Help with Reading room / Library decor and furniture arrangement?

sargentjaFebruary 20, 2014

I could use some help figuring out what to do with my reading room, particularly with furniture arrangement.

It is a southeast-facing room with a bay window. It's a fairly small room (17'9" x 11'6", not including the bay window), with design-around-obstacles of french doors to the living room (where TV & large couch are), and a door to the deck and an angled uncased doorway to the hall.
Here is a diagram with measurements:

We are about to paint the room, so it is currently empty.
Here is with the furniture just moved out (ignore the dents in the rug from furniture legs)

I had the following contents in it previously:
two off-white leather small chairs, one matching ottoman and two small side tables by the fire
six bookcases of varying sizes containing 56 linear feet of books
several plants in the bay window
a mission chaise-style twin futon in a striped cream and tan fabric (functions like an adjustable mission-style chaise, nicer than it sounds) and side table
a small dark brown leather chair and ottoman and side table
two floor lamps (and one recessed light)
arranged like this:

After emptying the room for painting I can clearly see there was too much stuff in it. It looks so much bigger empty. So rather than immediately diving into looking at new furniture I am hoping for some help editing and with general arrangement first.

My goals for the room:
I want the room to primarily be GREAT for reading (which means comfortable chairs with good lighting and a place to put my feet up) and enjoying the fire. We're in New England so the fire is appealing nearly half the year. We have a nice view of our backyard out the window.
The room needs to regularly accommodate two people, sometimes four. When there are more people we can bring in chairs or people can sit on the ottomans.

Here's what I don't want to change:
I love the carpet.
The fireplace & pellet stove are staying.
No structural changes to doors / windows / etc.
The doorway to the hall continues through the back of the house so I do not want to add crown molding.
At least a couple of plants should stay in the window
I'd rather not change the trim paint as the whole house trim is that color and due to the open doorway it would mean changing the trim in at least half the first floor. I'm a little concerned about its undertones though.

Here are some things I could change:
The furniture - it's all ok stuff but nothing great or with deep sentimental value; I could replace one or two pieces - buy a better chair, a small couch, a few good bookshelves; but I can't justify replacing it ALL at once.
I could probably cut down the number of books significantly. Maybe to 40 linear feet, possibly a bit more.
I could build and paint some built-ins, but I'm not sure where they would go exactly and how they might fit with the mantel if they were on that wall.
I've thought about putting a small desk in the bay window but I don't own anything suitable at present. That might be nice for days when I'm working from home.

I like generally neutral color schemes. I was planning to go with something like this:

Where the brick red is introduced with the brick, pillows and other accents.

Any ideas or suggestions? Thank you in advance.

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Why not take the mantel out completely and build book shelves on that entire wall, flush with the brick of the fireplace on the sides, but leave enough wall just above the fireplace to hang beautiful painting? Have a single mantel, maybe a nice beam from a barn, just above the fireplace for candles and other items you like?

One of my first thoughts when I saw the pic of the room was to put a drop-leaf table in the bay window with two hardwood chairs on each end. If you need extra workspace, you can lift the outer leaf of the table. If you're playing cards or need more space to work, just pull the table out a bit and lift the other one.

I'd definitely remove the futon.

Your chosen colors are beautiful, as is that lamp. Replace the furniture slowly.

Drop leaf table like this. They're on Craigslist all the time beautiful antique ones.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 6:34PM
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For serious comfort in reading, it might be worth investing in a couple of these chairs. I would put them where you have the two white chairs.

Then I'd get an apartment size sofa and put that in the center of the room facing the fire place and the two chairs. Put a small, narrow coffee table, or two ottomans, in front of it, sofa table behind it to put knickknacks on.

Okay, so I went out and got all new, and expensive, furniture for you, which was not on your agenda. The table and chairs for the window, though, I'd definitely look on CL.Get a copper lamp for that table.
That's how I see that room as a comfortable, cozy reading and gathering room.

This post was edited by Tibbrix on Thu, Feb 20, 14 at 21:23

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 6:44PM
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Apartment size sofa. I think this one would look beautiful in your room.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 6:55PM
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Or, if you want to splurge, Hancock and Moore, this has "reading room" written all over it, as well as New England (fellow New Englander here, btw):

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 6:59PM
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Interesting ideas, Tibbrix. Thank you for the creative suggestions. That sofa is lovely.

I think I'd need to choose between sofa or desk or drop leaf table in the window. Laying out the room with that sofa, I wouldn't have room to have much of anything in the window (due to the french door swing) and I'm not sure I could get a coffee table in front of the sofa and keep the chairs:

When you suggested a drop leaf table in the bay window, did you mean arranged this way?

I could use a table or a desk of similar dimensions arranged the long way in the window which could work as well:

And lastly, what chairs are those? They look a bit nicer than the Ekornes stressless that I've seen - the base looks much more polished.

I wonder how (if!) the architect who laid out this room considered furniture would be arranged in it...

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 8:44PM
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The table I think you should put in the window has the drop leaves so that you can have it in the bay area of the window, lengthwise, without it jutting out into the room. But if you need extra table space, you can raise a leaf (or two). Look at the pic of the drop-leaf table I put up. It's narrow for when it's not in use, but if you want to work at it, just raise a leaf.

The sofa would be set back far enough to allow room for the French doors to be open. It looks from all of the diagrams that there is room to do that.

The reading chairs are Eames chairs by Herman Miller (see link below). They're about $5,000 each, but if you Google them, I think you'll find they really are a dream chair for readers. There are "replicas" of them for @ $1,000, but they sound like they're not worth the $1,000, whereas the real ones ARE worth the $5,000…if that makes sense.

They do come in white, but for the feel of the room you seem to be going for, I'd go with the black or the brown.

Here is a link that might be useful: Eames chairs

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 9:00PM
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I think you could consider comfy chaises perhaps angled infront of the fireplace or facing each other. I'd also like go see a game table of sorts in the bay window.

If that is too tight then I'd explore 4 comfy tiltback reading chairs around the harden hi-lo game table.

The chairs tibbrix showed are eames lounge chairs. When I purchased them it was the most expensive furniture I had bought with the exception of my piano. However, I'm so glad i did. They are our favorite reading or chilling out to music chairs. Very worth the splurge ( in my design budget-- others would probably consider them a bargain)

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 9:05PM
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Whoops tibbrix and I cross posted! Sorry for the redundancy in info. But he/she is right the eames lounge is an awesome chair!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 9:08PM
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In your diagram, the window table would be like the first diagram, the long narrow table but with a leaf that hangs down when not in use but can be raise for use.

Also in that diagram, move the sofa back about 3 feet.

Something like these in front of the sofa..can act as both tables and to put feet up on.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 9:09PM
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Nashville, I'm a she.

I don't have one, but it seems like the Eames chair is one of those rare items that, if you have the money, they're very worth getting and worth the splurge, as you say. If you don't have the money, though, you don't have the money. I'm mostly a Craigslister, but when it comes to sofas and something like what these people are looking for, avid readers who want real luxury and comfort…get the best you can afford. Eames chair seems to fall into that category.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 9:15PM
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Checking out the suggestions and am very amused by the first words in the description of the Eames chair - "Who doesn't recognize the Eames lounge chair and ottoman? ", I guess...!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 9:16PM
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Btw Zen, I also think an apartment size sofa would give your room more continuity and balance rather than having multiple individual chairs strewn about.

And someone named Zen must have an Eames chair, no?


    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 9:17PM
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Lol Zen. I only recognize it because I grew up in Brookline, MA, a town of intellectuals, professors, literati…it is a common chair amongst that crowd! That's actually why I thought of it when you kept stressing how much you read.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 9:18PM
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Another idea: If you put two reading chairs where you originally had them, i.e.: in the corners by the fireplace, ou could put these sconces up on each side wall. You can adjust the angle of the bulb and height. I have four of them in the bedside table version, two antique white and two bronze, and I love them. They also come in a floor lamp, but I think more than two floor lamps in a room is overkill and doesn't look good. Plus, sconces save you floor space! there are three on eBay in the bronze (which is the color I think would look best in your reading room) right now too. Kind of a bummer, though, that the electrical cord comes out of the bottom and hangs down rather than being hidden in the wall. Maybe an electrician can change that and wire them directly.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 9:54PM
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So something like this? I've moved the sofa back, put in two small cross stools in front of the sofa, put a 48x14 table in the window and a chair for using the table as a desk...but it's looking awfully crowded. I think I need to pare back to fewer pieces of furniture.

Nashville, that Harden table is nice but I think the Eames chair would be a more gratifying purchase! Testing out the idea of a round drop leaf table in the window, though, it looks interesting.

I think I wouldn't want the front leaf down so that it would be easier to use as a desk. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't then have room for a sofa - but perhaps room for an Eames! Though then I've got five chairs in the room unless I remove one or more of the chairs in front of the fire.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 10:08PM
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Tibbrix, those sconces are nice - I like the style of them. Once I get the furniture arrangement down I think I'll decide if they would work as plug-in style or if not, I'll look for a similar style that is hardwire-able. I think they could be wired in, but the way the bottom ends where the cord emerges seems extraneous then.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 10:19PM
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What if you did two eames and ottomans and then build in a windowseat with comfy cushion and pillows? Then you could line bookshelves around the wall and place a table or storage trunk for blankets in front of the window seat?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 10:36PM
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Tibbrix, do you have any idea where to find those two pieces that act as ottomans and coffee table. BTW I grew up in J.P., spent lots of time in Brookline.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 11:17PM
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Nashville, that sounds like a great arrangement, but TWO Eames chairs are outside of my budget.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 7:00AM
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i would probably want to use the room for more than reading - what about adding a gametable with 2-4 comfy chairs and put it near the bay window- can also use it as a desk when needed. keep 2 comfortable reading chairs by fireplace...

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 8:00AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Q for you....all of the arrangements seem to have seating very close to the pellet stove. I don't have one, but I do have a wood stove and we can't sit near it as it's too hot. Further, any furniture that's near it dries out very quickly so when we arranged the room, it was with everything several feet of space away from the stove. Might this be a consideration in your room?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 8:09AM
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Zen, I absolutely love the arrangement at 22:08. It's all a matter of personal taste, but I think reading rooms should be cozy, warm, like you want to just curl up in there, so I think that, so long as it's the right furniture, a tight fit is actually a good thing.

I would remove the big chair (?) you have by the window and just get two desk chairs to put on either side of the drop-leaf table. The idea of a round drop-leaf is very nice. Something like this. You'l need a fairly narrow chair to fit in there. But then you can just lift one out when you need to use it. I'm referring to the one on the left, i.e.: Library chair.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 8:17AM
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yayagal, I lived in JP when I was in college and waited tables at Doyle's! Lol.

Here is that cross stool. See link.

Here is a link that might be useful: cross stool

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 8:21AM
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Zen, crowded, but that's what makes it nice, IMO. Don't want a cluttered, crowded bedroom, but a reading/conversation room? Yes! and remember, in my design, the book shelves almost completely surround the fireplace, that entire wall, but for room for a painting and a single mantel, so I think the brown squares in your diagrams are bookshelves, but they wouldn't need to be there.

This post was edited by Tibbrix on Fri, Feb 21, 14 at 8:27

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 8:25AM
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If there are two of you and you are both avid readers I don't think i would buy just one eames chair. That would be a constant battle in this house. I don't know your style at all but H&M makes a great traditional reading chair. One style of chair I like for reading is the bishop (see photo). I also think the bay window could be a place for two smaller chairs and a chess table.

Can you arrange furniture so close to a pellet stove? I never thought of that. Potentially a good catch from Annie.

This post was edited by NashvilleBuild42 on Fri, Feb 21, 14 at 9:55

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 8:43AM
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Nashville, I had the same thought about only one Eames chair in a two-reader household, that it might lead to battles.

Lol. They had two chairs in that spot before, so presumably the pellet stove isn't an issue.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 8:46AM
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More later (running to a meeting now) but we have the chairs in those locations now, so it's not too hot. One thing that's nice about a pellet stove is that it circulates the heat really well because it has a blower that blows the hot air out the top front of the stove. So sitting near it, as long as you're not directly in front of it, is quite bearable. Wood stoves, since they are radiant heat, are much hotter closer.

Nashville, that Bishop chair looks gorgeous! A bit more fitting with our style than the MCM Eames, although I'd go for function (comfort) over form here...

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 8:58AM
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Well the great thing about the H &M chair is it is the bishop READING chair. Sure it is not as iconic, but it is comfortable. My brother has 4 in his ski house. We all love them.

I think if it were my room: I would invest in built in bookcases. Then I'd try finding a used curved settee build in a bench/sofa into the bay a small bistro table or something similar in front for a drink or a snack or as a make shift desk. Then place two comfy chairs in front of the pellet (and maybe only one shared ottoman if you angle chairs right) You could replace your chairs one at a time or keep.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 10:04AM
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First of all, your color scheme is perfect for a reading room. I say that because that is almost exactly the color scheme in DH's man cave, and it's cozy and inviting.
Have you considered shelving on brackets for the walls flanking the fireplace and the short walls perpendicular to those walls? That will give you plenty of bookshelf space without conflicting with the mantel or heating vents. You could put a door stop on the French door to limit the swing.
How often do you use the French doors to the living room? Can they be blocked with easily movable furniture so that you can make use of the space in front of the doors but allow for the doors to be opened without too much of a hassle when needed?

Here's a suggested layout. I included two Leathercraft chairs and ottomans that are comfortable and small scale enough so that you can fit two in the room. They're not cheap, though. But fhey do have wheels, so they are movable.The H&M reading chair and ottoman are much larger, and you could only fit one ottoman with two chairs.

Here is a link that might be useful: Leathercraft chair and ottoman

This post was edited by suero on Fri, Feb 21, 14 at 12:12

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 12:10PM
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Zen, I had a thought. If you do like the Eames chairs, it's possible that, if you buy two, you can get some kind of a discount. It might still be out of your budget, but I thought I'd mention it. You never know.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 8:26AM
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Just throwing this out there, but our reading room is all chairs and no sofa, with a big square ottoman in the middle. I can't explain why but somehow I think a sofa is the wrong note in a reading room, and too living-room-y. JMO.

I also like a reading room with high round tables in the middle, stacked with books, and little upholstered benches slid underneath. I am on my way out but will look for a pic.

We have four of these chairs in our reading room. We bought them because I was at MGBW buying something else and DH sat down in one and was waiting. By the time I was done, he wanted the chair he'd been sitting in! It has great back support, and is very deep and comfy. We have a traditional home, but I like the fact that the chair leans MCM. Gives things a little twist but not "out there".

Aiden leather chair description:
Serious seating capacity. Mid-century modern inspired collection, with a substantial seat to make it extra comfortable. Slim curving barrel-style arms with a squared-off back make it a standout. Track arms curved on the inside to ensure good comfort.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 10:29AM
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I was thinking what mtn was thinking: no sofa, all chairs, big comfy ottoman. Also, bookcases on every available wall space. I'd rather build more shelves than get rid of books! :-)

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 10:49AM
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great suggestion of those leathercraft chairs and ottomans on wheels, nice to put your feet up while reading and easy to move when cleaning.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 10:58AM
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I think chairs and a table or desk seem the best choice for the room. So many great chair suggestions! There is an MGBW and Cabot (think they have H&M on display) near my office, so I think I will need to go test out some chairs next week.

In the meantime I want to figure out shelves and whether a table or desk is the better option. Options for shelves - remove the two narrow tower bookshelves and keep the others (I think they are all 30" - can't remember), try to figure out builtins around the mantel / baseboard heater area, or add some shelving on brackets. I'll have to google that - I can't picture that for an extensive set of shelves in a room.

For the table vs desk: With either I'd want it to be suitable for working at on my laptop when I'm working from home, but I don't need much more than my laptop and a space for my to do list, so it doesn't have to be very 'desk-y'. Just need to make sure the ergonomics aren't bad. So at least one decent chair - library chair would be ok - and could also do a small upholstered bench - thanks mtn - that might work nicely. I could put the table/desk in the middle of the room or in the bay window.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 11:14AM
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I can't wait to see what you do! I want to bring a cup of tea and a good book.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 12:48PM
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I would not use any product of Leathercraft personally to high and too cheaply made to be quality furniture with the pic you showed with the furniture in it now. I would suggest an armless sofa or Loveseat with connecting chaises on both side custom to fit of course. It would make a very comfortable study for you. I would take the fire place out as well and use a light above the sectional to compliment it with dimmers because lets face it everyone's eyes are not the same when reading and relaxing. I hope I helped you out.s

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 5:23AM
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