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“It looked like a placeholder,” designer Meta Coleman remembers. Home to a pair of time-worn armchairs and a couple of overflowing stand-alone bookcases, the long, narrow nook off the second-floor landing of her clients’ Salt Lake City house could be put to much better use. Not only did a pair of west-facing windows offer some of the property’s most scenic views, but “the family are all avid readers and there never seems to be enough cozy spots for that,” says Coleman. 

The stair landing, before. Courtesy of Meta Coleman

With the parents and their four kids on board, Coleman went to work maximizing the area to act as everything from a morning mother-daughter hair station to a reading zone and book storage. “The space was small and awkward, but nothing cozy, deep seating couldn’t fix,” she recalls. Cue a wall-to-wall built-in bench—but rather than stick with a predictable rectangular silhouette, Coleman opted for wide, curved edges and geometric reeding finished in a soothing seafoam green. That’s not to say she sacrificed versatility; read on to see how she found the balance.

Hide Function in Plain Sight

“Every square inch of the bench is storage,” she says, pointing out that the left and right sections lift up and a trio of drawers hold everything from puzzles to games to hairbrushes. “For such a small space, there’s a lot of utility to it.” In fact, one of the designer’s favorite hardworking details is hardly noticeable: “I really like the [inset] charging stations on either side that can also house a Kindle or iPad for reading or a little evening movie watching.”

The More Cushions, the Better

To lure in the readers, she topped the bench with three sink-in down cushions in blue and white pinstripes piped in a contrasting red and white pattern. Throw pillows aren’t the sole back support—Coleman wrapped the backboard in Schumacher fabric for another layer of plushness, and the scenic flora and fauna motif tells a story in and of itself.

Even a Tiny Customization Is Worth It

The book storage situation, before. Courtesy of Meta Coleman

Not only does the wraparound bookshelf above hold dozens of beloved titles, but their reading collection pops thanks to raised red accents on the edges of the millwork. “It’s the little details that bring it to life,” she says. “I can’t just leave it plain.” As for the lipstick shade, “I think red is an understated color. If there’s a cool color, I like to bring in a complementary warm one.”

Soften All the Geometric Lines

Next, Coleman swapped clunky shutters for a white linen roman shade to lighten things up. “Now the window treatment acts as more of a frame around the beautiful view of the mountain range,” she explains. When the warm, filtered light fades come evening, a row of custom ceramic tulip sconces brought to life by Betsy Croft Pottery provides light. “I love to bring the outdoors into any space,” she says, noting how their organic shapes add movement to the alcove. Plus no matter which direction someone sits or lays, their task at hand will be illuminated.

The spot most of the kids would pass by unphased is now the most popular seat in the house. “I’m a firm believer,” says Coleman. “If you build it, they will come.”