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Decorating Ideas: 15 Window Seats

Window seats offer stylish spots to doze, visit, or view the world outside

Written and produced by Debra Steilen
  • Joe Schmelzer

    Whether you live in a two-bedroom bungalow or a beach house that sleeps 18, you’ll love the benefits offered by a window seat. Topped with plump pillows, these throwback architectural features make it easy to read, nap, converse, or simply sit and gaze at the landscape and sky.

    Shown: The 11-foot-long window seat in this kitchen offers prime seating as well as a sunny spot for admiring the banana trees outside. The niche’s palette matches that of an equally long kitchen island just steps away.

    Designer: Marion Philpotts Miller

    Visit this tropical home.

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  • Helen Norman

    High-Rise Views

    What drives a window seat’s design? The way you want to use it. This high-rise apartment, for example, offers plentiful views of the Boston skyline through enormous windows. That’s why architect Heather Wells added a built-in bench-style bookcase that runs the length of the living room. Topping the bench with a soft leather cushion and throw pillows turns the unit into comfortable overflow seating for parties. 

    Designer: Heather Wells

    Check out 12 tips for better bookshelves.

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  • John Granen

    Guest-Friendly Seating

    Window seats also make conversation groupings more flexible. Here, the kitchen’s arched doorway outlines a family-room window seat built into a shallow nook. Warm coral walls and white woodwork make the window seat a functional focal point from which guests can join the discussion.  No one else around? The window seat offers a comfy place to catch a few winks after dinner. The window-seat cushion is covered in “Market Check” fabric from John Rosselli & Associates.

    Designer: Elizabeth Hague

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  • Gordon Beall

    Cooking Up Style 

    Window seats can be as much about storage as they are about comfort and style. In this Maryland kitchen, the window seat (which provides a fabulous view of the Severn River) also includes deep full-inset drawers to hold seasonal décor, paper goods, and seldom-used kitchen equipment. Plus, the kids (and even the dog) can relax and talk to Mom while meals are being prepared. The window seat cushion and pillows feature fabrics from Stroheim, B. Berger, and Kravet.

    Editor’s Tip: Decorating a busy room? Upholster window-seat cushions with indoor-outdoor fabric that’s less likely to fade and can withstand life’s little moments.

    Designer: Kelley Proxmire

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  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Angled Alcove

    Speaking of storage, this cozy little window seat includes one wide, deep drawer to store extra bed linens, blankets, and pillows. Along with classic blue-and-white checked fabric from Thibaut, the guest suite’s slanted walls and ceilings frame the window seat for an extra helping of storybook charm.

    Editor’s Tip: Whether big or small, a window seat should measure from 16 to 20 inches deep if you want visitors to be able to face forward with their feet on the floor.

    Design: Heather Zarrett Dewberry and Will Huff

    Explore more of this historic home.

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  • Stacey Brandford

    Stylishly Social

    Window seats possess the power to create intimate gathering areas inside large rooms. Take this cozy space, for example. The window seat cuts a cavernous living room down to size without intruding upon a spectacular view of Lake Erie. The coffee table makes a convenient landing spot for drinks and appetizers. And the Roman shades can be lowered to protect privacy or hold back heat from the midday sun. BTW: The fabric and trims used for the Roman shades, window seat cushions, and accent pillows are from Kravet.

    Designer:  Philip Mitchell

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  • Michael Partenio

    Corner Pocket

    Maybe you think window seats need to be rectangular. Not so, as proven by this curvilinear window seat that fills the corner of an ultra-feminine dressing room. The window seat takes up minimal space between an opulent wardrobe and an attached stack of built-in drawers. But what’s there works hard. A deep cushion keeps milady comfortable while she slips on her shoes. Beneath-the-bench storage is completely discrete.

    Designer: Keith Frederick

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  • Colleen Duffley

    Soaking in the Sun

    In a master bath devoted to symmetry and stone, twin window seats with storage drawers offer sun-drenched spots to relax. The window seats are interspersed with three floor-to-ceiling cabinets that provide ample storage for linens and other bath staples. Like what you see? The window-seat cushions are covered in “Soft Suede” and the door fabric is “Sophie Linen,” both from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Throw pillows are from Williams-Sonoma Home.

    Designer: Bob Williams

    See before and after photos of this renovated home.

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  • Eric Roth

    Second-Floor Sanctuary

    Not deep enough for napping, this window seat still manages to provide comfy seating thanks to a long cushion and decorative pillows covered in colorful fabrics from Lee Jofa and Nobilis. Recessed lighting offers much-needed illumination after dark. Two columns of framed black-and-white family photos give the area its heart.

    See another window seat from this home on the next slide.

    Designer: Daniel Reynolds 

    Tour this lovely New England home.

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  • Eric Roth

    Serenity Now

    Window seats don’t need to be focal points. Feel free to make your window seat part of the tranquil atmosphere that separates a master bedroom from more public rooms. In this set-up, elegant alpaca-and-silk drapery panels cascade over the windows, creating a cocoon-like effect. The window seat’s botanical-print fabric (from Lee Jofa) offers only a gentle interruption to the otherwise monotone palette. The seat’s thick cushion and corner installation make it possible to lounge at will while looking at the golf course from either direction.

    Designer: Daniel Reynolds 

    Tour this lovely New England summer home.

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  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Childhood Haven

    Children need rooms that deliver more than places to sleep. That’s why this little girl’s room is a happy place filled with stuffed animals, pretty pastels, and space for friends to hang out. The built-in window seat offers a comfy spot to daydream, with storage for clothes or toys via deep drawers beneath the bench. Fabric for the walls, valance, bolster pillow, bench cushion, and matching throw pillow comes from Lee Jofa.

    Editor’s Tip: Drawers provide easier access to contents than hinged tops. With the latter, cushions and pillows need to be removed to get inside. Plus, younger children might pinch their fingers when reaching for favorite toys.

    Designer:  Bradshaw Orrell

    Tiptoe through this quiet family retreat.

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  • Gordon Beall

    Winsome Way Station

    Part of a whole-house redo, this arched alcove was created in what was formerly the breakfast area. Architect Dan Ensminger preserved the window, hid the radiator with a window seat, and added a coat closet on one side and a powder room on the other. A crystal chandelier from Robert Abbey and deep turquoise accents on fabrics, pillows, and pom-pom fringe give the hardworking area a charming appearance. The space features Designers Guild fabric on the seat and window; the valance trim is from Kravet.

    Architect: Dan Ensminger
    Designer: Kat Liebschwager

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  • Robert Brantley

    Cool, Calm, and Collected

    Ruffles, swags, and ocean-inspired hues give this master bedroom—and its sitting area—a fresh and flowery vibe. The cream-and-blue floral fabric used on the window-seat cushions was also chosen for throw pillows, the swagged valance, and the head and footboards of the bed (not shown). The pretty pillows provide back support. And the elaborate valance adds a decorative touch without impeding the view.

    Editor’s Tip: Make sure your window seat is at least 50 inches wide if you want to sit there with your legs extended on top of the cushions.

    Designer: Cristina Keogh 

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  • John Bessler

    Dashing Disguise

    Sometimes a window seat is more about practicality than party seating (although it’s nice to have both). This mudroom’s window seat covers a not-so-pretty radiator, while providing a niche for storing wet boots, shoes, or even briefcases. A simple cushion creates a comfy spot for putting on shoes or checking e-mail. Vintage wall hooks attached to creamy white woodwork give backpacks, purses, and hats places to park. Left of the bench, metal radiator screens from the hardware store turn an ordinary mudroom wall into a magnetic bulletin board.

    Designer: Leona Beck

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  • Susan Gilmore

    Room to Unwind

    Part of a family-friendly great-room, this L-shape window seat is designed for constant use. The bench and upholstered cushions are deep enough to accommodate readers, party guests, and even overnight guests if all the bedrooms are taken. Large paisley-pattern throw pillows offer back support for anyone leaning against the glass. Deep drawers keep board games, movies, remotes, magazines, and extra blankets out of sight but easy to locate.

    Architect: Dan Nepp
    Project manager: Tiffany Rose 

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  • John Bessler

    Smart, Beautiful Banquettes

    Team up a built-in window seat or freestanding sofa with a dining table and chairs, and you’ve created a multifunctional space for dining or hanging out. Some people call these spaces breakfast nooks; others call them banquettes. Click on the link below to see more inspirational examples.

    Architect: Dan Rew
    Design: Joe Lucas and Parish Chilcoat

    See more beautiful banquettes.

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  • Marco Ricca