Dear James: I could use some additional storage space, especially in the children's bedroom. I thought adding some window seats would be a good idea. What are the simplest designs? — Michael K.
Dear Michael: I don't believe there is a house, no matter how large, that couldn't use some additional storage space as the children get older. Just like adults, they quickly become pack rats and their things overflow the capacity of existing storage.
Adding a window seat is an excellent solution to your storage problems. The area in front of windows is seldom used anyway, so you might as well use it for storage. The seat area will also be a good area for your children to read and study. Human eyesight is much better under full-spectrum, natural light, so they may be more apt to read there.
Even an inexperienced do-it-yourselfer should have no problem building a simple window seat that is strong enough to support children. If you are energetic, consider adding floor-to-ceiling bookcases on one or both sides of the window seat. This is not a lot more work, and it provides even more storage. Tall bookcases also frame the window and look good around the window seat.
The first step in building a window seat is to determine how big it should be. You want the seat to be big enough to provide adequate storage space, but you also want it to be comfortable to sit on. If it is too deep or too tall, it may get in the way as your children walk past it, and it may not be comfortable.
Generally, a height of about 18 inches and a depth of 20 inches is a good target. The height includes whatever type of cushion you plan to use on the window seat. Keep in mind that a fluffy cushion will compress when sat upon, so take this into account. If you err on the depth, make it deeper rather than narrower. If the seat is not deep enough, you will have the sensation of slipping off of it.
Determine whether you want the door to be on the front or on the top of the window seat. Building one with a hinged door on the top is the easiest design to assemble, but it may not be as functional as one with the door on the front. If your children stack things on top of the seat, they will be less likely to remove them to open the top to store things inside.
Since it doesn't add much difficulty, build one with a hinged front. This also allows you to install a partial shelf inside for storing smaller items. The window seat is basically a box made with 2-by-4 lumber framing and covered with plywood or hardwood. Being a beginner, plan on painted plywood. This allows you to use a lot of wood filler to correct mistakes, as they will be covered with paint.
Once the basic framing is completed, build any internal shelves you desire. Cover the top and sides with good-quality plywood, and finish the edges with decorative molding. Instead of trying to build strong doors for the front, visit a kitchen cabinet company, and purchase cabinet doors with hinges already attached.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.