Have you ever wished your home could have a cozy window seat? Well, it can! And you don’t necessarily need a big bay window to start with. Any large picture window can be converted into a window seat. You just need some built-ins to surround the window with seating and storage. Learn how to create your own built-in window seat with storage.

Whether you’re dreaming of a place to curl up with a good book or just want more organized storage, a window seat may be the right solution for you. Window seats conjure images of grand homes and luxury lifestyles. They were a popular feature in both Victorian and Craftsman-style housing from previous centuries. Unfortunately, they mostly fell out of favor in the modern era. The efficiencies of tract homes dictated that it was simply faster and less expensive to leave it at flat walls with a simple window. But window seats are easy to add later on even if your room lacks an alcove. All you need is a window and a wall.

Steps to Creating Your Own Built-In Window Seat with Storage

Make a Plan

The first thing you want to do is to make a plan. Jot down your ideas on paper. Sketch them if it helps you visualize. You don’t have to be a famous artist. The quality of your drawing doesn’t really matter at this point. It’s just a way for you to get your ideas down. Alternately, you could clip images from magazines or download them from online sources for a kind of “mood board.”

What do you want to store in this window seat built-in? This is where you decide on cabinets versus shelves versus drawers. Advance planning s critical. Make sure you know how many of each you will need for the types of things you want to store.

Sketch of built-in window seat with storage ideas.
Plan for built-in window seat with storage on either side.

Take Accurate Measurements

You will need to choose a wall with a suitable window. Keep in mind that the window seat bench will extend from one end of the window to the other. You will want empty wall space on either side for built-in storage like cabinets and bookshelves. Then go and measure your spaces. You will need to measure the total width of the window and the distance from the bottom of the sill to the floor. 18-inches is a good height for the top of your bench, especially if you plan to put a cushion on top. Therefore, your windowsill needs to be more than 18-inches from the floor. If it’s lower than that, find another window or consider different seating to go in front of it. Windows with less than 18-inches of clearance from the floor are not good candidates for a built-in window seat.

Measure the width of the window.
Measure the width of your window and its distance from the floor.

Also, measure the space on either side of the window. This is where you will put your built-in cabinets and shelves. By placing the built-in storage on either side, you create an alcove for the window seat. The cabinets/shelves do not necessarily need to extend all the way to the corner. Leave some space if you like. It really depends on your preferences and the size of your room.

Remember to Mark Your Obstacles

Chances are there will be a heating vent, electrical outlet, or other obstacles near your proposed window seat. Take note of where these are. Measure their position and size and draw them out on graph paper. These measurements need to be absolutely accurate because they will require cutouts in your window seat and storage components.

Scalloped bottom of window seat accommodates air flow from a heating vent.
The scalloped bottom of this window seat accommodates air flow from a heating vent against the wall. You want to make sure you don’t block access to any critical components. Electrical outlets may have to be moved before you begin. Or else create cutouts like the one shown here.

Design Your Built-In Window Seat with Storage

Once you have your measurements and a rough sketch, you are ready to design your window bench and cabinets. Use a drawing software program to help with this. Alternately, there are plenty of free design services to help you out if you are unsure of this step.

Diagram for built-in window seat with storage
Professional diagram for built-in window seat with storage drawn using Cabinet Vision software.

The bench is basically a box that sits on a toe kick. Leave the front open for shelving. You can also cover open shelves with cabinet doors or drawers for a neater appearance. The top of the box gets an extra layer for sitting on. You can use any countertop material for this. Alternately, close the front of the box and leave the top open instead to be accessed by a flip-up door. This is especially useful in a child’s room where the storage might be used as a toy box.

Window bench
Cover the open shelves with cabinet doors for a neater appearance.

Next, design the shelving/cabinet units to go on either side of the bench. Best practice is to make the bottom cabinets a little deeper than the upper cabinets/shelves. This way, you’ll have a nice, deep alcove for your window bench. But the storage won’t overwhelm or shrink the room. Top these units off with crown moulding for a very finished, furniture look.

Installation

First, you should install a closet suspension rail or cleat to attach the units to the wall. This anchors your storage to the home’s studs and makes it very sturdy. Although the bench and shelves/cabinets hang from the rail or cleat, they will also sit on a toe kick. The toe kick is a 3-inch-high box that the units sit on top of — just like your kitchen cabinets.

Bedroom with Built-in window seat showing the suspension rail
This built-in window seat and storage that surrounds the bedroom window is installed using a closet suspension rail that attaches to the studs. You can see it under the window because the benchtop/countertop is not yet installed. The shelving/cabinet units on the sides also use a suspension rail.

Next, build the box for the bench but leave the doors, drawers, and countertop for last. Snug up and install your cabinet/shelving storage units on either side of the window seat. They install just like closet organizers. When you have the panels and basic structure intact, it’s time for the finishing touches. this means doors, drawers, and countertops. These features make the unit truly functional and ready for use.

Ready to start designing a built-in window seat with storage for your own home?

A built-in window seat with storage is a good DIY project that will enhance your home’s value while making it a more enjoyable place to live. The window seat itself is relatively simple — it’s basically a box that you sit on. The side shelves/cabinets create the necessary alcove and provide the bulk of the storage. But they install as easily as a standard closet. This is a project that most homeowners can do themselves with help from your drawing software and perhaps a little advice from a design service. Why not try it? With a little advanced planning and some elbow grease, you’ll be ready to snuggle into your new window seat in no time!

If you’ve put a built-in window seat in your own home, we’d love to hear about it. Do you have any insights to add? Please use the comments section to let us know how it went.

 

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