Literally the Best Thing Ever: Forts

You need this handy guide now more than ever.

If you were anything like me when you were a kid, then you spent rainy weekends fashioning makeshift hideaways out of blankets, sheets, pillows, and cardboard. These were our forts, and they were the coolest. Fort building was all about exercising your imagination and, in a way, some control over your world—you were the architect and the ruler.

And then you got older. Life became super serious or complicated or lame or just different; you no longer had the time or the desire to construct crude little encampments in the middle of your living room. I’m here to tell you that this must change. You need a fort now more than ever.

Sometimes simply being home and separate from all of the noise, anxiety, and responsibility of the outside world is enough to make you feel calm and protected; but other times, especially when whatever is bothering you has managed to follow you home, you need something more: you need a sanctuary within your sanctuary. During moments like these, I build forts.

Forts are cozy, not only because of the blankets, sheets, pillows, and other soft construction materials involved, but when you enter one, you’ll almost instantly recall all of the innocence and wonderment of childhood, and that’s cozy too. Even if you never built one as a kid, once you crawl inside of a fort you will still be reminded of being young. Fetus young. Forts have womblike properties.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Build one yourself. As my neighborhood’s preeminent fort builder, I’ll help you get started.

The sheet fort and the pillow fort are the easiest and quickest to build.

The Sheet Fort

With all of its soft, flowing fabric, the sheet fort is lavish and probably best suited for romantics. In fact, some people (i.e., me exclusively) believe that many of William Shakespeare’s sonnets were inspired by his devotion to the sheet fort. An early draft of Sonnet 18 goes “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s fort? / Thou art more human-y and less linen-y; / Rough winds do shake the darling sheets of m’fort.”

1. Sheets
2. Solid piece(s) of furniture to serve as a frame (chairs, love seats, a table, etc.)
3. Clothes pins/potato-chip-bag clip/hair claw (optional)

1. Drape sheets over stuff. I know it sounds difficult, but you’ll get the hang of it.

The frame of my fort is made out of three chairs and a vacuum cleaner. Once you’ve finished draping you’ll have the most gorgeous tent/shanty house looking fort on the block.

What to look out for:
All of that draping does create a light, airy look, but if you’ve sealed yourself inside, things can obviously get stuffy. Unless you’re attempting a vision-quest sort of a thing, make sure that you have a large entrance flap for ventilation purposes.

If you start to sweat at all (whether or not you’re doing a vision-quest sort of a thing), the sheets will really hold in that stale, sweaty smell. So in addition to ventilation holes, I’d suggest bringing in some air freshener or scattering a few fabric softener sheets around. Stay away from scented candles! One false move in these tight quarters and that’ll be the end of your fort building days, my friend.

The Pillow Fort

Harking back to its militaristic origins, the pillow fort is like a battlefield foxhole sans all the guns and peril. This might be why it seems a lot more defiant and aggressive than the sheet fort. To put it another way, if forts were David Bowie songs with the word “dance” in them, the sheet fort would be “Magic Dance” and the pillow fort would be “Let’s Dance.”

1. Pillows, pillows, pillows

1. Stack pillows on top of other pillows and repeat until you run out of pillows.

What to look out for:
A pillow fort isn’t incredibly sturdy and will topple over if you lean against the sides, agitated members of your household attempt to take back the pillows you stole from them, or your cat tries to jump on top of it.


Blankets and a flashlight (for nighttime) are the most practical and basic items that you’ll want to have. But because forts are really about playfulness and recapturing the innocence of childhood, I’d also bring a cherished classic chapter book or one of your favorite YA novels. For me, The Phantom Tollbooth—the story of a bored boy whose journeys through a fantasy land enable him to see how interesting the real world is—always seems like an appropriate choice.

Keeping with the nostalgia theme, juice boxes, fruit snacks, and anything that reminds you of an elementary-school bagged lunch will make a fitting meal. You might even consider putting all of your food into a paper bag with your name written on the front of it.

Fort life breeds creativity, so don’t forget your notepad, pens, pencils, crayons, and any craft projects that you might be working on.

A note on technology:
Bringing a laptop into your fort is OK, especially if you’re using it for music, writing, or DVD-viewing purposes. But I like to keep the texting, tweeting, and Facebooking to a minimum. Those things can be distracting and detract from the magic of the experience. In my opinion, it would be far more fun and meaningful if you invited one of the friends you’re communicating with online over to hang out with you in your fort.

These are all of course just guidelines, simple tips to get you started. This is your fort, your own mini dream home, so it should look exactly the way you want it to look and you should do whatever you want to do while you’re inside of it. As Shakespeare once said, “To thine own fort be true.” ♦


  • Nomi December 7th, 2011 11:07 PM

    legit just this afternoon i was thinking how i really wanted to make a fort and how sad it was that i didnt know how

  • Ruby B. December 7th, 2011 11:08 PM

    Aaah, I just love this so much. Forts are most definitely the best thing ever.

  • Laia December 7th, 2011 11:14 PM

    Forts are great but I also want to know more about this cat fellow that seems to enjoy them so much…

  • GagaMcQueen December 7th, 2011 11:24 PM

    I just made a fort with my sister this weekend! You can also maked themed forts (for example, bring beach towels, bathing suits, and lemonade for beach forts in the middle of winter)!

  • Jamie December 7th, 2011 11:45 PM

    going to put a big bowl outside my fort and make everyone put their technologies in it before they go in so there is NOT any texting in MY fort

  • sunny-side-down December 7th, 2011 11:54 PM

    Building a fort is always the first thing on my to-do list for winter break. Everything else on that list then revolves around said fort…alone…with my cat.

  • Dylan December 7th, 2011 11:59 PM

    Yessss!! I just moved into my new place and was thinking about using an old sheet, cutting out teeeny little holes all over it, and stringing Christmas lights through it and draping it over my bed like a canopy! Now I’m all motivated n shit.

  • sobrina December 8th, 2011 12:19 AM

    Now all I want to do is sit in a fort and eat mountains of snacks and knit or something. While listening to something. And ignoring everyone.

  • missblack December 8th, 2011 12:32 AM

    ohmigod when I was little I was the queen of fort-making. I made one epic fort out of our dining room table and stacks of encyclopedias. Also, I once built a spaceship.


  • norienoire December 8th, 2011 1:30 AM

    Can I be your best friend? The Phantom Tollbooth was my favorite book as a kid. :3 And seriously Rookie, how cool are you giving us fort-building guides and all that? This is what the internet and just… life… needs more of, useful little nuggets.

  • EmmaAmerica December 8th, 2011 2:21 AM

    Yay forts. I used to make so many forts in my living room, but also in the summer my friend and I would spend all summer making them on the beach, and try to outdo his sisters. It was great.

  • queenoftherats December 8th, 2011 2:23 AM

    my apartment is so small that its like a fort. but now i want to make a fort… a fort within a fort

  • Narnie December 8th, 2011 2:28 AM

    So I totally just commented on the “Happy Homebodies” article saying how I was going to build a fort, and then this gem shows up! I think you’re all my secret best friends from another life. Also, THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. Enough said.

  • Sasssquatch December 8th, 2011 3:05 AM

    I turned my dorm bed into a fort
    it makes every day a little more fun!

  • Fiona December 8th, 2011 3:11 AM

    My bedroom is like a fort. I had a small walk in closet, and I decided to take out all the clothes & the hanging rod from it, repaint it, and put a mattress in there. BEST DECISION OF MY LIFE. I call it my laptop cave and it’s great.

    • erin December 8th, 2011 10:45 AM

      I used to have my bed in my closet too!!! However, now it is full of clothes, and my friends call it my “realm” because… you know, it’s an entrance to Narnia.

  • Isobel December 8th, 2011 3:15 AM

    @queenoftherats fortception!

  • Jem December 8th, 2011 3:21 AM

    I made one! thanks for the inspiration rookie
    here’s a picture

  • roseinthewild December 8th, 2011 7:17 AM

    I feel like I am too old for a fort, or really, honestly, that no-one will want to be my friend because I like forts and they are all grown ups who are anti-fort.

  • I.ila December 8th, 2011 7:23 AM

    You remind me of the Fort
    What fort?
    The for with the pillows
    What Pillows
    Pillows that you do
    Who do?
    You do
    Do what?
    Remind me of the Fort.

  • samhatt December 8th, 2011 7:49 AM

    thanks for this!! <3

  • AthenaP92 December 8th, 2011 7:57 AM


  • darksideoftherainbow December 8th, 2011 9:07 AM

    i can’t really build a fort anywhere else but my room. i have to get a new bed and i think i’m going to get a bunk bed just to be able to build a fort the way i used to when i was a kid! it’ll be great bc i have all the old cushions from our old sofas!

  • pinnedtothepage December 8th, 2011 9:38 AM

    Couch cushions make excellent fort-building material.

  • Fortune_Goddess December 8th, 2011 10:49 AM

    OMG. Love, love, LOVE!!! :-D Now, I totally want to build a pillow fort! BTW-Loved the random cat! Haha.

  • fizzingwhizbees December 8th, 2011 11:26 AM

    It’s finals week at my college right now, so the library is open 24 hours, and I just found out that they’re encouraging people to build blanket forts and camp out there. Rookie, you never fail to predict the events of my life.

    • insteadofanelephant December 8th, 2011 1:00 PM

      what a phenomenal idea! i’m going to have to best study table ever

  • WitchesRave December 8th, 2011 12:18 PM

    I used to pitch my barbie tent in my bedroom and me and my brother would stay up really ”late” and play cards and make our imaginations run wild with beanie babies (:

    ….Now that we’re both teenagers, he hardly ever acknowledges me… :/

  • Luiza December 8th, 2011 12:32 PM

    Only on Rookie would I be able to read something like this – you guys are onto something here. Every time I visit the site and read a wonderfull article like this one I think, “boy, I wish they were around when I was younger”. All I can do is thank you and hope you’ve started a trend ;)

  • insteadofanelephant December 8th, 2011 12:59 PM

    THIS, my dears, is awesome. i am a junior in college and currently scavenging for sheets

    instead of an elephant

  • aliceee December 8th, 2011 2:11 PM

    this is wonderful <3 Forts are just… literally the best thing ever… when my brother & I were little we turned our entire basement into Boxtown: a city made out of moving boxes. It was sooooo coooool until our basement flooded & destroyed all the boxes :(

    I also suggest using open umbrellas to support the sheet fort; it holds things up but also creates little caverns within the fort

  • catstickers December 8th, 2011 3:54 PM

    this is just the best. i’m going to build a sheet fort right now using my desk and i’m going to sit in there, as advised, and drink juice and read Philip Pullman and Patti Smith. Oh yeah.

  • thisissoosarah December 8th, 2011 4:18 PM

    me and my friends made a fort and it was the best night ever!
    was so much fun :D
    here’s a photo

  • FashionHauties December 8th, 2011 4:48 PM

    Exactly what I do, except I throw parties i them:

  • Stephanie December 8th, 2011 5:29 PM

    Oh my god, this is literally the best Literally The Best Thing Ever post. I’ve found that my cats seriously interfere with fortmaking, though so I try to do it when they are sleeping so they will either cuddle or leave me alone.

  • Reut December 8th, 2011 7:10 PM

    AH! Thank you soooo much for this post. I will build my fort this weekend and destressss.

  • Mememeo December 8th, 2011 9:37 PM

    I used to make forts with umbrellas while watching Angelina the Ballerina. Good times.

  • Luxe December 9th, 2011 1:36 PM

    ‘To put it another way, if forts were David Bowie songs with the word “dance” in them, the sheet fort would be “Magic Dance” and the pillow fort would be “Let’s Dance.”’

  • Jenn December 9th, 2011 4:35 PM

    Well now I’m definitely calling my friends so we can build a fort and listen to David Bowie at the same time.

  • Finley December 10th, 2011 5:31 AM

    I loved making forts when I was a kid! Sitting in one right now thanks to this article with Harry Potter and Sesame Snaps.

  • Filia-Zissy December 10th, 2011 10:49 AM

    I think this is what I’m doing tomorrow! When I was younger I built a sheet fort in the living room. The last five years I sometimes built up a tent in my room and filled it with blankets and pillows. It has a similiar effect.

  • back2thepast December 12th, 2011 12:11 AM

    has your obnoxious older brother ever knocked down your sheet fort??? growl grumble grumble

  • Aleks-with-a-K December 12th, 2011 5:56 PM

    I make a point of making a fort in every hotel room I stay in if I’m on a school trip. However, we always make sure to clean up after we wake up as to not be rude to the poor maids.
    If we’re just sleeping over somewhere, all bets are off. Few things are too sacred to be used in a fort.

  • LE Margaret December 12th, 2011 9:05 PM

    The cooledt thing when I was little, was that my tein sister and I shared a room. (with 2 beds) So we had the most awsome forts, because we had support on two sides and we had the sheets from our beds! it was the coolest thing ever!

  • Valerie December 12th, 2011 10:54 PM

    this is just the absolute best. i made stuffed animal forts too, sort of the like the pillow fort instead with dogs and horses and stuff.

  • Minna December 15th, 2011 2:15 AM

    Forts rule. We call them Cubbies in Australia! Once when I was little I stayed in my Aunty’s university dorm room and we built a cubby out of sheets and ate grapes inside. Cool story…

  • thewordlover December 15th, 2011 9:05 PM

    Commenting from the fort I just built. I was REALLY inspired by this piece. Love it!

  • rachel December 16th, 2011 8:02 PM

    I hope my cats love the fort i’m going to make as one as the cat in the above photos