How To Design An Idyllic Reading Room At Home

Whether you are blessed with a floor-to-ceiling library or working with a cozy corner, carving out a space for curling up with a beloved novel will give you a new appreciation for your home. Below, some of our favorite interior designers share their ideas for creating an enticing spot to lose yourself in a book. By KATIE BERRINGTON

Whether you’re designing a reading nook or a whole room in which to relax, look to sumptuous color palettes, rich textures and decadent seating (and reclining) options to create a truly cocooning space

Use cozy colors to create your hideaway

Creating a sanctuary-like space in your home will instantly lend itself to the kind of escapism that reading affords. “The room ultimately needs to feel cozy, like you’re tucked away from the world in a beautiful cocoon,” says Lucy Sear-Barlow, co-director of interior-design studio Barlow & Barlow. “Atmosphere is key, and that can be achieved by wrapping a sumptuous color around the space, including the ceiling. We tend to build daybeds for this purpose, so you really feel like you are in a very private and restful space.”

“A dream reading space should feel cocooning, warm, relaxing and peaceful,” concurs Alexandria Dauley of Dauley Designs. “I would favor a smaller space that feels intimate, and perhaps opt for a dark and moody color scheme for a touch of drama.”

Atmospheric, directional lighting is crucial

“Lighting is absolutely key, as no one wants to be straining their eyes to read; similarly, though, you don’t want the space to be overly lit, as any element of coziness will be lost,” says Sear-Barlow. “This can be achieved with beautiful directional reading lights, such as lights that allow you to swivel and point the light source to suit your position. They can be contemporary and in a gorgeous metal finish, or perhaps more trad, with gathered shades, depending on your aesthetic.”

For Linda Boronkay, lighting has to work equally well during the day and in the evening: “The orientation of the armchair is very important in relation to the window to get good natural light during the day, and then a directional reading floor lamp for the evenings. [This gives] the rest of the room a lovely, warm glow to keep the mood relaxed and atmospheric. I would use lots of low-level lights, such as table lamps on the shelves, wall lights where I can, and a ceiling light only on the lowest dimming setting and purely for decoration.”

Dark walls, atmospheric lighting and plenty of soft seating make this the ideal spot to hunker down with a good book
A deep-seated chair or sofa is crucial to enable you to fully curl up, and a foot stool or ottoman allows you to recline in comfort. Add interest by introducing an antique side table or pendant
Camilla Clarke

How to maximize a small space

Barlow & Barlow’s co-director, Joshua Sear, favors a reading nook, particularly when space is limited. “In many of our projects, we are blessed with decent-sized traditional sash windows, ideally in a bay,” he says. “However, this doesn't always have to be the set-up – a flat basement window will do. These light-filled areas offer themselves up for adding a purpose-built or bespoke, unobtrusive piece of joinery, such as a seat or bench. An example would be to have a simple horizontal-bookcase design spread across the width of the window reveal, topped with a lovely upholstered seat pad, which can create an area to relax and devour a few pages of your favorite novel.”

“Book storage is key, and built-ins will always work better to maximize space and make the most of smaller rooms,” says Dauley. “Incorporating lighting into your bookcases also adds an additional dimension to the room.”

“If there is a nook or niche, use it,” advises Camilla Clarke, creative director at Albion Nord, of finding an area to dedicate to reading. “Make awkward corners a point of interest by adding open shelves and filling them with books and accessories. Don’t be afraid to use unusual furniture to work in the space. A bookshelf doesn’t always have to be a bookshelf – if you are compromised for space, use something interesting and unexpected as an alternative. You can stack books on a bar cart, the fireplace mantel or a windowsill. And don’t compromise on the scale of your furniture – a small room doesn’t mean it needs small furniture.”

Add soft touches

“I think the most important element in a reading space is a very comfortable armchair or chaise longue where you can snuggle in and have good support for your back and arms so you can fully lose yourself in a story,” says Boronkay.

Comfort is paramount, agrees Clarke, who recommends filling the space with soft, upholstered pieces: “Choose an ottoman over a coffee table so there are no hard corners. Textured linen wallcoverings are also amazing at making a room feel cozy and soft.”

“Make awkward corners a point of interest by adding open shelves and filling them with books and accessories,” advises Camilla Clarke of Albion Nord
Rounded edges, varying textures and plenty of upholstery add to the cocooning effect of a space designed for reading

Textures will bring your space to life

“Consider texture to be as important as color and pattern,” Clarke continues. “There is nothing worse than a flat design. Interiors are all about evoking the senses, and texture is a vital ingredient to get our sight and touch senses going. Try mixing different textures such as natural linens with soft velvets, or robust leathers with thick wools. A deep-seated chair or sofa is crucial to enable you to fully curl up, and a foot stool or ottoman allows you to recline in comfort. Add interest by introducing an antique side table or pendant.”

“With regards to fabric choices, regardless [of whether] it’s a pattern or solid color, I would choose wool to keep you cool during the summer months and nice and warm in colder weather, [plus,] a soothing color scheme that’s balanced and oozes harmony,” says Boronkay. “For the joinery pieces, such as the bookshelves, the options are limitless, though I would opt for wood and metal finishes that get better with age.”

Select chairs with good back support and add extra softness via squishy cushions – plus, if you have space, a spot on which to place a drink

Make it a feast for the senses

“I would also emphasize scents and soft music – a nice sound system for background music – as these really help you feel relaxed and detached from everyday life,” suggests Boronkay. “Your time in your reading space should be a real treat for all your senses.”