I'm running out of ideas that I would classify as "thrifty". Therefore, I thought I'd put a couple posts together detailing how we built our built-in window seat. This wasn't thrifty in the sense that it was inexpensive, but it was definitely affordable to do ourselves. Had we contracted this out, we wouldn't have been able to pull it off financially.
I should preface this post by saying I used Ana White's design for the Braden entryway bench as a basis for my plan. I like Ana's philosophy in that she won't post any designs for furniture that are too difficult. Now that's my kind of furniture!
My inspiration for this set-up was found on Pinterest.
Image via Decorpad.com.
I liked this design because it addressed my issue where the window is recessed back off the walls. However, my window isn't recessed back far enough to just build the window seat in front of the window as you normally see them. It would be so narrow you wouldn't be able to sit. It's less than 12" back from the two side walls on either side. So I really needed to have the window seat go across the entire wall so the seat itself could be deeper than 12". I attempted to put together a little outline in Photoshop so you can see what I'm talking about.
Did you see what I meant? Here is a before picture:
The first thing we did was make five different boxes. The three boxes in the middle were going to be deep (24" deep) which was perfect for drawers! The two side boxes would not be deep at all (12" deep) which meant making drawers was not practical. Therefore, we just ended up with open shelving on both ends.
And why did I decide on drawers vs. a hinged lid? Well, it certainly wasn't because the drawers were easier to pull off! Drawers are really HARD. But I thought it would be a pain to always have to remove the cushion off the top of the bench in order to access the storage. Alternatively, it would be very easy to pull out a drawer without disturbing the cushion.
Here is what the boxes looked like:
The top, sides, and bottom are all made out of 3/4" MDF. The back was made out of 1/2" plywood. I suppose the back was slightly overkill, but it made it easy to work with since it kept everything square. We used screws and glued everything first. These puppies aren't moving! (We originally pre-drilled everything using a counter-sink bit. However, when the counter-sink bit broke, we just screwed them in like normal and nothing bad happened.)
Here is what it looked like after we had four out of the five boxes in place.
Once we dry-fitted all the boxes we screwed them into the walls. A couple tips:
- Use a stud-finder to locate the studs. You need to make sure these puppies don't move!
- Locate the highest part of the floor first. That should be the first box you install. Then, you can shim all the other boxes so they are the same height.
- Make sure you get the boxes level side-to-side and front-to-back, only then should you screw the boxes into the wall.
- Shims are your friend!
If you look closely at the picture above, you will see the middle box doesn't have a lower shelf. That was because we had to address the floor vent. We got a little creative. I like to think we "MacGyvered" it! We couldn't use traditional elbow units because they were too tall. (Which you can see in the picture above.) We had less than six inches to work with between the floor and the bottom of the shelf. So...I had fun at Home Depot. I literally climbed up their tall ladder and looked in practically every single box I could reach in the duct-work aisle.
I found something - not even sure what it was called. But it was skinny and it worked. Presto - magic. I will admit the hubby disagreed with me. But in the end I won:) Check it out:
We used that "piece" and then added sheet metal (bent into a tube) to it in order to direct the hot or cold air out through front of the window seat. It's seriously ugly, but it does the job. We literally used scrap pieces to sandwich the structure into place. But in the end, it works because I can feel the cold air blowing out every time I stand in front of the window seat. Score!
Here is another picture:
Rather than just screw the bottom shelf into each side of the box, I had to create cleats into the side of each box. (You can see one cleat in the photo above.) Then I was able to screw the shelf into the cleats. I did not glue this piece in case we have to access the duct work at some future date.
Wow! I'm tired. But there is still more to do. After all that, it was time to install the top. (Actually, we only installed half the top. I'll show you how we did the whole top in the next post.)
This part was fairly easy. Fo Real.
There are a few tricks you should be aware of to make sure your top lasts and doesn't crack.
- Wood needs to be able to expand and contract.
- Predrill holes through the top of the MDF boxes. These holes should be slightly larger than the screws you are going to use to screw into the top. This will allow the top to move slightly as it expands and contracts.
- You should use a washer when you screws in the top.
Once the top is installed, you can start to face the cabinet. Here is where the look really starts to come together! In other words, this is the fun part!
First we installed the top trim piece. The bottom trim piece went in next. Lastly, we installed the baseboard on top of that trim piece. The trim we used were 1x4s. We just made sure to get them long enough so we had one, solid piece of trim. I didn't want "seams" in the trim.
Lastly, we installed the vertical trim pieces.
For the vertical trim, we used 1x4s, but ripped them to width. One thing to note...the trim is not flush with anything! This is key. If you have a slight overhang you give yourself significant wiggle room. In some cases the overhang is about 1/16" and other times it's almost 1/4". However, you don't notice the differences. This also negates the need for the boxes to be built perfectly symmetrical.
Edited to Add: Click here if you'd like to see how to finish the window seat.
Phew! I'm going to stop there. You have the basis for a very simply yet custom and modern window seat. Next week I'll come back and talk about the drawers. If I omitted something or was unclear, feel free to leave a comment and I'll try to clarify.