How to Upcycle a Bookshelf to a Lovely Window Seat
Is there anything better for the soul than sitting in a sun-drenched window seat, surveying Mother Nature and all her wonders? I remember spending hours as a child sitting in a window at my grandmother’s beautiful English country cottage, watching the world bloom. Of course, you can just go outside (which I did!), but there is something about the peace of the outdoors undisturbed by human interaction that is blissfully serene.
When I moved into my new home, I immediately spotted the window in my master bedroom/home office. It looks out over our backyard, and it’s perfect for surveying the changing seasons, be it spring’s bounty of birds, squirrels and butterflies and summer’s spectacular rainstorms (we live in South Carolina), or the magical beauty of fall and crisp crunch of winter. It was an ideal spot for a window seat where I could recapture that feeling of tranquility from my childhood. But how could I achieve that without breaking the bank? If you’ve ever investigated the cost of having a window seat custom built, you’ll understand my dilemma.
Then, during a purge of old furniture, I came across a bookshelf that had served its time in my children’s playroom. I realized it could have a new life as the base of a window seat. A quick perusal of Pinterest confirmed my suspicions that, as long as it was sturdy enough when placed on its side, a bookshelf could indeed be upcycled into the perfect window seat. Here’s a step by step guide on how I did it.
- A bookshelf (long, narrow and definitely very sturdy)
- A length of fabric two feet longer than your bookshelf
- Foam (for the seat)
- 1-inch thick piece of plywood, cut to dimensions of bookshelf
- A permanent marker
- A sharp knife
- Quilt batting
- A staple gun
- Six 2 1/2 inch wood screws
- A drill
Turn your bookshelf on its side and measure the length and width. Cut a piece of plywood into those exact measurements. My local hardware store did this for free.
Place the plywood on top of your large piece of foam, making sure to line up the edges, and outline the rest of the piece with a permanent marker.
Cut along the lines so that the foam is the exact same size as the plywood. I had enough foam to do this twice. I then glued the pieces together to make a thicker, more comfortable cushion. Alternatively, you can buy extra-thick foam.
It can be difficult to keep the fabric smooth over the foam, so consider using quilt batting underneath the fabric. It makes it much easier to attach the fabric to the piece. The quilt batting helps keep the foam in place so you can get a nice, tight covering.
Place the foam/plywood piece on top of the quilt batting and cut it to fit. Then pull the edges around the wood, stapling them in place with a staple gun. Pull firmly, but not too much, or the batting will rip. Trust, me I know from experience!
Repeat this process with your fabric.
As you can see from my thumb in this picture, a minor booboo occurred with the stapling, and I will take it as an opportunity to express how important it is to buy more fabric and batting than you think you need. I got this little cut trying to take off the fabric when I realized I didn’t have enough, even though I had purchased a foot more than the length of my bookshelf, thinking that would be ample. However, as this below picture illustrates, it was not. When I went back for more (also a great chance to change up my color choice after I’d seen it in situ), I got two feet more, which worked out perfectly and left me some extra fabric to use in other projects.
The trickiest part of the covering process is the corners. It takes a lot of patience and adjustment to create a smooth covering that doesn’t resemble gift wrapping or bed sheets. I suggest laying the board on the ground and gently arranging the material at both corners of one end to your desired look, then pull it tight and staple. Don’t do one corner perfectly then try the second corner, as you’ll find it a lot trickier to get it right that way.
Once all the staples are in, turn your piece over and spray a fabric protector, such as Scotch Guard, all over. This will give your fabric a longer life span and help protect it from spills and stains.
After it’s dry, stand back and admire your beautiful new window seat cushion! Then place it on top of the bookshelf and, using screws that are the length of the edge of your bookshelf and plywood combined (mine was 2 ½ inches), attach the window seat cushion to the bench. I used six screws in total—two at each end and two in the center.
I selected a few cushions for the bench and dug out some storage bins for the openings. This is in my home office, so I have lots of clutter I like to keep hidden. Storage bins are also great if you want to use this in a playroom or children’s room. To put a window seat in your living area, you could go a step further and attach a painted piece of wood to the back and use the cubbies for open storage.
Hopefully my little girl will get the same enjoyment sitting at this window seat looking out at the world as I did when I was her age.
Jennifer Tuohy is a master at taking an old bookshelf or other room accessory that is being replacing, and upcycling it into an exciting DIY project. Jennifer writes about her projects from her home in Charleston, South Carolina. If you are interested in reviewing bookshelves available at Home Depot, you can click here.