How to create a cozy reading area

Here's how you can establish a dedicated reading area in your home

It’s finally starting to feel like fall. I’ve been dreaming for months of curling up to read under layers of cozy blankets with a cup of hot tea, with candles burning and maybe a fire going, and that time is here. Establishing a dedicated reading area is one of the best ways I know to cozy up your home for fall or any season. Want to set up your own? Here are 7 things I’ve learned to pay attention to.

1. Pick the right spot.

This might mean a sequestered corner or room; maybe it means the middle of the action. Pick what works for you. We fall into the latter category around here. Two favorite places for reading are right at the front of the house, in rooms we all spend a lot of time in: the living room and the adjacent library.

2. Establish your foundation.

A substantial sofa, a plush wingback chair, an upholstered bench—these are the bones of your reading area.

If you love your foundation pieces, fantastic: it’s easier to build on a beautiful foundation. But back when I first moved out on my own, I loved the colder months because they were so forgiving to my furniture, which had seen better days—especially our hand-me-down leather sofa that literally had giant gaping gashes in the cushions. In the summer, this was unfortunate, but in the winter we just layered on a few blankets and it looked beautiful and curl-up-able, gashes and all.

Bookshelves also create the bones of your living areas. Ours are custom; more ideas here.

3. Make yourself comfortable. 

Once your foundation is in place, add the elements you need to enjoy your reading area. Do you have someplace to set your cup of tea, or set down your book when it’s time to get a refill? Is the lighting good, or do you need to add a lamp?

At my house, we like versatile pieces that can be easily moved around as needed—a variety of small tables that can hold a glass of wine or propped-up feet or a tower of possible reading selections. I’m especially fond of the handwoven pouf that serves as a step stool to the higher library shelves, a comfy seat (especially for a kid), or a table for a handy tray, depending on the day.

4. Add interesting texture.

A variety of textures look inviting and feel cozy. The easiest ways to bring in texture for the cooler months are to choose accents that contrast with your foundation pieces, like a faux fur throw that looks like it’s begging to be touched draped on a shiny leather sofa, and pillows in a variety of textures and fabrics. Sometimes when a room feels “off,” thinking about the balance of matte versus shiny helps me right things.

5. Add a pop of color.

Some people love the look of a monotone palette, and I’m one of them—but I wouldn’t want to live with it everyday. I feel most at home when there’s a nice punch of color in every room, whether it’s a pretty vase, a pillow, a big bunch of flowers, or a great piece of art.

As a reader, I’ve always left books lying around for practical purposes, but you can strategically use them to pretty up your home space as well. Whether you choose a single title or a big stack, those books add visual interest, a pop of color, and—if you choose them right—will make you happy every time you look at them.

6. A little (or a lot) of storage. 

Choose smart storage that fits the needs of your space. Maybe that means a tall bookcase to store lots of books, or an end table with a shelf that can hold a few books-in-progress, or a concealed ottoman that can hold extra blankets and pillows.

I love the way a simple basket full of books or blankets cozies up the space. A square living room basket holds books I want to read next; a round basket holds folded blankets, ready to be cuddled up with. We have a big library basket that holds books in limbo—ones that I’ve pulled off the shelf (to loan to a friend, to talk about with one of my kids, to donate to the Little Free Library down the street) and ones I’ve previously pulled down that need to be re-shelved. It’s a little thing, these baskets, but they make the room feel a little more friendly and a whole lot neater.

details on our home library

7. Signs of life.

Homes feel cozy and inviting when it looks like people actually live there, so work some signs of life into your decor—fresh flowers, houseplants, a snuggly pet. (We don’t actually think of Daisy as home decor, a dog curled up at my feet while I read sure does make me feel cozy.)

Light the candles. Don’t be afraid to leave a book lying on the coffee table; it’s evidence that there’s a human being somewhere nearby, and that’s a good thing.

Another good way to show signs of life is to live with the things you love, whether that’s a carefully selected stack of books, a funky succulent, a meaningful photo, or a pretty piece of pottery. Fill your home with things you love, and it will feel—and look—like home.

What are your cozy reading area decoration tips? Please share in comments.

P.S. Our home library, Elevate your reading experience with these favorite bookish things, and One reader’s quest for the perfect bookshelf.

36 comments

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  1. Adrienne says:

    I love the very colorful ottoman/pouf-thingy in the photo, and your reading spaces look so cozy and inviting. This post has wonderful suggestions. I currently have two reading areas. One is in the guest bedroom, which is where I go to read when I need peace and quiet, and the other is a cozy rocking chair in the living room where I can read and be with my family while they are watching TV. My absolute must-haves for these areas are good lighting, a small table for my cup of tea or glass of wine, and a place to put my feet up. I just recently started reading in the living room while the TV is on. I thought it would be too noisy and distracting, but I find I just block out the TV and I can focus on my reading with no problem at all.
    Happy Reading!

    • Gretchen says:

      I have a covered back deck we try to use as much as we can year round. In colder months we keep a stack of blankets as well as an electric tea pot and a selection of teas and hot chocolates out there. We have to go in to fill the pot and bring out clean mugs, but keeping them out there is a great visual reminder to use the space and also keeps it cozy!

      • Beth says:

        We also have a covered screened in porch. I just ordered some cozy outdoor blankets and have a tray of candles and pumpkins now. I may add the tea and hot cocoa station!

  2. Maureen says:

    My reading spot is our (rarely used) formal living room. The sofa is incredibly comfortable and the room gets lovely morning thru early afternoon light. It is decorated in soothing colors and because of the layout of the house is usually very quiet. Nothing nicer that to curl up on the sofa with a throw across my lap, a cup of tea on the coffee table, and a good book in my hands.

  3. Madeleine says:

    We have been living in our home for the better part of over 2 decades. We have a cozy open front porch. We used to have a bench on it and it was fine. I decided last year to get 2 adirondack chairs and it has made all the difference in the world. Who knew the right furniture would change everything. Add some pillows, a side table with a basket on the bottom with blankets, and now we all want to be out there. I have read so much outside, that now, when I’m not out there, I see my daughters doing the same thing. Curling up reading.

    Downside: it snows here. 😛 So, to find a cozy corner in out little cottage home.

  4. Joan Lehner says:

    I have a comfortable place to read but came to the conclusion it was “how” I was reading that needed to change. I read a lot on my tablet and found that I was being pulled away by notices, emails, chats etc. As a person that needs no help going down a rabbit hole this was not working for me. I stopped using my apps on my tablet and phone and now dedicate an ereader to serve only that purpose. I also alternate between ebook and paper book each time as I miss the interaction of an actual book.

  5. Ellen says:

    My husband and I have moved numerous times (this November 2 will be the 10th move in 30 years of marriage). We had a house with an enclosed porch on the side which we called “the nook”. It had one wall of built in bookcases and I had a leather club chair and ottoman where I’d read. Loved it. Since then, we’ve mainly been in apartments, so space is at a premium. I’m very excited that our November 2 apartment has a gas fireplace! That, along with this post, has my creative juices flowing. I have long dreamed of having a “snug” (as they’re called in the UK. A much cozier name than our “den”, I think?). Who says that our living room can’t become the snug? Keep the ideas coming!!

  6. Julia Reesor says:

    During Covid, I created a cozy reading space for myself. It is in a corner of my front room (no TV present), with lots of lighting, but a lamp above my head for evening reading. I use a wingback chair covered in a throw that matches the color theme of this room (the chair is a green striped which doesn’t work in any room of my house presently!) I have a soft pillow on my lap. I have a small magazine stand on one side that holds my ‘currently reading’ books, a candle and another c lighted “bottle” that contains a tiny string of lights. At my feet is a foot massager! I love this combination of reading props – works for a satisfying reading time.

  7. Brittany says:

    I love a cozy reading corner! I love your emphasis on adding signs of life. That’s never hard for us with a toddler around. ha!

    A couple of years ago I created a holiday gift guide for a cozy children’s reading area. It was so much fun and I added a lot of gifts from Etsy sellers and also a list of my favorite books for kids. There are four lists (broken up by age): https://brittanydahl.com/?s=holiday+gift+guide&et_pb_searchform_submit=et_search_proccess&et_pb_include_posts=yes

  8. Janice Cunning says:

    A few years ago we needed a new coffee table. I got one from Ikea with a bottom shelf. Now I have somewhere to keep books, magazines, and newspapers. I love it so much. Sometimes a simple change makes a room so much better.

  9. Kristin says:

    I love this list! I would add that lighting can really increase the coziness feel. I have a lamp with an Edison bulb and turning it on makes the room so warm and inviting.

  10. Debby says:

    Pulling out all the fall quilts ( and finishing up two more to add to the mix). Even the dogs get a quilt for their corner of the couch. I alternate between reading in the shade of back deck, the swivel rocker in our bedroom and the living room. The dogs prefer it when I read outside so they can keep a better eye on the neighborhood.

  11. Ellen says:

    Open the French doors of our living room, walk down 3 brick steps and you’ll arrive at our favorite (40+ years in the making,) 3 season pergola reading and gathering spot for family and friends.
    Picture white Adirondack chairs with coffee mug stains on their wide arms, soft edison lights glowing at night, fragrant sweet autumn clematis and honeysuckle that grow as a roof up and over our pergola, along with flowering pink mandevilla vines, (winter dormant period success stories,) wrapping themselves around the columns of the structure. Colorful perennials along with white moon garden annuals add lots of pleasure as do houseplants that thrive during the summer months.
    Cool in the spring with a sweater, warm with a soft Cape Cod breeze in the summer, wrapped in a cozy blanket in the chilly fall…
    Our 10+ everything spot.

    • Diana says:

      I just returned from cape cod today. I would love to be in your reading nook. Now is the perfect cape cod weather to utilize it. I want pictures for inspiration! 🙂

  12. Cheryl (Sherry) Andre says:

    My primary reading spot is in a deeply upholstered rocking chair, with table next to it with an electric mug warmer to keep my cocoa or tea hot, an excellent floor standing reading lamp provides ideal lighting, and there are fleece throws on stool at my feet if needed. Sometimes I use my Amazon Dot to provide quiet, soothing background ambience. At night, ice cycle LED lights strung across the front window wall over looking the pond add a magical glow. Cozy, good reading.

  13. Colleen Bonilla says:

    I LOVE your reading spaces, Anne! And I so appreciate this very timely post. Our brand new bookshelves are scheduled to be completed today! Unfortunately, our budget wouldn’t accommodate custom shelves, but the ones we’re getting are a solid wall of floor-to-ceiling bookcases and they look great. We’ll soon be able to unload our plethora of book bins and arrange all our favorite tomes on the shelves…which just makes my little heart go pitty-pat!
    I’m also a huge fan of your multi-colored pouf/ottoman. I found a similar one online and plan on making it a part of our new library. So many good ideas in this post for setting up our cozy new reading space for the cold months ahead. Thank you!

  14. Sarah says:

    I created a reading area outside for when the weather cools off. I have chairs, a little table, but my favorite feature is the fire pit. I love sitting by my propane fire pit and reading.

    Do you have any suggestions for making a reading brighter? My reading area is in the back of the house and it’s really the only area I can have it. I have older carpet and I get very little sunlight. I would love to make it brighter during the day.

  15. When our son moved out to go to college, I changed his room into my reading room. It is my favorite place in the house when I can’t be on our back porch because it is too cold…my other favorite reading spot. I got a couch with a chaise, a bookshelf, and two end tables. I even found an old typewriter. It makes me so happy!

  16. We have moved many times and a major part of choosing the next home was to imagine where we would read and how many places in the house would be conducive to reading time and as a home to our books. In the current house I am most apt to read in the room we call “the snug.” Only big enough for two comfortable chairs (each with a side table for lamp and a beverage and the current book), and two sets of bookshelves, this space has windows on three sides looking out on our urban neighborhood and French doors leading to the living room. True, in the winter it gets a bit chilly there, but then we can read in the equally cozy living room or in the garret where I have my desk and the cushy “Girlfriend Chair,” a chair formerly in a girly kind of guest room. Oh, and in the summer I love to escape for reading time to “Paris” a private garden on the side of the house where I can see people passing, but it is rare anyone notices me. Heaven.

  17. Natalie says:

    When we bought our home last year, our master bedroom had a walk-in closet and a regular closet. We are minimalists so we don’t have a lot of clothes and thus decided to transform the walk-in to a reading room for me. My father-in-law removed all the shelving and painted it white, then I bought a colorful rug on Amazon and a rectangular cushion to lay down on. I brought up throw pillows that came with our sofa/chaise that’s in the living room and hung up a round mirror made of magazine/newspaper that I’ve had for years. My hubby installed attached our teal bookcase to the wall, and I have a bright yellow lamp, a salt lamp, several throws and even a pendant light inside! (Can’t have too many lights lol) I put up a 3-pronged hook and that’s where I hang up my plethora of bookish totes. I just love my little room, it’s truly a dream come true. 🙂

  18. Carol says:

    I love the ideas here! I’m hoping to develop such a space both in my office and my living room. First I need to do a major decluttering and rearrange some things in the office… The living room area will be easier to figure out.

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