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One of the most satisfying things in the world of DIY is when you get to overcome the mystery of “how the heck do they do that?!” You know what we mean. You’re looking at a home décor item, thinking, “I really need one of those, but it is WAY too expensive for my budget. I wish I could do it myself, but… how the heck do they do that?!” Prepare to be satisfied (and inspired). We’re taking a look at Decorative Nails and Decorative Nailhead Trim with the upholstery experts at Dritz® Home. They make adding this high-end detail incredibly easy. And, it’s not just for upholstery make-overs. Imagine adding these metal accents to furniture, frames and other accessories, even doors and ceilings. Oh yeah! We’re about to hit the nail on the head! 

Nails versus trim: what’s the difference?

You have two options from which to choose: Individual Decorative Nails or Decorative Nailhead Trim. The individual nails come in a wide range of sizes (3/4″, 7/16″ and 5/8″), shapes (square and round) and finishes (nickel, brass, black, white, hammered, brushed antique, etc.). The nails can be spaced however you want, but you do have to insert each and every one. The individual packages come in 10-piece, 18-piece, 24-piece and even 300-piece options.

Trim is much less time consuming to apply since you only need to insert a tacking nail into every fifth hole of the trim strip.

However, the finishes are more limited (7/16″ size nail heads in Nickel, Brass, Antique Brass, and Black) and the spacing is set at the classic close-together look; what you see is what you get. Each reel contains five yards of continuous trim.

The trim is quite flexible, which makes it very easy to manipulate to get many of the decorative looks shown below on our inspiration boards.

Do I get to hit something with a hammer?

Why yes you do! In true Dritz fashion, they offer a variety of application tools to make your projects go faster and easier. A Tack Hammer, shown at the left in the photo below, is best for upholstery; its small head is precise when driving a nail into a padded surface. The Tack Hammer also has a slotted side to help with nail removal.

If you are applying decorative nails to a wooden or other solid/smooth surface, it’s best to use a Rubber Mallet, shown below in the middle. That way you aren’t in danger of damaging the surrounding surface area.

If all you have is a household hammer, shown below at the right, protect the nail and the surface by wrapping a piece of cloth or felt over the head of the hammer. Simply rubber-banding this protective layer of cloth it in place is a simple solution.

Spacing, starting your holes, and what to do about mistakes

Spacing isn’t an issue at all when using the Decorative Nailhead Trim. It’s pre-spaced for a perfect all-in-a-row application.

For Individual Decorative Nails, spacing is critical and varies with each project. A great tip is to practice by first inserting the nails into a piece of paper or felt to plan out what you want. Once you have spacing you like, measure from center to center on the nail heads.

Transfer this measurement onto painter’s tape or similar and position that tape on your project. This trial-and-error method makes it easy to adjust placement marks to get the very best look. If you do use the tape method, it’s best to peel it away before the nails are 100% hammered into place. This makes it easier to be sure all the tape is completely removed from around each nail.

To measure, you can use a traditional tape measure, as shown above, or check out this new Dritz Home measuring tool: a 36” Aluminum Straight Edge in a fashionable black finish with bright white markings. It will be available in stores and online starting in October.

You can also use the handy Dritz Home Space & Set Tool. This tool helps position and hold the Decorative Nails in place while hammering them to a project. There are evenly spaced slots on each end; one with ½” spacing, the other with ¾” spacing. There is also an end-of-the-row slot to use, pivoting the tool to create perfect spacing at a corner.

Once the nails are positioned, they can be hammered part way (the Rubber Mallet is best for this), then the Spacer can be removed, and the nails hammered completely into place to finish. We also liked how this tool had a little center trough section that can hold the nails.

If inserting into a solid surface, like wood or drywall, you might want to considering using an Awl to help start the hole.

If you’re having trouble holding a nail in place, try a pair of needle nose pliers. Hold the nail with the pliers in one hand and hammer with the other. After the first few taps of the hammer, you can remove the pliers, then whack the nail the rest of the way into the surface.

If you happen to bend a nail during application, a Tack Remover comes to the rescue. Just slide the prongs under the unwanted nail and lift to remove it.

Inspiration galore

Upholstery applications are the most common ways to use Decorative Nails and Decorative Nailhead Trim. Chairs and sofas of all shapes and sizes look great when outlined with nails. A padded headboard is another option that provides a huge surface on which to run your nail design. 

We were very inspired by the number of wooden furniture pieces we spotted with decorative nails. Many featured bright paint underneath, simulating the look of Moroccan décor. Or go all out with a bold graphic design on the solid-color drawer fronts of a dresser or nightstand.

Small goods are also great mini pallets for nail heads. Gussy up a wooden thrift store frame. Bedazzle a bowl or serving tray.

Our biggest surprise was also the largest application. Walls, doors, even ceilings are being adorned with decorative nails. They can be designed and laid out to give a room such unique style. The variety runs the gamut from rustic to elegant. 

Our thanks for our friends at Dritz® for sponsoring this review and helping us show you “oh… so that’s how they do it!” We love being able to keep you up-to-date on the latest tools and notions to make your sewing easier and more creative. Sometimes it’s the littlest things that add just the right finishing touch to a project.

You’ll find all the Decorative Nails, Decorative Nailhead Trim, and accompanying tools in stores and online now.

To find out more about the entire Dritz universe, we invite you to visit the Dritz website or blog; or follow them on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube


We received compensation from Dritz for this project, and some of the materials featured here or used in this project were provided free of charge by Dritz.  All opinions are our own.

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