Reader Question: Emily’s Reading Corner

A while back we got a question from a dear reader that is surprisingly tricky.  Here it is, in her own words:

Ok, so here’s the problem! I had to reshuffle some furniture round in the living room, but now I’m not happy with the corner with the blue armchair (see photos). It just feels off, like maybe the table is too big, or the picture is too small, or the lamp should be a table lamp, or maybe all three! It’s just sort of ended up as a line of stuff along the wall. I love all the pieces individually – particularly the armchair as I recently finished reupholstering it (it was saggy and pink before, so the blue velvet is a vast improvement). So my question is what can I do to make that corner look a bit more put together? I don’t really know how to dress the table properly, for a start.

Red House West || Reader Question
Red House West || Reader Question
I should also mention that we’re in a rental property, so painting the walls or changing the flooring sadly isn’t an option. And I would totally go for a gallery wall but we’re not really allowed to hang things on the wall – this is partly why pictures are hung in slightly random positions as we didn’t get to choose where the existing hooks were on the wall – unless we go old school and utilise the picture rail, maybe?
I’ve included a couple of photos of the rest of the living room just for context – in case you think moving furniture around again might help. And please feel free to let me know if you have any thoughts on the rest of the room, which I love, but also doesn’t look quite as good as I’d like – maybe it’s too matchy-matchy? (You might be able to tell that blue is my favourite!)
Red House West || Reader Question
Red House West || Reader Question
First of all, we love your living room with its rich textures and lovely blues, reds, and yellows.  Not too matchy-matchy at all, and so enviably clean!  The blue velvet wing back chair is lovely, and makes a cozy reading corner.  But reading corners are tricky things — you want the corner to be a space that connects to and engages with the rest of the room, but also to bring with it a feeling of refuge.
In “The Perfectly Imperfect Home” decorating guru Deborah Needleman says reading nooks require four things: (1) “Armchair: In the main seating area or off on its own populating an otherwise empty corner;” (2) “Side Table: At arm height or lower;” (3) “Reading Light: A lamp with focused illumination works best;” (4) Footrest: Anything you can put your feet on, from a little stool or ottoman to a corner of the coffee table (yes, feet belong on the furniture!).”
We’ve talked about why your corner may not feel quite right to you, and we agree that while everything is beautiful, the scale is what’s giving you trouble.  The table next to the chair is gorgeous, and we hate to say it, but in the photos at least it looks too big and too tall, like the chair is hiding behind it.
A basket with a cozy blanket is always a good idea, but we think yours might also be a stitch too big, and should be within easier reach of the chair, maybe on the other side of the chair from the table?
Here are a few pictures of corner chair nooks that we think have the right proportions (even if the decor isn’t necessarily our taste.  This first picture–pretty, but talk about matchy-matchy!).
It pains us to say that beautiful table is the problem, so maybe the solution is as simple as redefining purposes.  We can’t tell if the door next to the basket is interior or exterior, but maybe you could switch the positions of the basket and table so that the table serves as a catch-all by the door (and keep the bowl there).  Hang a last-look mirror above it (we’ve heard people swear by command strips when nails aren’t an option) and declare it the entryway.  Then angle the chair out into the room a little more, and put a small table on the far side of it for books and drinks.
Or, instead of a new small table next to the wing-back chair, maybe you could pull the blue ottoman (visible in your last picture) over, put the gold tray that’s on the coffee table on top of it, and see if that works height-wise as a table for the chair.
Whatever you decided to do, keep us posted and thanks so much for sending in your question!  And to other readers out there with design conundrums of your own, send ’em in!  Seriously, we live for this stuff.  Click on contact us, fill out the form, and we’ll email you back so we can get the conversation going!

10 responses on “Reader Question: Emily’s Reading Corner

  1. Susanna-Cole King

    I can testify to the lifesaver that Command picture hanging strips are for rentals! I have erected entire salon style walls with them. I will stress, do follow the directions, I’ve only had things come back down in skipping steps, and use more strips than recommended (especially if hanging anything precious or irreplaceable).

    I also agree that it is more of a proportion thing, and not that this reader has to take any of my advice (after all, they didn’t ask me!) but besides a table switch, I do think a larger picture or piece of art could create more cohesion in the space. Maybe moving the current piece to the left of the plant, and having a larger piece center between the plant and lamp shade.

    And/or a tall architect’s/swing arm lamp behind/next to the chair? That’s really just my personal preference. From the examples shown, it’s clear many people don’t mind traditional lamps with shades behind chairs, but I think I’ve always felt those lamps are hiding a little…or it might just be that my grandfather used to have this great, hulking swinging arm lamp in his cozy den, that really made the best reading lamp. It hangs over seating more like a chandelier (in essence) and can easily be adjusted for whatever kind of work you’re doing (e.g. reading, knitting, etc). The shade seems to be slightly dwarfed by the chair? (Which is a really beautiful chair by the way, I love deep, royal blues like that.)

  2. Nina D


    Your room is lovely and that chair is gorgeous. I like the suggestions made by Katie & Mera, and also Susanna.

    I agree that the table is too tall for the chair, and also too big, generally. I would remove it and put it to use elsewhere.

    What about moving that piece with the shelves over to rhe wall, placing it near(ish) the door.

    Move the basket closer to the chair, but drape a throw over the chair and perhaps stack the others on/near the sofa.

    I would hang a larger piece of art sort of centered between the chair and basket. (Another satisfied Command Strips customer here.)

    Of course that doesn’t solve the problem of where to put a cup of tea or a glass of wine, which is why I’m not a blogger. Maybe move the basket to the end of the couch with the blankets back inside, and pick up a small scale table for next to your amazing chair.

    I hooe you’ll let us see what you end up doing!

  3. Carol Bryner

    I love this kind of problem. And good solutions, all of them. I might move that bookcase over near the door, put the wicker chair in the corner, and move the blue chair into the spot where the wicker one is now. Although it might be too big there. There’s no reason to be in a corner to read. I would love to hear what you finally did. Good luck!

  4. Katy Gilmore

    I think all the suggestions are so interesting! And I have to put a vote in for something to put feet on — that’s so essential for me in reading chair (or knitting chair or napping chair). Katie and Cameron could probably figure out a way to put a lid on that wicker basket and turn it into a footstool with storage! I do love that velvet chair.

  5. Ananda

    I loved this question/answer type of post and found the analysis of the reader’s space, as well as the inspiration photos very helpful. I hope you will do more of these in the future – so fun!

  6. Lea

    I think it would well be worth moving that lovely but too tall table away from the chair and toward the door by swapping it with the basket would be a great start. Also, pulling the chair out a little, so it isn’t boxing the lamp in so rightly to the wall, moving the lamp out from behind the blue chair altogether, or swapping the blue and wicker chairs would all be no-cost options for giving the space a little more room to breath.

  7. Jewelry lover

    All good suggestions-also I would move the standing lamp to the left back of the chair- so when you sit there it doesn’t look as if you’re wearing a lampshade on your head.

  8. Mary Spalding

    My 2¢. I am wondering if you put the basket near the bookcase or best yet make a foot rest out of it as suggested. Move the chair and lamp out from the corner a little and the table over to the left. I like the height of the table for the chair arm – and easy reach for a cup of cocoa. The blue bowl could be exchanged for the blue pitcher or smaller bowl on the bookcase. Seems like the vase and bowl are too similar in size or something. Not sure what. Fun problem.

  9. Emily

    Thanks soooo much for this everyone! It was so interesting to read your thoughts and readers’ thoughts too… I will have a play around. I’ve moved the bookcase to where the table is, and the table is now in the window – that helps a lot! It would look really cute with a small table and small basket too. I actually have a swing lamp so will try that in the space as well. Thanks everyone 🙂

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