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Window seat attractive option for design, storage

| Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, 8:59 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
A window seat at the home of Bob and Chris Pietrandrea in Wexford on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
A window seat at the home of Bob and Chris Pietrandrea in Wexford on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
The windowseat in the Albright home in Schenley Farms in Oakland Thursday, September 20, 2012.
The windowseat in the Albright home in Schenley Farms in Oakland Thursday, September 20, 2012.

For as simple as they are, window seats draw admiration in many ways.

Architect Gerald Lee Morosco calls them both a “perch” and a “punctuation.”

Homeowner Chris Pietrandrea says the window seat in her Wexford home has made the kitchen “warm” when it could be “big and empty.”

Designer and home builder Don Horn has used them to change the proportions of rooms.

Interior design Cecelia Staniec says they provide space, and “any time you can add storage and don't, it's a big mistake.”

Offering seating, storage and even a strong element of design, window seats provide a variety of reasons to be there. Design can be as plain as a straight line or can add curved lines around a round window.

They can be as basic as adding a bench between two free-standing bookcases on either side of a window.

“They do a lot for as simple as they are,” says Horn from Sewickley, best known for his designs of historically accurate colonial homes. He works with Jerry Horn Construction out of the same borough. “We try to do them as often as we can.'

Ron Virtes from East Hills Cabinet in North Versailles can understand why a designer or homeowner would want one.

“They are simple to make both new and in renovation,” he says. “You have a seat and you can create a storage space easily with a lid top or some doors below and just a little hardware.”

He also says they can make good covers for radiators, giving old houses new looks.

“They can create an alcove,” says Morosco.

While the seating and storage elements of window seats are the obvious advantages, Morosco looks to the role they have in defining an area.

The South Side architect is a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright. He says the design of window seats can help to blend the outside and inside elements of a building. If a seat is surrounded by cabinets, it “enhances the space” by “creating a pocket” that draws the eye.

That action then focuses attention and pulls in the outside, he says.

Elizabeth Albright says that definition of the area is exactly what happened when Morosco added one to a revision of three small rooms into a kitchen.

“I was suspicious of the idea and reluctant,” she says of the work in her home in the Schenley Farms area of Oakland. “But I have grown to love it.”

She says her eyes always go to that window, but the seat defines the area in a practical way, too.

“That is where the table is and that is just where the table needs to be,” she says. “And I can squeeze a few more people in on the bench.”

The seat in the Pietrandrea home offers the same sort of practicality in addition to changing the proportions of the room.

“It fills up the space in a useful way,” Chris Pietrandrea says. Besides seating, its drawers provide storage space.

The window seat was part of a extension to the house that enlarged the kitchen, and has provided enough space that the room has become comfortable in its role as a gathering spot for company.

All of those benefits make window seats almost a mistake to pass up, say the designers and crasftsman Virtes.

“It is pretty easy to do,” the woodworker says about making them. “It is really easy to build a box that is 18 or 24 inches deep.”

Most times, the creation requires only some simple woodwork, he says, although when a window seat covers a radiator it requires some insulation.

The simple project can make a space usable, Staniec says. She recalls adding a window seat to the kitchen in a small vacation home that allowed a table to be put in the room because it eliminated the need for separate seats on the one side.

Morosco says the use of a window seat becomes a “punctuation” that gives almost an inflection of voice to the design of a room.

That change in style can accomplish a number of things. Besides seating, storage and design benefits, some clients look at them as “a cozy place to read a book,” Morosco says, thus calling for a deeper space that also will accommodate pillows and cushions.

That sort of design is not difficult either, simply more demanding in the space it asks.

The window seat, Morosco says, is a way of creating a “pocket” that didn't exist in a room.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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