Sitting Pretty: Headboards With Storage and Style

These designs have nooks, shelves, lights, mirrors and even closet space

By Kate Burt  /  Courtesy of

Headboards can be a simple decorative detail or a handy surface to lean on for late-night reading — but they can also be so much more. So if you’re in the market for an upgrade, tap into the possibilities for this piece of furniture and consider choosing — or designing — a headboard for your bed that will provide anything from extra storage to a mini gallery, or even expand the sense of space in your bedroom. Let these ideas inspire you.

Create cupboards. The designer of this cute, cottage-y room in a converted Cotswolds, England, house has made nice use of the narrow alcoves on either side of the bed. Pretty, but hardly a new idea, right? What makes this design sing is the simple way the rustic headboard has been built as part of this wooden architecture. 

Plain vertical planks not only connect the spaces at the head of the bed, making the arrangement look as if it’s been there forever, but the uprights over the bed are cleverly topped with a narrow shelf, just wide enough for paperbacks and a framed picture. 

This idea is great if you don’t have much space for bedside tables or don’t want to clutter them up. Just make sure the edge of the shelf is flush with the rest of the headboard, or it will be very uncomfortable when you’re sitting up in bed.

Add a mirrored border. This lavish custom headboard has a bit of a 1930s Hollywood boudoir look to it; don’t you think? You can almost picture Jean Harlow or Carole Lombard padding about the room in a silky robe and high-heeled slippers. 

But back to the headboard: This design is more than just Tinseltown glamorous. The built-in mirror bounces light from the windows around the room and plays with spatial perception, as it appears to offer a glimpse of another room behind it, fooling the eye into seeing a far larger space than is there. This idea could work wonders in a compact or dark room, as well as one needing a little stardust.

Reflect the window. Here’s another canny use of mirror in a headboard. In this room the effect is window-like, as the multipaned headboard echoes the design of the French doors. It adds light and space, for sure, but also creates an interesting focal point in an otherwise neutral, simply decorated space. This is a great way to build in a striking design detail without adding color or visual clutter.

Build in a shelf. These boxy, salvaged-wood headboards give this twin guest room a warm atmosphere and a grown-up feel. But they are also chunky enough to provide a much-needed horizontal surface in a teeny space where almost everything apart from the beds is wall hung. 

A table or shelving at the far end of the bedroom could get in a guest’s way, so the extra space created by the headboards is a design luxury. And in a guest room especially, a place for a welcoming vase of flowers is worth creating. The ideal headboard shelf should be deep enough for a cup of tea, a pair of glasses, a mini lamp or a book.

Divide, store and conquer. This headboard houses lights, shelves and drawers, but look behind the bed to see its other purpose.  

Pretty ingeniously, this headboard doubles as a low room divider. The area behind the bed is almost a walk-in wardrobe and allows the bed to remain pointing at the windows. There’s just enough room here to open the wardrobe doors, but sliding doors would work in a tighter space.

Lighten up. There’s plenty of space for a bedside lamp in this room but, thanks to this bed design, there’s no need. If you have an old-fashioned wrought iron bed like this, or indeed any style with bars, it’s easy to weave fairy or garland lights around the headboard. It’s a playful touch for a teenager’s room, or a creative decorative detail in an eclectic adult space. 

Just make sure to plug your lights into a socket with an on-off switch, rather than an extension lead, meaning they would need to be unplugged to be turned off. Or you can buy rope lights with in-line switches.

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Stretch out. This off-center headboard does a great job of creating the illusion of more space in this compact bedroom. Rather than stopping at the edge of the mattress, it continues beyond it on one side to fill the back wall — tricking you into seeing a king-size rather than a double bed. 

If you apply the same rule to clothes, it works in much the same way as the classic illusion of skin-colored shoes equaling longer legs: By not breaking up a line, you naturally extend it. And here the headboard also houses a reading light, plus there’s space for a little table.

Play and display. This headboard unit works all sorts of wonders, providing enough space for a lot of clothes storage around its edges. I also like the way it creates a tidy recess for matching built-in bedside tables — sizable ones to boot. 

The really good-looking part, though, is the shelves inside the recess, which provide heaps of room for a movable art display or collection of treasured photographs. And making the wood dark and moody lets the lamplight create a supercozy, soporific glow.

Opt for a private view. If your guest room opens to a very public part of the house, common for downstairs bedrooms off living rooms or kitchens, this is a nice idea. The headboard provides storage and a cuppa perch, but it also creates a visual barrier between the bed and the door — making the space as you enter the room almost an in-room corridor. 

It’s handy for privacy if, say, one guest is still in bed and the other is up and opening the bedroom door into the room where everyone’s having breakfast.

Take the rail way. This isn’t so much a headboard as a built-in storage unit with a bed tucked inside. It shows that shelving isn’t the only open storage that can be built into a headboard. Here there’s also space for a hanging rail. It’s not full wardrobe scale, but it’s good enough for last night’s clothes, a pair of bathrobes or an overnight guest’s garments.

Above there’s space for extra blankets, towels or bulky luggage, while directly over the bed there’s room for a lamp. Using the same color throughout the room has prevented this multicompartment headboard from looking too crowded.

Keep illuminating company. Who needs bedside lights? Do away with extraneous objects entirely by choosing a supermodern headboard with built-in illumination — the ultimate luxury for a minimalist sleeping space.