If there’s one image that most of us muster up when we think of someone deeply involved in a really good book, it’s that they’re curled up in a beautiful, comfortable armchair. And yet, when most of us read, we end up doing it hunched over a table, squashed upon public transport, or in bed leaning back on a pillow.
Bookworms down the centuries have known that the best-stocked book collection in the world is nothing without the perfect reading chair to enjoy it all from. But what makes the perfect reading chair?
It’s different for everyone; some might prefer to lie back on a chaise longue or sofa, others might prefer a little bucket chair they can drape their legs over one arm of or a high-backed wing chair that wraps them up and hides them away while they lose themselves in their book. Whatever your preference, the key criteria are that it’s comfortable, supports you in a reading position you prefer, and that it looks right in the space you want to put it in. Above all, though, almost everyone likes to have their feet up when they’re reading, so somewhere to put your feet is key.
Really, any chair can be a reading chair of course, but the fact remains that certain styles are particularly well-suited.
The recliner is an obvious choice, of course. While a recliner might be most often associated with lying back in front of the television, the inbuilt footrest makes it particularly comfortable for reading. Without any need for other pieces of furniture, you can snuggle into the chair, put your feet up, and enjoy the book.
Snuggle chairs, those oversized armchairs designed to fit two people, also make a great reading chair. When occupied by just one, they provide so much extra space that it’s that bit easier to wriggle into whatever position you like to read in, and you can often bring your feet up onto the sofa and be even more comfortable.
A classic armchair is a simple and effective choice, especially if paired with a matching footstool. Arms, whether wooden or upholstered, tend to make reading more comfortable and it’s worth finding ones that are at a height that works for you depending on your build and how you like to read. It’s also worth thinking about how soft you want the chair to be; some people like sinking back into a deep, soft armchair to read while others prefer something a bit harder and more supportive.
A final consideration is the swivel chair. It might not seem like an obvious option for a reading chair, but some people love being able to rotate the chair away from the room, avoiding distractions and entering their own little world where they can just focus on their book.
Like any furniture, a reading chair needs to fit into the room it’s placed in, in terms of fabric choice, colour and style. A buttoned leather armchair works very well in a classic living room or even more so in a study, especially one with a lot of books in. Equally, more modern armchairs are perfect for more contemporary interiors.
One of the fun things about choosing a reading chair, though, is that they are often placed away from the main furniture set and there is something to be said for not having them match perfectly. A reading chair is a highly personal piece of furniture, and often one that becomes particularly loved by the people who use it regularly, so it can be an opportunity to go for something a bit more unusual or vibrant that complements but doesn’t exactly match the rest of your furniture.
A good reading set-up is about more than just a chair, though. Creating the perfect space to read in requires great accessories. The most important consideration is probably lighting; ideally, you’ll want a floor lamp with a dimmer, and not too high off the floor, this means the light will be fairly close to the page and you can adjust to a comfortable level of light and avoid glare.
Another important accessory for most people is a good footstool. Reading almost requires us to put our feet up and, unless you buy a recliner, the best option is a footstool that matches the chair.
A great rug is also nice to have, creating warmth and colour and, if placed in the right way, creating a separate zone for your reading space, slightly set off from the rest of your furniture. And as well as a rug, you’ll probably want other soft furnishings to keep you comfortable and warm; cushions, throws or blankets are all ideas for a really good reading chair.
Want more inspiration? Check out our ultimate guide to creating a cosy reading nook!