Open floor plans have made working and schooling from home these past 10 months a little bit tricky. Families are adding desks to living rooms, turning dining rooms into study spaces, and building walls in attic offices. They’ve also taken advantage of ready-made places like window seats that perhaps didn’t see much action before.
Mitchell Parker, senior editor at Houzz, says: “Window seats have always been a popular feature among our community. Over the past year, we have seen the trend of remote work having an impact on home design, with homeowners doubling down on creating efficient dedicated offices, work nooks, and backyard cottages. For many, a compact and efficient work nook provides all the function needed for working on a laptop, participating in video meetings, and managing the household.”
Retailer Alison Barnard O’Brien, whose home has a whopping seven window seats, says uses include a home for stuffed animals, an extra shelf for jeans, and a platform for superhero flying. In the afternoon, her husband works at the window seat in the dining room, and she uses the window seat in their bedroom for Zoom calls and decompressing. “There is something soothing about sitting in a window seat!” she says.
Interior designer Julieann Covino calls the bench in their dining room in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows a saving grace. “We do everything here — play games, read, watch the iPad, and watch our neighbors ride bikes and play outside,” she says. “It was the best thing we did. Everyone uses it … It’s my quiet place to watch the sunrise with my tea before the children wake up!”
Although he doesn’t have a nook or window seat in his own home, designer Thomas Egan of Evolve Residential, has designed many for clients. “During this pandemic year, these old-fashioned window seats and inglenooks are now doing exactly what they’ve done for centuries: provide a comfortable, semi-private, personal space for someone to read, Zoom, e-mail, or nap.”
Here are 20 stylish, cozy, and functional nooks created by local designers:
This nook in Newton has been one of the client’s favorite spaces, especially during the pandemic. The couple’s son uses it as a break space when he has online school days, and the husband sometimes holds virtual meetings there. The wife uses it as a relaxing spot, either to read or just do nothing, and says the view helps them feel like they’re outside on very cold days. Overall, the nook helps each of them separate from the rest of the house when needed.
“We love our window-seat so much!” Wilkes says. “My toddler just learned how to climb up on her own, which warms my mama heart.”
When Fineman realized there would be dead space in the wall of this bedroom in a Waban new-build, she decided to create a cozy niche for the client’s now 10-year-old daughter. Fineman, who checked in with the family recently, says: “Samantha uses this space as a spot to cozy up with her dog, Zack. She also does a lot of reading in this nook, and she plays her trumpet here during her Zoom lessons.”
Casagrande created a window seat in this Brookline Victorian for a client who missed traveling. “He wanted another place to go at home that felt worldly,” she says. Casagrande layered antique rugs from his family with colorful pillows. “He now loves this unique spot to play guitar, take a nap, or daydream of trips to come,” she says.
Driver collaborated with homeowner Michael Lynch of Lynch Construction & Remodeling on his own home. Lynch reports that while the cozy area has been a focal point of their living area since the renovation, it has been getting extra use during this time of homeschooling. “You can often find one or two of my kids curled up in the window seat reading or completing one of their many online school activities,” the builder says. “Connor and Addy both like to read there, and little Katie sits there and watches the delivery trucks come and go.” Lynch tells clients that a window seat has a benefit even if it is seldom used. “Just the effect of picturing yourself relaxing in a cozy area gives one a nice feeling even if you are too busy to actually take the time and sit with a book,” he says.
Architect Patrick Ahearn converted a very large garage into a great room for clients in Chatham. The window seat has a spectacular view of Cape Cod Bay and provides a tad of privacy in an open space. Tevolitz says, “The nook is nestled in a corner apart from the room’s main activity and adjacent to the fireplace.”
Mellowes & Paladino Architects built this family-friendly home in Nantucket that Hayes furnished. “The homeowner has five grandchildren who use it as a perch of sorts,” she says. “It’s a cozy reading nook for little people.” The kids like to sit here and play while the grownups are in the main living room.
The homeowner wanted a custom built-in bench in the primary bedroom of their Wellesley home to fill a void and provide extra storage. Vallance says, “I believe it currently serves as a makeshift area for the husband to take work calls.”
Two years ago, Levine’s dad, William, handcrafted white cubes she could use while shooting portraits in her studio. When the pandemic hit, Levine shuttered the studio and repurposed the cubes in her dining room-turned-learning space, where she homeschools her two young children. The largest cube became the cornerstone of the book nook. “It’s the perfect size for my kids, who are 5 and 7 years old,” Diana says. It adds a lot of functionality. If her son is working with his tutor at the main table, her daughter can grab a book and relax in the book nook (or vice versa). Sometimes they even squeeze into the nook together. “It’s amazing how having this small space creates a destination for their reading and inspires us all to take moments to relax with a good book!” Levine says.
This window seat with integrated bookshelf turns dead space into an appealing retreat at the top of a landing in Chatham. “Window seats create extra seating without taking up a lot of space” the designer says. “They also work nicely architecturally to tie a built-in together.”
In renovating this Queen Anne Victorian in Brookline, Sterling maintained the integrity of the wood paneling and millwork, including the built-in window seat. To connect the seat to the scheme in the entry hall and adjacent rooms, Sterling added a comfy cushion and custom pillows, along with a patterned wallcovering to create a cocooned effect. The bench is a popular spot with all three girls in residence, who read there snuggled under a blanket, cuddle with their cats, and even do online school. The wife sites there when she telephones her folks, whom she notes she now hasn’t seen in more than a year.
Once Macumber completed the renovation of her home office, photographer Emily O’Brien dreamed of having her dog and child settle into the cute little seat next to her desk. “It became a printer station before the baby, but now we cleared it off and he’s finally old enough to enjoy it!” O’Brien says. Although they had originally intended on adding a custom cushion, for now it makes a great play surface. “If I put his blocks and/or a snack up there, he’ll occupy himself off and on for a half-hour at a time, O’Brien says. “He loves getting up and down on his own, playing with his blocks or books, sharing his snacks with his dog, Lita, and sitting on the window ledge looking out at the trucks that go by.”
This kids’ reading area is on the second floor of a recently renovated home on the North Shore. Located between the kids’ rooms, it is one of their favorite spots in the house away from the main living space. “There’s always a kid tucked into that massive deep window seat, and it’s a favorite little space of mine as well,” Crestin says.
Connecticut homeowner Kiersha Wheeler reports that their breakfast nook has been particularly well used this past year. “We have two high school boys and one of them is always found here during school hours,” she says. She credits Larson for making the space truly multifunctional, with a mini-fridge, drawers, television, and roll-out printer.
Pierce created this nook for a young family because living in the heart of Charlestown with three children under 4 meant finding as much storage and living space as possible. Drawers under the bench are accessible to all, and a child can nestle away from the rest of the activity in the room. The client reports that the tucked-away spot helped them survive the last few months of the year; it served as a cozy space for reading, a work-from-home setup, a children’s media center, and occasional gymnasium when the adults aren’t looking.
Pre-COVID-19, Grant reports, the nook in this 11-year old’s bedroom in Portsmouth, R.I., was a coveted sleeping area for friends. Now that slumber parties are on hold, she spends the occasional night there herself. In addition, “It has become a center for all types of remote learning, especially Zoom calls and reading assignments,” Grant says. Brass sconces and USB outlets for charging an iPad ensure it functions efficiently.
Originally, this large entry hall in Cambridge was “a no-man’s land” without any function, McSherry says. A window seat with Lego storage underneath takes advantage of the space and highlights the stairs. “The clients imagined their small children curling up with a book or themselves with coffee and a newspaper,” McSherry says. Throughout the pandemic it has been used for work Zooms and school meetings, too.
An odd storage space in the back stairwell of a Chestnut Hill home on which Gray collaborated with Isamu Kanda of I-Kanda Architects became an elegant reading nook with a glass wall and built-in bookshelves. “They both do conference calls there. It’s a great, unexpected little place,” Gray says.
Seed designed this sun-filled nook in a Dover new-build to be a self-contained space. Detailed millwork on the front and jewel-toned fabrics from Fermoie, Osborne & Little, and Fabricut offer an elevated look, which Seed felt was important given its location just off the family room. Solid side panels render it comfortable to lean against, while shelves above house books and board games. “The clients’ children have used it constantly throughout COVID to read, draw, build Legos, watch videos, and take naps,” she says.
After a decade of staring at the bare window seat that served as a dumping ground for junk instead of a cozy spot to chill in her Reading home, Lewin outfitted her window seat with a custom cushion and pillows. It was lucky timing, just a few months before the pandemic hit. “It ended up being one of the favorite spots of my youngest to do his remote schoolwork,” she says. “I took this picture two weeks after the shutdown began in March.”