud on the wall and hammer (or drill) a heavy-duty picture hook. You will want one that can bear up to 100 lbs. Yeah, I know the door isn’t 100lbs, but do it for peace of mind.

Step Five, *Optional, Extra Support: Attach Legs, Attach to Wall: To really secure your headboard, you might feel comfortable attaching legs to it and drilling them into the wall. In many DIY blogs, they show you the steps they take to cut the wood. And this is great! But, you can also have them cut at the store for a very small price. I usually opt for this since it saves me time and frustration (and probably a finger here and there). I recommend three legs: one for each end and one in the middle.

Now, you may want to paint the legs before attaching. I didn’t because they won’t show (and because I was a little lazy as this is my guest bedroom), but chances are that down the line I will paint them to match. To attach the legs, simply use wood nails to hammer into the back of the door. Attach the legs by screwing or nailing them into wall studs.

The Grand Reveal: Happy dreaming! Since this is my guest bedroom, I made a day bed-which is lucky because the door fits exactly to the length of the mattress. Next week, be sure to check back when I demonstrate how to turn thrift store lights into the perfect bedside sconces and attach them to this very headboard.