Hello! I’m excited to be bringing you my latest DIY project, where I turned our Ikea Malm bed into a fully upholstered bed. There are many inspirations out there for upholstered beds, some of which are fairly reasonably priced. But, as you know, I like to DIY to save $$$ so I thought I’d try to see if I could transform our current bed for a fraction of the $$$.
Mr. Man bought the Ikea Malm bed about 10 years ago, and because it was a queen, we made it “our” bed when we moved in together. I disliked it from Day One and that dislike has only intensified as the years have passed.
Last year, I got the idea to upholster it. Ikea has carried this bed for so long, it’s virtually an icon. Therefore, I figured I’d find plenty of “DIY” instructions on how to upholster it. Wrong! So, so wrong. This led me to believe that it was impossible. And thus I started searching for a new bed.
The problem is that any bed I buy now to fit our current bedroom will be short-lived since “eventually” I want to turn our basement rumpus room into our master bedroom. And once we do that I want a king-sized bed.
Around Christmas, my hate for our bed reached epic proportions and I couldn’t bare the idea of starting another year with the bed the way it was. I decided I had nothing to lose by trying to upholster it. Worse case-scenario: we’d have to sleep on the floor, which didn’t seem as bad as another day with the bed as-is
The biggest stumbling blocks were (1) figuring out how to make the side railings appear to be one solid piece; (2) how to deal with the areas where the side railings connect to the head and footboard; and (3) how to upholster the headboard so that it appeared neat from the back — when we’re in our backyard, you can see part of the back of the headboard and I didn’t want to see a hot mess.
I worked on this bed over two days. All in, I probably spent 6 hours. My hope is that these instructions will spare you the few extra hours I spent trying to riddle out solutions to the aforementioned “stumbling blocks.”
- Approximately 8 yards of material — my fabric is actually the reverse side of a denim I found for $7.95/yard!
- 5 yards of batting – I think I used 5 oz. (It was the lightest weight my fabric store carried.)
- 1″ foam — I bought a 3 ft x 6 ft rectangle to cut up and fit the two 5″H x 80″L x 1″D recesses along the side-rails and had about 3 ft left.
- Electric staple gun — I’m going to be honest with you: you do NOT want to attempt this project with a manual stapler unless you have freakish bionic hands. I bought this one from my local hardware store and it did a great job. (BTW: I spent less at my local hardware store than what Home Depot and Amazon are selling it for so I’d urge you to hit up your local hardware store first. #buylocal)
- At least 1000 staples (thus my previous comment)
- Serrated knife to cut the foam
- Ruler/tape measure/straight edge ruler
- Pliers – to pull errant staples out
- Flat head screw driver – to work help lift staples that you need to pull out and are too flush for the pliers
- KNEE PADS!!! — unless you have a table big enough to work on or freakish bionic knees…
- Blue tape
- Fabric glue – I didn’t use fabric glue but could/should have in a few places.
- Upholstery tacks
- Iron — this isn’t absolutely necessary but it creates nice, crisp creases when folding the fabric at the sides.
- Before disassembling the bed, outline where the side railings meet the head and footboard at all four points. I didn’t take a picture of that part. In # 1 above, the arrow points to one of those areas.
- I cut the foam before I disassembled the bed but you don’t have to. My foam wasn’t long enough to fill the 80“ recessed area so I had to cut two pieces of foam to fill the area — (1) 72″ + (1) 8″.
- I cut the foam 4 3/4″ wide (a little short of the full 5 inches so it wouldn’t get in the way after I put a layer of batting). Because my foam had been professionally cut I was able to use a straight-edge ruler to measure out the width pretty quickly. (I flipped the foam to the other professionally cut side to do the same thing for the 2nd long piece I needed).
- Cut the foam, using a serrated bread knife.
- The internet led me to believe I could cut the foam with scissors but that proved impossible given how much I was cutting.
- Tip: let the knife do the work — focus on moving the knife back and forth rather than down, and don’t squeeze the foam too much while cutting. Also, I found it worked best if I held the smaller piece in my left hand, while cutting with my right.
- Tape the foam pieces so they sit in the recesses of the rails. Tip: trim the foam so it’s about a 1/4″ in from the ends.
- Move on to the batting. This step is pretty straight forward. You simply cut enough to cover the front, top, bottom and enough of the back to keep the front and top secure.
- Don’t put any batting around the ends. It’ll get in the way of assembling the bed.
- Staple. Staple and staple some more. I used less staples here than I did for the fabric but still quite a few.
- Tip: Staple the batting to the bottom of the rail rather than going around and up to the bottom of the metal railing. This will leave you enough room to staple the cover fabric there. (That was confusing: in picture #4, there’s a small piece of blue tape on the area where you’ll be stapling the fabric to.)
- After stapling the batting to the bottom I trim the excess as close to the staples as possible.
Step 5 & 6
- Cut your fabric to size.
- I found the easiest way to “measure” out the fabric was to simply lay the piece on top of the fabric to get a rough idea of the size I needed rather than measuring it out — always erring on the side of making it a little bigger.
- For this project, I was finally brave enough to “rip” the fabric the way you see the people who work at fabric stores do when cutting yardage out. It was so satisfying but it also lead to a lot of strings that I’d have to trim from time to time because they’d get in the way. Totally worth it though because I got a straighter cut than I would have been able to had I cut it free hand.
- Staple the fabric along the metal railing — remembering to pull the fabric snuggly.
- Tip: I started from the middle and worked my way out. I also started with the longer piece but I don’t think this mattered as much.
- When you’re done, you’re going to need to trace the hole where the bolts get turned for assembly. As you can see, it’s peanut shaped and I stapled around it so the fabric would stay taught in that area after I cut the hole out.
- Then I took the tip of my scissors to poke a hole and cut the “peanut” out. I forgot to take of picture what it looked like after I did this. It’s not pretty but you’ll never see it so it doesn’t matter.
- Tip: as you can see my stapling got ugly. You won’t see any staples so it doesn’t matter what they look like but you don’t want to snag your mattress or sheets so go back and hammer them down — before re-assembling the bed.
- Now, we’re turning to the ends of the side-rails. The reason the ends look so crazy is because I needed to make sure the holes remained clear for assembling the bed and I didn’t want to add a lot of fabric for fear that it would prevent the dowels from going in deep enough to make it secure. This could compromise the integrity of the bed. (See #11 to get a better sense of the holes I’m talking about — plus the dowel that wouldn’t come out.)
- I had to balance the railing on my knees to do this but I flipped the picture so you could get a better idea of how to staple it.
- Basically, you’re going to pull and staple the fabric as close to the holes as you can but without covering them. I did the top and bottom and then cut the excess fabric. You can see how it turns out in picture #11 above.
Step 9 & 10
- I’m so glad I did this project around the holidays because after wrapping so many presents, I quickly realized the best way of folding the fabric around the bottom of the railings.
- Basically, just fold it the way you would when wrapping a present on the ends of your box. Then instead of folding it up like you would with a present, fold it down onto the underside of the rail and staple it secure.
- At this point, your end should look like this — the bottom is neat, the holes are exposed and you have a flap on top.
- You’re going to want to bring the rail to eye level, which I did by sitting on the floor and balancing it on my knees — great core exercise BTW!
Step 13 & 14
- Tuck the excess fabric into itself starting at one end and working it in until it’s all in.
- You may need to trim the fabric and batting in order to get a nice smooth fold. You could also put a staple on the flaps under the fold to keep it secure. I also used the screwdriver to poke the fabric in to push it in that last little bit.
- Tip: I ironed the folds to make them crisper. Not sure it did much but it took 2 seconds.
- I next moved onto the head and foot boards, which I did using virtually the same techniques.
- Again, secure the batting. In #15, you see the back of the head-board. I drew that black line to represent the part of the headboard visible from our bedroom windows. If you don’t have this problem, you don’t have to follow steps 20-21.
- Cut out and staple the fabric in place.
- What you see in #16 above is the front of my headboard and that white dotted line represents where my mattress hits it. I wanted to make sure that the fabric went beyond that so that when we are lifting the mattress to change sheets we’re not weakening the upholstering. If you have weaker fabric than denim, you may want to consider a double fold and then stapling it — it’s a cleaner, stronger edge.
- There is also a metal plate on the front of the headboard. I used the same technique to deal with it as I had with the “peanut” hole in #7 above — stapled around it, traced it and then cut the fabric out. Though it struck me afterwards that I could have taken the plate off and reinstalled it over the fabric. I think this boils down to personal preference.
- Moving on to the ends. I wanted clean lines and once again my recent gift wrapping marathon came in handy.
- Take the bottom piece of fabric, pull it up over the end and staple it into place. I only used a handful of staples here because you will use the tacks to further secure it in place
- Trim the bottom piece so it’s just flush with the front of the headboard. You’ll also need to trip the long “tail” you see there so it’s only about 3-4″ long.
- What you’re going to do next is tuck the “tail” up and then staple where the white arrow points to secure it.
- You’ll probably have to trim and/or fold some of the “tail” fabric as you work it to get the cleanest fold.
- Pull the fabric as you see in #19 and then put a staple or two to secure it (don’t worry you’ll end up covering these staples with the next/final fold).
- I should mention at this point that when working on the headboard you’ll have to work on the sides in 2 sections — the top section being the part above where the rail is and the bottom being below the rail.
- Cut a slit in the fabric where the top of the railing outline is. (See #20 below to get an idea of what that looks like.)
- Next, staple the fabric around the outlines of the rails. (See #21 & #23 to get a sense of that.)
Step 20 & 21
- With the headboard on a flat surface (i.e. the ground), you’re going to do a double fold so you end up with a folded edge flush with the edge.
- Then iron the folds.
- Tip: after you iron the folds, you could use fabric glue to keep them secure. I ended up leaving the blue tape and so far so good.
- Hammer the upholstery tacks in place.
- I eye-balled the placement, which worked fine on the first side but then I got cocky and some of the sides look like a drunkard put them in. I’d suggest you measure the placement. It’s easy enough to do with a tape measure and sharpie.
- I think gold tacks would be super hot and on trend. With yellow walls (that I hate), I couldn’t bring myself to add gold tacks.
Step 23 & 24…Headboard only
- For completing the sides of the foot board, follow instructions #20-22 for the entire length of the sides.
- Unlike with the top, you’re going to wrap the “bottom” section exactly like wrapping a present and fold up (rather than down). I secured the first folds with staples so I could work on getting the final fold to be flush with the edge
- I ended up ironing this fold too. No one is ever going to see this part but since I had the iron out it only took a few seconds.
- Then staple the flap in place.
Repeat these steps again for the other side and then you’re done!!
After I moved the bed in, I got inspired to style our dressers and start a gallery wall on the only window/closet-less wall. I’m still working on the gallery wall. I promise to show pictures of it soon. Here are some more pictures of the bed and other details.
There you go. I hope this helps you hate your Malm bed a little less. It worked for me!