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Built-In Window Seat Tips

built-in window seat with storage

Looking for ideas on how to turn that "Plain Jane" wall with the big window into a cozy one-of-a-kind nook for reading and relaxing? Add a built-in window seat under the sill. It will increase your practical storage while providing an upscale, custom look to the home.

Nothing adds charm to room like a built-in window seat. Whether tucked into an alcove in the wall or between cabinets and bookshelves, window seats add a cozy spot to sit and read, or just relax in the sun. And they add more than style to a home. Many window seat built-ins offer opportunities for extra storage in the form of lower cabinets, shelves, or a flip-up base. No matter which room you'd like to add one to, the appeal is universal. Window seats are one of those home improvements where you just can't go wrong.

Built-in window seats were very common in the early part of the 20th century. They can be seen in homes belonging to the American Craftsman Style and sometimes in older Victorian or Colonial housing. They fell out of favor for a time when tract housing practices and the economies of mass production took over the US housing industry. It was simpler and more economical to provide a simple box rather than homes with individualized footprints. But built-ins are popular once more and the window seat has made a comeback of sorts. You can even add them to one of those plane Jane boxes, adding instant pizazz and comfort to your home.

Bump-Outs & Built-Ins: Understanding the differences between various types of window seats.

Window seats can be either of the "bump out" or "built-in" variety. Both styles are built into the home. They are attached to the structure of the building and can't be moved around like furniture. The difference is in the kind of space surrounding the window. A built-in window seat is constructed under a window that sits along a flat section of wall. It is usually surrounded by other built-ins like bookcases or cabinets, creating a custom nook for sitting along what would otherwise be a flat span of wall and window. A bumped-out window seat is constructed in the recesses of an existing nook in the home. The nook can come from a bay window, a fireplace, or some other feature of the home. However, the window seat is framed by sections of wall or window on either side rather than a bookcase or cabinet. * source:

Bumped-Out Window Seats

Bumped-out window seats are built-in seating that is constructed within a pre-existing nook or bay in the home. This feature is often "bumped out" on the exterior facade, providing a focal point on both the interior and exterior of the home. A window seat in this setting is a great way to define the purpose of the bay or nook as a sitting or reading area. If the nook is part of a breakfast room the window seat can be a great way to crease seating around the table. Storage can be constructed under the seat in the form of drawers, shelves, cabinets, or storage box with a flip-up lid. A cushion and some throw pillows will greatly enhance the comfort of this type of seating.

Custom built-in window seat and bump out banquet benches
The window and window seat are bumped-out on this home. Notice how the window is in its own pre-existing nook and sits farther out than the other exterior walls.

Built-In Window Seats

When adding a new window seat to existing construction, the built-in variety of window seat is more common. This does not make it any less valuable. On the contrary, built-in window seats can add more in terms additional storage and features than do bumped-out window seats. This is because they are usually constructed along a flat span of wall. In the case of this type of window seat, the bench niche is created by building shelves or cabinets to surround and frame the window with the new seating below the windowsill.

A built-in window seat usually makes a dramatic difference on the appearance and function of a room. Although any type of window seat will usually add value to a home, the greater amount of built-in storage often translated to greater value.

Little Girl's bedroom with built-in window seat
This window seat is an example of a built-in. Notice how it is surrounded by bookcase cabinets on either side to "frame" the seating area.

Best Locations for Window Seats

  • Living Room/Family/Great Room: No matter what you call it, your main living area is a great place to add a window seat. Use it to create a separate area for relaxation and quiet conversation within the room, or just plan to increase seating in your main entertainment area. It can even reduce the need for other seating within the room. This is often particularly helpful in smaller spaces.
  • Bedroom: A cozy reading nook within the bedroom adds warmth to what is already a very personal space. Select a simple, unfussy window treatment for privacy that won't interfere with your sitting and relaxing in the window.
  • Dressing Room: Just like a bedroom, a window seat in a closet dressing room requires privacy. Proper window treatments are essential. But it can be a lovey spot to sip and enjoy your morning coffee while you get ready and plan your day.
  • Kids Room/Playroom: Put a window seat into your child's play area and watch it become their favorite hideout where they sit for quiet activities like looking at books or doing a puzzle.
  • Stairway Landing or Hall: If you have an empty space in a hallway or staircase landing that is topped by a window, it can be the perfect place to add a small window seat. Just remember to leave at least 36-inches of empty space for walking and don't interrupt any handrails.
  • The Foyer: A window seat in the front entry of your home can be both beautiful and practical. What an inviting spot to sit and remove your shoes before entering the rest of the home. Make it even more practical by adding cabinets for shoe storage under the seat.
  • Breakfast Nook: Banquet seating is always popular in the breakfast nook. If your breakfast area features a window, consider built-in window seating. It will save space, provide storage for tablecloths and placements, and add a little more coziness to the space.
  • Office or Den: Place a window seat in your home office or den as a private spot for reading or sipping coffee in the morning. You may find that your little sanctuary next to the window is a great de-stressor and a good place to clear your head.
  • Next to a Fireplace: If your fireplace is flanked by windows, you may have an opportunity to surround it with both storage and seating. The seating goes under the window in the form of the window seat and the storage goes under the seating. This type of window seat is usual of the built-in variety, but if you're lucky enough to have an inglenook fireplace where the chimney is in a nook or recess in the wall, a bumped-out window seat may be appropriate. In the case of an inglenook, any windows would most likely be on one side of the window seat rather than directly above the main expanse of the bench.

Additional Tips when Adding Built-Ins with Window Seat

Consider the location of your window seating carefully. South and west exposures may be too hot/sunny at certain times of the day. If you really want a window seat in one of these areas, be sure to choose a good energy efficient window treatment to go with it. No matter which side of the home you choose to add your built-in window seat, you can make it a lot more comfortable with a nice, 4-inch-thick cushion and some pillows on top of the bench. In this case, cabinets or drawers under the window seat are much more convenient than a storage box with a flip-up lid because you won't have to take off the cushion to access the items kept there. Lastly, remember to leave cutouts for HVAC where appropriate. Many heating and cooling vents are placed under windows. Be sure you don't block any when you add your new built-in window seat with storage.

Window seats are a custom feature that provide value to the home. The value goes beyond just a place to sit or extra storage. Your window seat(s) should be a place of joy in your home. Done right, it can even become your "happy place." No matter what, it's a special feature that's certain to add hours/years of enjoyment to your time with the house.