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Do It Yourself With Me: Making a reading nook

Nathan Baker • Aug 12, 2018 at 4:55 PM

Everyone needs a comfy corner sometimes.

Whether it’s been a long week at work, and you need a mini Fortress of Solitude to hide and decompress in, or you’re running up against a hard deadline at said work and need a quiet spot to focus, having somewhere to go separate from the entertaining distractions in the living room can be a great help.

Since buying our home, my partner has wanted to put a secluded reading nook in a window seat already in the house, and a year in, we finally got around to it.

The plan was simple: Take the existing, built-in wooden seat, make a cushion, hang a lamp and build some shelves. It only took about 10 hours of work, but the project was spread out over about a month because of my procrastination on making the shelves (don’t mention that last part around the household, unless you want to spend a few hours hiding in the nook.)

I wanted to avoid sewing to make the cushion, so I took a 3/4-inch sheet of plywood cut to size, glued on some 4-inch foam I bought at a local big-box improvement store, wrapped the whole thing in fabric and stapled it to the bottom.

One word of caution we learned the hard way: Make sure you use an appropriate upholstery fabric. We shopped for a while for an inexpensive, yet strong fabric to cover the nine feet of seat, and we thought we’d found one, but it didn’t stand up to one day of dog claws before tearing all the way across.

Another trip to the fabric store, another few yards of cloth — this one weighted for upholstery — and another 100 or so staples later, and we’ve got a pretty good looking cushion, especially with the coordinated throw pillows my design-inclined partner picked out.

For light, we hung a lamp we found at a discount store. It’s a pretty simple affair, no wiring needed, just plug it into an outlet and screw a hook into the ceiling. We’re still looking for another standing lamp for the other side, but the hanger puts out plenty of light for reading.

The shelves weren’t necessarily difficult, but I hesitated for a while on them. We bought some 1-inch pine, and I planned to cut them down and make some boxes to stagger up the wall in a sort of floating book case, but I was worried about my angled cuts fitting together correctly. I don’t have a table saw, so I relied on the trusty circular saw for this project.

It turned out not to be so bad with some gluing and a little extra sanding to square them up a bit.

Instead of clamps, I held the boxes together with masking tape wrapped around their circumferences. For this method, lay long strips of tape on a flat surface, put the pre-cut boards on them with the inside faces facing up, then just roll them up into squares, making sure the edges are lined up correctly. After a day to dry, they’re ready to be sanded.

Painting them was the only part of the build my partner got involved in. She’d never really painted anything before, but hers turned out just as good as mine.

We used a white latex paint and primer combo and put three moderate coats on them.

To affix them to the wall — after careful measuring to make sure they’d line up — I screwed some angle brackets to the wall, then attached the shelves. It gives them a floating appearance at first glance that makes them look more professional than they are.

All in all, I’m happy, she’s happy and the dogs are happy with the new nook. Just about all of us have used it as a decompression chamber and a comfy reading spot.

In the garden

I’m excited, because my watermelons are starting to come in.

The vines grew tremendously in the past month or so since I put them in the ground. They’ve actually outgrown the 8-by-4 raised bed I put them in, and now I’m having to mow around the still-growing ends that spilled out into the yard.

There are a few fruits growing, the largest of which are palm- or fist-sized. I slid a little cardboard underneath the biggest ones to keep them from laying on the bare earth.

My tomatoes are finally — finally! — showing some fruits, too. The German Johnson looks like it’s going to have the first ripe tomatoes, but the Mr. Stripey, the Zebra and the plain ol’ beefsteak are right behind it.

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