Window Seats 101: Design Ideas and How to Determine the Best Style for Your House

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Window seats are an interior design win-win: They add both style and functionality to your home. This architectural feature can work in just about any area of the house, from the kitchen to bedrooms. At its most basic, a window seat serves as a cozy reading nook next to a window. "The bright and airy feel of daylight by a window makes [a window seat] a perfect spot for decompressing or relaxing within the comfort of your home," says Kayla Hein, an interior architect and designer in Tulsa, OK.

It can also provide extra storage—some seats feature cabinets or drawers underneath.

And they might just add value to your home (in case you ever decide to sell). "With today’s casual lifestyles, sitting, reading, and lounging nooks are highly sought after," say Dawn D. Totty, an interior designer in Chattanooga, TN.

Read on for a deep dive on the types of window seats and tips for home owners who want to design one in their home.

‘Bumped-out’ window seats

The design of the window seat is ultimately determined by the style of windows it will be built next to. A window seat that exists inside a pre-existing window nook or bay window is called a "bumped-out" window seat. "Building into an existing nook allows you take advantage of precious real estate and give it a real purpose," says Hein.

This bumped-out design below turns a bay window into an additional seating area, potentially eliminating the need for a second couch or love seat. "Having a customized window seating will reduce the need for multiple seating throughout a room—it’ll give the space a cleaner and simpler look," says Totty. The Mid-Century Modern design in this room is sleek, but has the disadvantage of lacking under-seat storage.

Midcentury living room design

This Burlington, VT, farmhouse-style home features a bumped-out window seat nook, creating a banquette perfect for breakfast with the family or working at the kitchen table.

Farmhouse kitchen design Cushman Design Group

The bumped-out window seat below creates a serene spot to lounge and gaze out at the San Francisco Bay. Nice view! Note the space-saving drawers underneath the seating area.

Contemporary living room design
Built-in window seats

"If you’re looking for a larger window seat option, consider building a window seat in the interior of the room," Hein says. She explains that you can frame a built-in window seat with additional millwork, like shelving or cabinets. "This option gives you a bit more flexibility regarding size and function."

This smart design below builds a small window seat into a dresser in a children’s bedroom. It’s a great way to max out storage and give the kids a place with good light to read books.

Transitional kids design Yiangou Architects

The Dallas home office below seamlessly combines built-in bookshelves and built-in window seats, by painting them all in the same color.

Contemporary home office design

Here’s a built-in take on the kitchen banquette, this time with storage below and surrounding the window seat.

Traditional dining room design

A full-width window seat adds extra lounge space and storage to this bright bedroom.

Traditional bedroom design

Architect Carl J. Handman of Kingston, PA, likes to include window seats built into switchback staircases, like the one below. Whenever he designs residential two-story homes, he encourages the homeowner to include a window seating built-in, like this one in Old Greenwich, CT.

Beach Style staircase design MuseInteriors
Designing a window seat

Sold on the idea of a window seat? Here are some things to consider if you’re feeling ambitious and want to have one designed and built from scratch.

Dual-purpose design. "Many people who opt for a window seat do so for a dual-purpose design," says Hein. Aside from the seat portion, will you include storage? Built-in bookcases? Placement near a dining area that allows it to be used as a banquette? If you’re going to include storage inside the bench, use drawers instead of a hinge, especially in children’s rooms," says Leslie Saul of Leslie Saul and Associates in Cambridge, MA.Cushions. Will you have a cushion top or finished wood? Wood is easier to clean, but Totty recommends a cushion at least 4 inches thick for comfortable window-gazing. "If the bench is 8 to 12 inches below the window, you can have a small back pillow or cushion," says Saul.Choose the right window. "If the window faces south or west, you may experience some harsh light that needs to be tempered with window treatments. North- and east-facing windows may be a bit cooler overall, but offer more uniform and pleasant sunshine during the day," says Bryan Slowick, owner of BDS Design Build Remodel in Chicago’s North Shore.Timing. A custom window seat with upholstery could take up to 10 weeks to build. If you’re including a window seat as part of a larger remodel, be sure to work with your contractor to get the timing right.
Transitional living room design

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