If you’re an avid reader, there’s nothing quite as enticing as a cosy reading nook where you can curl up and escape between the covers of a book.
The good news is you don’t need a lot of money or space to create your dream reading corner – just a little bit of thought and imagination.
This post is all about creating a cosy reading nook on a budget.
A book nook, says accountant-turned-interior designer Kerry Hiddleston, is one of those things you can do anywhere. “It can be as simple as a shelf or a full wall [of books], almost more like a library, depending on your space. There are so many different versions of it.”
Kerry’s own reading retreat (pictured above) is located in the sophisticated front room of the period Sandymount home she renovated with her husband (the house featured on RTÉ’s Home of the Year in 2020).
The room, which has no TV and is more of a “social space” for chatting and reading, is decorated in a dramatic deep teal with clubby leather couches she found on donedeal.ie. Adding to the escapist atmosphere is the secret doorway hidden in the wall of bookshelves.
For keen readers who have endless books but limited floor space, Kerry recommends putting up shelving but leaving a gap so that a sofa or armchair can be pushed right in against the wall.
Add a couple of wall lights and the effect can be really lovely. She suggests using MDF shelving and spray painting it if you’re on a budget. “It’s a fairly cheap and easy way to transform a space.”
Another great way of squeezing in a book nook, she says, is if you live in a house with a “semi-landing” or return on the stairs that is not big enough to fit a sofa, but you do not want it to be just a blank wall.
Simply pop in some shelving, a seat and floor lamps and it’ll feel like you’ve got a (miniature) reading room. “Even though you’re putting things in, it makes the space feel bigger.”
Transform an Unloved Spot into a Reading Nook
During the pandemic, primary schoolteacher and interiors enthusiast Mona Fox (who runs the gorgeous Instagram account @the_foxed_house) transformed an unloved “dumping ground” in the Portobello house she shares with her husband Rob into a beautiful garden-view room complete with a book nook.
It used to be a space where they just shoved spare furniture, but when Mona’s husband had to work from home it became his office at one end.
The other end is now a chill-out and reading space, with a daybed and armchair by a big picture window that opens completely, lending a sense of bringing the outside in.
Mona and her husband are both big readers and have books in every room, but this is the spot where they like to read in the evenings after Rob finishes work, and at weekends.
“It’s west-facing so it gets gorgeous afternoon and evening light,” Mona says.
She also has lots of different types of lighting in the room – lamps of varying heights, string lights with paper flowers and a light at floor level – to make it a cosy space.
She also added a small movable table that can slide over the daybed or the armchair, which is handy for her rechargeable lamp or a glass of wine.
Add to that their two cats who like to jump on to their laps while they’re reading, and voilà – the perfect escapist spot for book lovers.
Choose the Right Spot for Your Book Nook
Jennie Ritchie, who runs a “linens and lifestyle” business, has been an avid reader since childhood.
“I’m a bit of a book hoarder,” she admits.
Every time they move house her husband is keen to throw out her book collection, but it’s the one thing she won’t part with. In fact, with each house move, one of the first things she does is create a book nook.
“I would always choose a spot in the house for the bookcase at the outset,” she says. “Where we live now [in Castlebellingham, Co Louth], there’s a lovely alcove in the hallway and as soon as we moved in, I knew, this is going to be where the bookcase will fit.”
She has great plans to hang an interior hammock there for “the luxury factor”, but in the meantime she has made the space cosy and inviting with a giant beanbag and lots of cushions.
She says styling the bookshelves – recategorising the books and adding plants and photos – is probably 50 per cent of the pleasure she gets from having this reading spot.
“If it’s in season, I’ll pick some flowers from the garden to pop in there too. And a scented candle if I was really treating myself. That would be the proper treatment,” she says. “The rest of the time you’re reading while you’re stirring a pot of soup.”
Top tips on Creating a Reading Nook
- Interior designer Davina O’Connell Hanley of Dernish Designs says creating a reading nook is more than just picking a corner and placing a chair in it. “Think of the view,” she says. It doesn’t have to be an ocean or garden view, but can be “as easy as having your favourite plant in a basket or an ornament on a table”.
- Pick a spot with natural light as this can transform a reading corner “into a wonderful relaxed oasis”, she says.
- You’ll also need either a floor or table lamp. Choose a bulb that’s not too overpowering so that you can relax while reading.
- When choosing seating, comfort is key. “Trust me, you will never enjoy your reading nook sitting in an uncomfortable chair,” she says. Then add layers with throws and cushions.
- Add a side table to pop your cup of tea on, she says, but make sure to factor in the height of your chair.
This article originally appeared in The Irish Times