DIY Alcove Seating and Shelving guide written by Bland Design
When the time came to replace my boiler, I opted for a combi to replace the much larger system boiler and relocated it to a loft space. The monstrous cupboard it was in had to go, so I decided to fashion it into an alcove cupboard with an upholstered window seat, featuring alcove shelving for my ever-growing houseplant collection. I’ve broken down how I went about this DIY project so that you too can build your own alcove and tailor it to your space and needs!
DIY ALCOVE SEATING AND SHELVING: WHAT YOU’LL NEED
For the shelves
• Combi-drill & accessories
• Lengths of timber (I used 21mm x 21mm)
• MDF or timber for shelves (mine was 20mm x 230mm timber boards)
• Wood beading (for the front of the shelves)
For the upholstery
• MDF sheets (12mm thick)
• Upholstery foam (4” thick for the seat, 2” for the back rest)
• Calico/cheap under fabric
• Upholstery wadding
• Top fabric
For the decorative finish to your alcove corner
- Pouffe ottoman
- Brass light shades
- Antique brass fitting
- Angel wings
- Knot cushion
- Corduroy cushion cover
- Filament lamp
- Candle bulb
- Neon flex kit
- Round Jute Rug
- Gold figurine
- Flickering LED candles
- Extension lead
- Brown throw
- Green cushion covers
DIY ALCOVE SEATING AND SHELVING
Step 1 – Rip out the old cupboard
If you currently have an empty alcove then congratulations, you can skip this step! However, if you don’t then you might be able to repurpose some of the wood to use later like I did. For the first step of my DIY alcove seating project, it was simply a case of unscrewing everything and a little brute force where pieces were glued.
Step 2 – Prepare the walls
My walls are brick, which meant that to attach everything I first needed to drill holes for plastic wall plugs that gives the screws something to grip onto. If you have hollow stud walls you will need to find the wooden studs to screw directly into.
It’s important to note that when making any holes in a wall you need to know what kind of wall it is and what might be behind it. I’m no expert, but I knew my walls are solid brick and there are no electrics or pipes hiding behind. If you’re unsure you’ll need a wall detector to check for any wiring or plumbing to ensure there are no surprises when you start drilling. An envelope will be your best friend for catching all of the dust from drilling, just masking tape it to the wall directly underneath.
Step 3 – Shelf support
For the DIY alcove seating area, I’ve gone for the floating shelf style which looks really seamless rather than using standard shelf brackets. For this you need to fix wooden batons to the wall to support the shelf. Start by using a spirit level to mark out the shelf placement on the wall, measure the width and cut lengths of the wooden baton using a saw and miter box for nice straight cuts. You’ll need one for the length of the shelf and two for the sides so the shelf is supported on three edges.
Step 4 – Fixing to the wall
To hold everything to the wall you’ll need screws long enough to go through the wood and into the wall, where they will grip the plastic wall plugs: for my brick walls I used 55mm screws. To line everything up I find it easiest to pre-drill the hole in the wood and drive the screw through it so it only just pokes out of the other side of the wood. You can then hold it in position on the wall and push. This way the screws will mark the wall for where you need to drill the hole for the wall plug.
When drilling into brick you’ll need to use the masonry drill bits and have the drill on the hammer setting. It can be loud and slow but you’ll get there! (Don’t forget to tape an envelope to the wall under where you’re drilling to catch all of the brick dust.) Next you tap your wall plugs in with a hammer, hold the shelf baton in place and drive the screws through the wood and into the wall plug to anchor the whole thing to the wall – take your drill off of the hammer setting first. Repeat this for all of the alcove shelf supporting batons.
Step 5 – Attaching the shelves to your DIY alcove
Whether you’ve got MDF or timber for the alcove shelves, you just need to cut it to size for the gap. I had some pipework in the way of mine but you just cut a notch out to allow for this. Once in place, simply use small screws to go down through the shelf and grip the batons that you’ve already fixed to the wall. To make the front edge a bit prettier, I attached some wooden moulding to the shelf with glue and a couple of nails. Paint them up and they’re done!
Step 6 – The upholstered window seat
If you’re going to construct a seat under the alcove shelving as well, then great! The principle is exactly the same as the shelves but with four sides and legs/vertical supports. I made two rectangle frames that were the size I wanted the seat, cut the vertical pieces the height I wanted it to be, screwed them all together and then fixed it to the wall the same way as the shelves.
I cut MDF sheets for the side and top, plus a pair of doors on the front for easy storage access (again I made it look a lot more fancy by adding some wood moulding to the edges, a panel on the doors and brass butterfly hinges. The miter box is perfect for cutting those 45 degree angles.)
Step 7 – Upholster your seated corner
To make the seat super comfy I used MDF for the base and layers as follows; 4” upholstery foam, 2” memory foam, calico/cheap under fabric, a layer of upholstery wadding and then the top fabric. It’s easiest to have the whole thing upside down, and first staple the under fabric around the foam and into the back of the MDF to secure it all together.
Then add your layer of wadding and top fabric and staple again, this helps avoid any lumps and bumps on the finished seat. For the back and sides I did the same but without the 4” foam as these don’t need to be as cushioned.
To fix the alcove seating to the wall, I did the same baton method as the shelves but attached the panels by stapling Velcro to them for easy removal if I ever need to get to the pipes they covered.
Step 8 – Enjoy your DIY alcove seat and shelving!
And you’re done! Style your DIY alcove seating corner with a comfy cushion and relax with a book…or let’s be honest, probably your phone right?