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Published January 17 2013

Benshoof: Holding down the pillow fort (with video)

FARGO - Starting this weekend area residents will be repeating a popular refrain: “Baby, it’s cold outside.”

Our already frigid temps are forecast to plummet even more, which will lead to some of the coldest – and most dangerous – conditions of the season.

But do you know where it won’t be cold this weekend, and where it could actually be warm, toasty and safe instead?

An indoor pillow fort.

Yes, I’m talking about the forts made with blankets or sheets as a roof and pillows or chairs as walls. The kind of fort you’d make as a kid, or at one point made with your own kids.

Or, heck, maybe you’re a 20-something like me making forts in your apartment. There’s nothing at all odd about that.

No matter your age building a fort never seems to get any easier. All it takes is one out-of-place pillow, and the entire thing comes crashing down.

I turned to Michael Vetter at JLG Architects to get some professional help.

Any fort needs to start with a basic structure, whether a couch, chairs or pillows, Vetter said.

Once that’s in place, Vetter says there are other items you can use to help buttress your fort’s foundation.

String can be used to hold up blankets, “similar to how a cable could be used in a bridge application,” he says. A cardboard box could also help keep the walls up by supporting cushions or pillows.

Lighting is important to consider as well. One option is to build the walls around a television, so you’re able to enjoy modern technology within the safety of the fort.

If you’re using a light-colored blanket or sheet for the ceiling, you could place a lamp above the fort for a more “diffused light,” Vetter says.

But above all, Vetter recommends looking at ways that you can make your fort unique only to you.

“Bring out your creativity in using different elements of the house and the space to kind of influence your fort design,” he explains.

When I was younger, my forts may have included a “No girls allowed” sign posted at the entrance. As if there were girls who wanted to break in.

In that way, our forts become more than just a fun – though often futile – exercise in architecture. They become a “personal space” that seems to connect with us on more significant levels, Vetter says.

Perhaps it’s because forts bring to mind a particular memory of our childhood, or of a time parents once spent with their own children.

Or perhaps it’s because, no matter how old we get, the enclosed walls give us a sense of security. Pillow forts may not quite be impenetrable fortresses, but they can seem like it once we’re inside.

At least until mom yells at us to put the pillows back on the couch right this minute.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535