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Be the first to know about This Old House contests, sweepstakes, and events and receive special offers and promotions from your favorite home improvement brands. Use recycled or ready-made cabinets and shelves to build a book nook and window seat in a cozy, sunny spot.
Your favorite books within easy reach, a comfy seat and lots of warm, natural light?—?these are the three features that make an inviting book nook.
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In homes with kids, add supports designed for toy chests to keep the lid from slamming on little fingers.
With a simple design, and reclaimed cabinets (or inexpensive ready-made shelf units), success is within reach of anyone with intermediate woodworking skills. That’s what you’ll find here: a toolbox of universal concepts, techniques and solutions that you can apply to your specific project.
Custom work like this needn’t be daunting because the design principles and construction skills you need remain the same in every case. These are the essentials, but because the window and its location sets the stage for the rest of the project, start there. Light from north facing windows is less intense and easier on the eyes.Ideally, you want to choose a window that is within 30 to 42 inches of the floor. You’ll also need a location with at least 24 inches of free wall space on both sides of the window for shelves (more is better).Have a corner window?


You’ll enjoy a cozier book nook in this location, though construction might be more challenging. You could do this job after the window seat is installed, but why make the upgrade any harder than it has to be? You can save substantial time, money and resources by making use of reclaimed cabinets and shelves. They’re available at little or no cost from kitchen cabinet stores, who almost always keep the ones they replace. The bench also is easy to make from reclaimed lower kitchen cabinets, though you’ll have to cut them down in height. No problem — the shelves, seat and shelf bases will almost certainly look different from one another as you mix and match these parts. Also, there will probably be a few new screw heads to hide, and perhaps a few less-than-perfect cuts from trimming operations where you sliced the cabinets down to size.Fix these flaws by covering them with cabinet-grade veneered plywood that is a quarter-inch-thick. This is especially important when working with ready-made or salvaged cabinets.All three parts of your book nook must be fastened to the wall, but the upper shelves in particular must be solid and stable. You can cover the surfaces later, giving them a consistent, refined appearance.Will you be building some or all of the book nook components from scratch?
It’s really not difficult, especially if you use three-quarter-inch-thick veneered plywood or particleboard. A table saw, a bottle of glue, some 2-inch finishing nails and a hammer are the basic tools you’ll need. Alternating wood grain direction on the edges of plywood and particleboard make it possible to create strong butt joints using only glue and finishing nails. The plan provides design guidance for making all parts of a build-it-yourself book nook.What about the cabinet doors? Most building supply outlets offer ready-made cabinet doors that are ideal if you’re building your window seat from scratch.
These are the tricks of the trade when it comes to installing an attractive and stable book nook.Start work with a tape measure, a roll of masking tape, a 24-inch level, some 3-inch-long deck screws and a cordless drill.
Mark the wall area that the nook will occupy using masking tape, then use a stud finder to locate structural framing members hidden behind the wall surface. It doesn’t matter if you mark the wall with a bunch of holes, because the bench and shelves will cover them.


Anchor the bench to the wall with screws driven through the mounting strip and into the wall studs, as shown in the plan. Choose a screw that’s long enough to go through the cabinet, through the wall surface, and an inch into the underlying wall stud. Increase their holding power and improve their appearance by using cup washers underneath the screw heads. Also, drive a couple screws on an angle through the sides of the bench at the bottom and into the floor. But check anyway before fastening the shelves to the wall with screws driven through the two mounting strips.Do you want crown molding around the top of your shelves? Angle or rout decorative details on the three edges that will face outward after installation.
Although this approach uses more wood than traditional crown molding, it eliminates the need to complete fancy mitre cuts. Maybe you’d like to make an existing set of shelves narrower so they fit in your space. Or how about shortening a set of cabinets that are perfect for the base, but just too long?One must-have tool for trimming the outer surface of cabinets is a hand-held circular saw that can be used to follow a strip of wood temporarily screwed to the cabinet to guide the blade. Ordinary electric saws work fine in this application, though a cordless is more maneuverable.Start by determining the final width or length of cabinet you need, then mark the outside surfaces in pencil. Next, position a straight strip of wood far enough over on the waste side of this line so it guides the saw cut. The factory-cut edge of a piece of three-quarter by 5-inch plywood makes a nice, straight cutting guide. All models let you cut in close quarters, though the DeWalt DC 330K jigsaw cuts closest of all.



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