Ask a Designer: Creating a perfectly cozy place to read
We decorate our homes in order to enjoy them. For book lovers, adding a cozy and well-lit space dedicated to reading can be the perfect finishing touch.
Most homes, of course, don’t have a spare room for use as a library. But interior designers often carve out one section of a living room, sunroom or master bedroom as a dedicated reading area, says designer Pamela Harvey.
Harvey, who splits her time between design projects in Florida and in the northern Virginia/Washington, D.C., area, says that where you put a reading space depends on your habits. Are you seeking a spot that’s private and silent, or would you rather have an open, airy reading space to share with family members?
Here, she and two other interior designers — Kansas City-based Jaclyn Joslin, founder of Coveted Home, and Bethesda, Maryland-based Kelley Proxmire — suggest ways to create a perfectly luxurious space, even on a budget.
Joslin has helped two clients turn unused formal dining rooms into multi-use spaces. Although the rooms are used by the whole family, she says, “in both homes we added nice comfy chairs for the adults to sit in and read.”
Proxmire added a reading space to a home office for a woman who wanted her kids to cuddle up and read while she worked.
She has also creatively repurposed spare closets, a trick that’s especially useful in children’s bedrooms. For one client, she removed closet doors, added a padded bench seat across the width of the closet, and then added a wall-mounted light fixture. Built-in drawers underneath the seat and shelf space above mean the closet still offers storage.
Add pillows to the padded seat and a curtain for privacy, Proxmire says, and you’ve got the perfect place for a child to curl up and get lost in books.
And if your reading space must be in a common area, you can still have a measure of privacy. Try adding a decorative screen or stragetically placed bookcase that functions as a room divider. That’s “a great way to carve out a little space in a corner of a room for a retreat-like feeling,” Joslin says.
Build in “the flexibility to have different levels of light” in your reading space, Harvey says.
She suggests a mix of table lamps, floor lamps and small reading lamps.
“Task lamps work really well,” she says.
Joslin agrees: “I love floor lamps that are sleek and minimal that can be tucked under or right next to the chair to provide direct light for reading,” she says. “Swing arm wall sconces are also a great option for a reading nook.”
Along with plenty of spots to plug in all this lighting, don’t forget to have enough outlets for chargers if you’ll be reading on a digital device, Harvey says.
All the right elements
Reading chairs don’t have to be expensive. But they must be comfortable.
“A chair large enough to curl your legs up into is the ultimate comfy zone for reading,” Joslin says, “so choosing chairs with arms and styles that don’t skimp on seat space is key.”
And no matter how comfortable and large your reading chair may be, all three designers suggest including an ottoman or footstool so that your legs can be stretched out and elevated.
“Drink tables next to the chairs are also a priority item, along with a few cozy throw blankets strewn about,” Joslin says.
Keep these items within arm’s reach so you won’t have to get up once you’ve settled in to read. You’ll also want to keep reading material easily at hand.
“If you’re tight on floor space,” Joslin says, “try some wall-mounted shelving to display books or a very utilitarian yet still stylish vertical bookcase.”
Consider adding a small rolling bar cart or even a wet bar if your budget and space permit, Harvey says.
“Maybe you’ll want a glass of scotch or maybe it’s a coffee bar,” she says. Whatever your preference, having these items in your reading space adds to the sense of luxury.
If you have enough space and love a traditional “library” look, Joslin says, then “go full tilt with a sliding ladder, wing chairs in either leather or some tweed/wool type fabric and a chaise lounger if there is room.”
But Proxmire says you don’t have to be limited to dark paneling and leather upholstery. Have fun with soft or bold colors and cheerful prints if they’ll bring you joy.
Melissa Rayworth writes the Ask a Designer column monthly for The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter at mrayworth.