How to design the perfect window seat

A window seat ticks the boxes for aesthetics, practicality and a great use of space.  They provide additional seating where space is at a premium, they can provide good storage solutions and are the perfect place to curl up with a good book.

Let me show you what to consider when you are designing a window seat to get the best use of the space.

How to design the perfect window seat

Incorporating a window seat into building plans

Clearly the easiest way to design a window seat is to brief your architect or building designer when you are planning a new house.  These are the details that are often overlooked as we get caught up with the number and the size of each room.  A window seat, if planned from the start, can make a window look very attractive and can also be a space saving trick.

If you have a window seat in your bedroom you don't need to have space for a separate bedroom chair and if you build drawers into the seat, it gives you much needed storage space for items like shoes etc.

So when you are considering your new home plan, look at how some of the windows could maybe extend out slightly to give visual relief to the exterior and an interesting seating nook for inside.

How to design the perfect window seat
Image: Bloglovin

Alternatively your home design may leave you with awkward corners as above.  Rather than just have this area as a void which would need to be filled with a small cabinet, or become a dusty corner, build out the plaster work to make a cosy window nook.

Incorporating a window seat into joinery plans

Rather than just build bookcases either side of a window and leave a gap, fill this hole with a cosy window seat.  It doesn't have to be huge but is a great addition to a room where the principle activity is reading.  The image below also demonstrates how you can hide heating vents too which gives this window seat a very practical role too.

How to design the perfect window seat
Image: Hudson Interior Design

In terms of joinery design generally for a window seat you need to ensure that it has the same detailing as the rest of the room so that any finishing details on it relates well to the design of your skirting boards, architraves and cornices.

A place to rest awhile

A stair landing is the perfect place to plan a window seat and this is definitely something you will need to factor in with original building plans as you will need to ensure that the landing is large enough to accommodate the seat.

Clearly a stairwell landing is not somewhere you would take afternoon tea or lie with a good book so unless you like the look of an upholstered seat cushion, you can simply finish this with a beautiful piece of timber and some scatter cushions.

How to design the perfect window seat
Image: House of Turquoise
How to design the perfect window seat
Image: Cameron Custom Builders

What size should my window seat be?

There are no hard and fast rules for this as a window seat can be just a little nook, as in the image above, or it could be a full blown lounging style seat.

Generally a good seat should be at least 40cm in depth and the seat height should be 50cm.

A sofa however that you lounge around in would be around 60-70cm in depth so you need to consider how you will use the window seat and whether you want to build in more depth to allow you to lie down comfortably.

A little window seat nook, perhaps on a stairwell landing, can be just 30cm in depth if you plan to just perch there but you need to be careful with the overall size of the window seat as unless it is a really small nook, this can look out of proportion.

If you plan to while away lazy afternoons here and stretch out then you really need to make the seat long enough to do so but often a window seat is dictated by the window itself so you may need to work with what you have.

Making a cushion to suit

The type and quality of the foam that you make the seat cushion from is important.  Custom made cushion covers are not cheap so there is no point getting them made to fit foam that will not last and will start to sag.

I like a window seat cushion to be 10cm high and the foam should be a premium high density one.  You can also ask a foam specialist or an upholsterer to add a cushion top to the foam which gives you the finished look that you would expect to see in a good quality sofa seat cushion. 

How to design the perfect window seat

Consider matching your seat cushion to other soft furnishing in your room, either curtains or other seat upholstery.  The use of the curtain fabric in the piping for the cushion above is simple but effective.

Ensure, as with any upholstery, that you pre-treat the fabric with a good stain repellent like Scotchguard.

I also like to specify outdoor fabric for window seats.  As you can imagine, a window seat will almost certainly get lots of sunlight and therefore an outdoor fabric with UV protection built in will be a great asset.  Otherwise you may find your beautiful fabric will fade and break down in no time.  The cushions below are in outdoor fabric from Weaver Green Australia.

How to design the perfect window seat
Image: Weaver Green

Related: How to choose the right upholstery fabric

How to design the perfect window seat
Image: House Beautiful UK

If you are going to be using your window seat as a place to lounge around then you must have some good scatter cushions too.  As well as looking good, they make the seat nice and comfy.

Related: Cushions 101 – the ultimate finishing touch

How to design the perfect window seat

Finally, I love a window seat used in a dining nook, whether it is a formal dining room arrangement or a cosy breakfast room nook.  Building this into your renovation or building plans makes sense as it is great seating for squashing in children and also limits the amount of expensive dining chairs you need to buy.

The seat cushion can be made from a stain resistant fabric or you can simply leave it as a bench seat with some scatter cushions for back comfort.

Outdoor fabric is a great idea here for a window seat cushion as good quality ones are almost indestructible.  Meant to stand up to the rigours of outdoor elements they are extremely stain resistant but a good quality one will look and feel like a nice cotton or linen fabric.

A window seat like this can also double up as great storage for those kitchen items that are rarely used.

Related: Breakfast Nooks – my top 10 favourite looks

A final note on window seat storage

  • Storage in the base of a window seat is an excellent idea.  For homes that are short on space, leaving this much space as a void is a travesty.
  • You can either design your window seat with a lift up top – this works well for breakfast nooks where you have a table and other chairs in front of it.
  • Or you can design pull out drawers or cupboards.  Drawers make good sense as you can pull them out and see exactly what is stored there.
  • Do be aware though that a drawer will usually need a handle.  You can have a push to open drawer but usually you would install a handle.  Just make sure that the handle is discreet and doesn't have sharp edges to scrape the back of your leg!
  • If you do opt for a push to open drawer ensure that your joinery is made from a finish that doesn't show finger marks as this can often be a problem with push to open drawers and cupboards.
  • Sliding cupboard doors can be a good solution but only for things you don't need very often as you have to get down on your hands and knees to find anything.  
    How to design the perfect window seat

I hope this has inspired you to plan a window seat in your home.  I have lots of ideas and inspiration for you on Pinterest in my board dedicated to chairs, sofas and window seats and as always I would love to hear your comments and questions in the section below.

Before starting a decorating project, you should put together a mood board.  I have an e-book showing you how in my FREE Resource Library.  You can sign up here.

8 thoughts on “How to design the perfect window seat

  1. Stef says:

    Well thought out and informative article as usual, Samantha!
    I’m wondering if you have any insights on the issue of being able to tuck your heels in when sitting on a bench seat such as this..

    • Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Stef you can build a window seat without storage or one that has a lower shelf, like on a console table….

    • Bridget says:

      Hi Samantha
      I loved your practical article on How to Design a Perfect Window Seat. It has given me great tips going forward when discussing the project with the cabinet maker. In a recent renovation I cladded one of the living room walls in a light filled room in a horizontal direction with panelling by James Hardie. The window seat I wish to install is opposite this wall but my preference would be to use a product in a vertical direction. Firstly do you think this would look ‘funny’ having panelling going in the other direction to my panalled feature wall? Secondly what product would you suggest I use to create that beachy coastal feel. The window seat featured in your article on the stairway landing with the reference to Cameron Custom Builders is probably the look I am aiming to achieve.
      Thanks Samantha

      • Samantha Bacon says:

        Hi Bridget I’m glad you found the article useful for your project. You can see in the image that you liked from Cameron Custom Builders that they have actually combined two different directions for the cladding in the stairwell so I think it is absolutely fine to do this in your living room, particularly as the window seat is self contained and on the opposite wall. You might like to look at the VJ panelling available at Bunnings which is probably all you would need for a project like this, particularly as you will only need a small amount. Hope this helps and that you love the end result. Samantha

  2. Louise Ellis says:

    I am wanting to build my own bench seat / window seat. This is going to serve as seating for dining table so i am concerned about the correct height and depth. You mentioned 50cm height. what about the custom cushion of 10cm thickness. (making overall 60cm) Or is the height 40cm as add on the 10 for cushion to make the 50. Any advice on measurements would be greatly appreciated. Regards Louise.

    • Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Louise if your window seat is part of a dining setting you must consider the height of the table and most importantly whether it has a timber skirt around the top of the table that your legs can rub against if the window seat is too high. Generally 50cm high for the entire window seat with the cushion is a good guide as this is the seat height for most dining chairs but I would custom design your seat to ensure it matches the table. Hope this helps Samantha

  3. robertine barnes says:

    Hi Samantha:
    I am considering a window seat in my kitchen where a picture window already exsist . I was wondering if it matters that the seat will be above where the original window stops. Do you think it would be awkward to place a window seat here? Robyn

    • Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Robyn it’s difficult to say for sure without seeing it but you need to consider what this will look like from the outside. Presumably if the window seat is higher you would see this looking into the house which may not work well. Samantha

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