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How To Make A Bench Using A Vintage Headboard And Footboard

How to make a headboard bench using the headboard and footboard of a vintage Waterfall Bed. This was a trial and error project for me and hubby. Meaning there were a lot of errors before we got stuff right.

vintage bed with headboard and foot board

This is the vintage Waterfall headboard and footboard I bought at my favorite junk shop. I don’t remember how much I paid for it but it was probably around $20-$30. Waterfall furniture which features a lot of rounded edges, tops, and corners was made in the 1930’s and 40’s. My husband’s family still has a Waterfall bedroom suite.


make a bench using a vintage bed headboard and footboard
Make a bench using a vintage bed headboard and footboard.

This project took a lot of work but the JTS and I muddled through it. It was our first time to make a bench using a headboard and footboard and we learned a lot along the way. I even had problems with the paint color. The first plan was a no-go. The bench did turn out great!

How To Make a Vintage Waterfall Headboard Bench

vintage bed with headboard and foot board

I cleaned the bed before we started on the project but as you can see there was a lot of discoloration in the stain. That’s okay because it’s going to get a paint job after the transformation.

measure and cut foot board

1. Cut the footboard to make the sides of the bench.

We measured the footboard so the sides of the bench would be 18” deep which is pretty standard for seating.

ryobi circular saw battery powered for cutting footboard

Then we cut the footboard using a circular saw (cordless Ryobi). We cut out the middle of the bench and used the two ends for the bench sides.

cutting the footboard to make a headboard bench

We cut the footboard with it laying on it’s front side but had to flip it over to cut the curved detail.

measuring for cutting with power saw

2. Measure and cut the footboard to the preferred seat height.

We decided the seat height was going to be too high if we left the pieces as they were so we cut a bit off the bottom of each side/bench end. We placed the pieces of the bench-to-be together just to see what it looked like and decided the headboard/bench back was too tall. It looked a little out of proportion so we cut 2 inches off of the headboard legs.

reclaimed sofa table top for bench seat

3. Cut reclaimed wood or new wood for bench seat.

I found a reclaimed sofa table top in my junk stash. We could have used new wood to make the bench seat but I liked the look of the reclaimed table top and it was the perfect length. A match made in Heaven. Or so I thought. More on that later.

making a headboard bench


There was a small apron on the underneath side of the table top and we left it as is. The only cutting we did was to rip one long side down to the apron. Meaning we basically cut the decorative edge of the wood off of the long length of one side.

how to make a vintage headboard and footboard into a wood bench

4. Attach the bench seat to the bench sides.

To attach the seat to the sides we set the piece we cut for the seat on the inside lip of each bench side.

attaching bench seat to sides with Ryobi Airstrike nailer

We used a brad nailer to hold the seat to the sides for temporary attachment. This made it much easier to put all the pieces together before using screws to make the bench sturdy and secure.

5. Attach the bench seat and sides to the headboard

attaching the sides of the bench to the back

The JTS (aka Junktion Technical Specialist, aka hubby) used really long screws to attach the headboard to the sides of the bench. He drilled from the backside of the headboard into the end of the bench side/arm.

cutting board for brace

6. Attach wood brace for the headboard

To assure the bench was sturdy we added a wood brace between the legs of the headboard. We used a 2×6 found in the wood stash and ripped it down the middle.

putting support boards on bench

7. Add wood support under bench seat

For added seat support we used the other half of the 2×6 under the seat along with a 2×4. The wood seat supports were attached to the bench sides and the reclaimed bench seat. The back lip of the seat was attached to the headboard along the whole length of the seat using screws.

making sure the bench is secure

We did extra work to make sure the bench would be sturdy and secure. We wouldn’t want it to fall in!! And keep in mind this is our first DIY bench project and we developed our plan as we went along.

Ray testing the headboard bench

The JTS volunteered to try it out. I think he just needed a rest. It took us several hours over a period of 4 or 5 days to put the bench together. We needed a timeout one day because we were having issues. We know when to stop for the day before things get too heated, lol. Do you and your significant other do this too?

How To Make A Headboard Bench From A Vintage Bed

8. Painting the headboard bench

Now it’s time to paint the bench but I’m not sure about the color. No plans to paint the seat. That was the whole reason for using the reclaimed piece. Leave it as is, except for cleaning and refreshing.

Well, I chose the wrong paint color. Choosing the right paint color is sometimes the hardest part of a furniture makeover. My original plan was to paint the bench black and distress all those lovely details. I planned to leave the brown wood reclaimed table top as is. I started painting then stained the unfinished wood braces to match the bench seat. But I wasn’t loving the look.

painting a headboard bench

I was visiting in Arkansas and my sister gave me her opinion on the bench color. She felt the same way I did about the black and the stained wood. After talking it over we both came to the conclusion that the bench should be a different color and the same color all over. Thanks little sis.

I pulled a jar of turquoise paint I mixed up myself from the paint shelf and went to work. After two coats of paint I was satisfied and moved on to distressing the paint.

distressing paint

Distressing the paint

I started on the headboard details distressing the paint by hand with 100 grit flexible sandpaper. I stepped back to look at the distressing and didn’t like it at all. The black paint showing through just made the paint look dirty and the blonde finish showing through looked like raw wood.

headboard bench diy idea

Paint over the distressed areas

I pulled out the paint and a paint brush and painted over the distressing. It looks much better not distressed. I show you all  the processes I go through in a project (well, most of them) so you know that nothing goes smoothly and it’s okay to change plans.

how to make a headboard bench using a vintage waterfall bed headboard and footboard

The headboard and footboard were not perfect. There were little dings and imperfections but the overall look works. I like all the curves and details on the vintage bed pieces.

photobomb by granddaughter Sofi

Miss Sofi couldn’t help but get in the photos. When I try to take pictures of her she either makes funny faces or hides her face. As sure as I’m trying to take photos of a project she wants in. I don’t mind at all. I love seeing that smiling face.

how to paint a diy headboard bench

So what do you think? If you don’t want to attempt the bench build you might find a headboard bench in a local store to paint and make your own. I’m a fan of the turquoise color I mixed from leftover paints. I plan to paint a sample board and have my own paint mixed at the hardware store. I’ll share the color code once it’s mixed.

how to make a bench using a headboard and footboard
How to make a bench using a headboard and footboard.

Seriously, we made the headboard bench the hard way. I have the vision for the projects but sometimes the vision turns out to be a nightmare. Using the reclaimed sofa table top was where I went wrong. It would have been easier to make a support for the seat and then use plywood as the seat (like my friend Marie did here). Live and learn. Next time….and there will be a next time….well, we have a little experience in headboard bench building.

Make a headboard bench
Make a headboard bench


Thanks for being here and have a great day, Kathy

Author: Kathy Owen
Kathy Owen is the founder of the home decor blog Petticoat Junktion where she shares tutorials on painting furniture and upcycling thrifty finds into unique home décor. Her DIY projects have been featured on the Home Depot Blog, Plaid Crafts, Behr Designer Series, and in numerous magazines. Kathy’s newest website is HappyHomeDIY.com

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  1. I love this bench. I wish I lived closer so I could buy the items you recreate. Such a crafty mind. Love the fact you work together as well. I have noticed when I work too long, get too frustrated I make mistakes so now I quit or move to another project. Thanks for sharing the details of your great projects. I love to learn.

  2. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL bench and the Turquoise is so lovely!! Good job and thanks for sharing!!!

  3. This is one where i think a tamer color would have worked better. That turquoise is getting pedestrian.

  4. Great job you two!!! Never knew bed was called waterfall. Randy and I worked in yard today. He let me be the boss for one day!!! Lol.

  5. That turned out great! Sometimes my vision isn’t the straightest path to completion either lol

  6. Perfect color! You did a great job. Never in a million years could I imagine my husband helping me with this type of project. Your husband deserves a gold star.

  7. Wow, I remember those beds from my childhood. I still like them, but never knew they were called Waterfall beds. What an awesome job you and the JTS did! Personally, I liked the black and brown look better, I would use it indoors, perhaps in an entryway!

    Miss Sofi is growing up and she is just beautiful!

  8. I love that you used the reclaimed table top for the seat! It makes the bench look very substantial!
    Good job!!

  9. I really appreciate that you share the “mistakes” do-overs and changes of plans. When this happens to me, I get self-critical and doubt that I should be refinishing furniture at all (on the worst days). Luckily most of the time I’m able to take a deep breath and go to plan B. I’m so glad I am no the only one this happens to.

  10. I have seen, and made a lot of headboard benches. But, I have to say this is the most beautiful I’ve seen!!
    The table top may have been a “mistake” to you, but, the look in the finished product is just awesome!! Thanks for the great guided tour of “how to”!!

  11. I love it ! The color is great . Did you use latex ?? I’ve read your tutorials and know you use latex a lot .