Building a Window Seat (To Hide an Ugly Radiator)

This is a happy tale of how a window seat redeemed a neglected corner of the living room. Our living room has a bizarre layout – no two ways about it. Each of the 4 walls has a doorway (one to the front door/entry area, one to a side room/porch, one very wide one to the dining room, and one to the stairs) so it was pretty tough to figure out a furniture layout for the room that didn’t block something important.

Making things even more difficult is that our (ugly, non-functional) fireplace is ENORMOUS and we had a large, sad-looking radiator taking up valuable floor space in the only non-doorway corner of the room.

This is a photo from an old listing of our house. Fortunately the living room has come a long way since then… It’s a little hard to tell from this angle, but the radiator back there is real ugly. In fact, our radiator guy who gave our steam system a checkup after we first moved in told us that he was surprised to see one like it – they were apparently designed to go inside the wall? Anyway, it’s a far cry from the beautiful cast claw-footed radiators we’ve got in other rooms. And it didn’t even give off much heat, to boot!

To make things worse, the plaster was falling apart behind it… and there was an awkwardly positioned outlet back there. Just no good. Time to take back that awkward corner! I figured a window seat would be just the ticket.

I started in SketchUp, as I usually would for a project like this:

I modeled the flanking walls, the window sill, the radiator, and the side of the fireplace, and I designed a structure for the window seat meant to be built with 2x4s (the brown members). Also not modeled is the MDF top I planned to secure to the frame to make it, you know, a seat! The rest of the build would be decorative – I’d build a face frame of sorts with slats (that I didn’t model…) to cover up the front but still allow for some circulation.

We did some electrical work, too – retired & removed a whole knob and tube circuit (WOOHOO!) and put in two new grounded outlets, one built into the seat, as part of this job. Feels really good to know exactly how something is wired!

I started with the sides of the frame, which got screwed into the studs on the flanking walls.

From there, I added the first of two 2×4 cross-members, with a little extra support in the middle for the 7′ span.

7 months pregnant! Can’t stop won’t stop.

Finished up the window seat frame and created the “face frame” out of 1×3 select pine and some 1/4″ plywood. The slats would come next…

All I had to do from there was finish up the wiring/cut the hole for the new outlet, secure the MDF top, sand, paint & caulk. Painting and caulking always take way longer than I hope they will. Getting on the ground to paint something while in my 3rd trimester isn’t exactly my favorite.

But I’m pretty pleased with the results! My mom helped me pick out some seat cushions from Ikea that miraculously fit perfectly, and we were done. We rescued an otherwise useless and ugly part of the living room, and the window seat has already been used by friends of ours as a baby changing table! (It won’t be the last time) See the changing pad & box of diapers? I’m trading my drill for a diaper bag pretty soon…


  1. The radiators get very hot in winter. Usually, covers are heavy metal with a lid that lift on a back hinge revealing a shallow pan for water which you add in the winter for humidity. The front panel is usually pierced in an open lacework to allow heat to dissipate. Just a little concerned about the wood being difficult in the winter.

    1. We’ll see… We’ve got a cover built just like this in our bathroom (lots of covers like this in houses around here) and it’s been like that for as long as I can tell, so I’m not too concerned. Like I mentioned this one doesn’t put out too much heat and was designed to be inaccessible, so I’m less worried about closing it up. We’ll give it a winter and see how it does!

  2. Fantastic window seat.
    Please don’t show it to Lisa when she visits your home. It will give her too many ideas for how I should spend my time!

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