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To the creative kid, a bed is not a bed, but a garrison waiting to be erected, in which one can find solace or fend off any number of imaginary foes. Stack up a few pillows, drape some sheets over the top and you have a hideaway fit for whittling away any number of winter hours. 

But, as everyone who’s constructed a comfy citadel knows, pillow fortresses are feeble things, set to fall down with the slightest shift of posture from an inhabitant or nudge of an adult knee.

To ensure that your soft structure is a bit more stable, we spoke to Robert Burrows, an architect from Cleveland, Ohio who knows a thing or two about finishing stable structures. 

“Pillow fort design has come a long way from its earlier, more primitive designs,” he said enthusiastically. “Advances in pillow materials and technologies have helped to make today’s modern pillow fort far more capable.”

Digging deep into his architectural knowledge, Burrows laid down these five tips for completing a structurally stable, soft stronghold.

1. Pick a solid foundation

“Like any structural design,” says Burrows, “the foundation remains a key building block to success.” Various flooring types can help you get started. “In terms of support,” says Burrows, “flooring types in order of preference are: carpet with padding, carpet without padding, hard wood, vinyl, ceramic and finally natural stones.” Burrows says this is more a factor of “knee comfort” and “pillow lateral slippage,” and less about the final look of the fortress.

2. Location, location, location

In addition to choosing a solid foundation, you can gain advantages from an exotic location. “Building your fort in your bedroom will add to your building material list,” explains Burrows. “The mattress and box strings of your bed can be used as mega pillows, perfect for walls, or to anchor other pillows.” If you do choose the more traditional living room setting, Burrows advises taking advantage of a well-placed couch. “The unused flat couch bottom is ideal to build off of, since it’s already raised off the floor,” he says. 

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3. Know Your Structure

There are three basic types of pillow fort. The buttress fort uses pieces of furniture as the primary retaining wall, and the fort is built off of that. Then there’s the tunnel fort, in which the couch is built into the fort itself and runs the length of the structure. Finally, there’s the compound fort, in which multiple pieces of furniture are connected, and make up the fort’s “rooms.” Whichever you choose, Burrows strongly suggests buttressing (supporting) any wall by “tightly tucking sleeping pillows between the vertical couch pillows, making sure that there is plenty of pillow stuffing on the outside of the fort, and very little on the inside.” Thinning out the pillow on one side, he adds, will add more resistance and strength. 

4. Mind the Roof

“Use sheets,” advises Burrows. “They’re lighter than blankets, and easier to tuck in.” As you add a roof, you can also think of adding “amenities,” such as windows, to your fort. “Small open cardboard boxes can be used for windows, by stacking the pillows around them,” he says. “Staggering the rows of pillows creates a long-lasting stacked wall.” This pillow fort design is unfortunately uncommon at a typical fort scale, laments Burrows, because many households may only have a dozen similarly sized pillows on hand. But back to the roof — you can also layer the sheets to make the roof thicker without adding much weight.  

5. Duct for Cover

Duct tape is a great adhesive material, assuming it won’t ruin your cushions. “If you use the tape to create structure crossmembers (editor’s note: a crossmember is a structural support that extends along the underside),” Burrows begins, “be sure to put a second piece of tape over any exposed sticky tape. Otherwise, you risk getting stuck to a piece as you crawl through the fort, and tearing it down.” Priorities, priorities.