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Build an attractive window seat for extra storage area

Dear Ms. Builder: My children are growing up faster than my budget and they need more storage space. I would like to build some window seats in their bedrooms. Please give me some ideas for a simple design? - Wanda F.

Dear Wanda: It is amazing how the storage space that children require seems to grow at a geometric rate with their age. A window seat is an excellent idea to provide additional storage space. You will lose little floor space because the area directly in front of a window is seldom used anyway. A window seat provides a nice bright location to read a book.

While you are at it, consider adding some floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on each side of the window seats. These can make a dramatic improvement to the decor of any room while providing even more usable storage space, hopefully for school books and not just more CD's and video games.

There are quite a few simple window seat designs that are not too complicated to build for an inexperienced do-it-yourselfer. By selecting a brightly colored or patterned cushion for the seat top, it will draw attention away from mismatched joints and edges that all do-it-yourselfers end up with on most projects.

First you must determine the size and basic design of the window seat before you can purchase the building materials. This is more important than most people think. If the seat is not sized properly, it will be uncomfortable to sit on for any length of time.

As a rule of thumb, a seat, including the thickness of the cushion (remember it will compress when sat upon), is about 18 inches. The depth of the seat should be about 20 inches. If the seat is not deep enough, you will feel like you are constantly slipping off of it. If it is too deep, there will not be any back support from the partial wall behind it.

Next, determine the basic design of whether the window seat will open from the top or the front for storage. A design with a hinged top is the most convenient for accessing items in the window seat without bending over. Be aware though, it may also quickly become just a dumpster when your children straighten up (yeah right!) their rooms.

Since items must be literally placed in a design with a hinged front, this takes care of the dumpster problem and also allows for a shelf inside. The only drawback is that you have to bend over for access and items in the back tend to be forgotten.

Either design can be relatively easy to build. For a top-opening design, build a frame using 2x4 lumber and cover it with hardwood or plywood. Using stained solid hardwood or veneer with two coats of clear urethane is most attractive. Plywood sides with a coat of paint is probably easier to do. This allows you to use wood filler in the gaps from uneven saw cuts.

The simplest top design uses standard hinges at the back of the seat. These hinges will extend up a little, so be careful that the cushion does not get damaged. For a more finished look, contact a professional cabinet supply outlet for recessed hinges that are hidden when the top is closed.

If you prefer a front-opening design, build the framing the same way as above. Cover the top and leave the front open. Check with a kitchen cabinet company about getting a cabinet front with the door and hinges already attached. Just nail or screw it into place and you are done.

Tools and materials required: circular, table or hand saws, four-foot level, framing square, mitre box and saw, tape measure, hammer, assorted screwdrivers, general painting tools, framing lumber, hinges, cabinet front, cushion, nails and screws

Send your questions to Ms. Builder, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com/msbuilder.