Reading rooms are this summer’s hot interior design trend

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navy blue bookcase with books and rattan chair
Greens and blues are popular in reading rooms. Photo Credit: Benjamin Moore

For avid readers, the only thing better than an afternoon spent devouring a great book, is having a stylish, comfortable space to crack open that latest novel or hot biography. From library walls to evocative and moody color palettes to textiles for cozy comfort, reading rooms are this summer’s hot interior design trend. 

Building off the growing trend of creating micro-spaces within a home to support lifestyle and hobbies, such as a speakeasy, meditation room, cigar lounge or music room, the reading room offers a unique opportunity for style and self-expression. 

While a reading room is often in a den space, you don’t necessarily need a full room to dedicate. Reading nooks (or snugs) are popular too, in a bedroom or tucked in a corner of the main living space. 

Internet searches for design tips on reading rooms have skyrocketed recently, according to the Houzz U.S. Emerging Summer Trends Report. Some top search terms include “dark academia” (the Gothic-influenced style trend, from which reading rooms have springboarded), “library walls”, “book nooks” and “reading snugs.” 

What is dark academia? 

Driving the uptick in interest in reading rooms and home libraries is dark academia, which is a style subculture that centers on art, philosophy, and classic literature.  It celebrates studying, reading and writing. A reading room is a natural translation of this philosophy into the built environment. 

The movement began about a decade ago, with prominent influence in fashion, but has recently taken home fashion by storm, as homeowners embrace the academic aesthetic to create authentic spaces. 

Dark academia has definitive Gothic influences, with a generally heavy aesthetic- think dark and moody colors, brocade fabrics, thick textiles, dark woods, candles and furniture with physical and visual weight.  

A reading room is the perfect setting to mingle these design elements, and here is what you need to include in your design. 

Establish the vibe 

Blue armchairs in a reading room with sunlight
Comfy chairs and cozy throws encourage you to linger to read. Photo Credit: Benjamin Moore.

If reading a good book is akin to escapism, the thematic vibe of the reading space must suggest the same. Fundamentally, the reading room or nook must invite retreat and be a welcoming space in which to relax. 

While dark and moody with a hint of mystery is the color palette of choice for reading rooms, mimicking English countryside Tudor homes, or old-school libraries, that’s not the hard-and-fast rule. 

Perhaps your guilty reading pleasure is a breezy beach read? Style your reading room with beach-themed decor, pastels and soft accents, including beadboard and light-colored furniture and textiles. 

Maybe you envision a family-friendly reading room, where you can share a story with your children and create a space for quiet, unplugged time for them. Include right-sized shelving and hidden storage, as well as comfy, movable seating, such as beanbag chairs. Make sure to have a rocker or a stylish tub chair that is big enough for two for story time. 

Determine what style will invite you to visit and linger in your reading room regularly. 

Color and pattern choices 

Envision your favorite period drama. What are some common elements in some of the rooms? Chances are you’ll see dark and dramatic colors, lots of wood and intricate and heavy patterns. 

The classic reading room leans into this aesthetic, with dark blues, red-purples and greens, along with chunky, heavy woods, such as mahogany or walnut. 

Hannah Yeo, Benajamin Moore’s senior manager, color marketing, recommends colors that command attention, particularly if the hue will be applied using color drenching, as it often is in a study or reading room. 

“Create dimension within a room by using different sheens to highlight the walls, trim and ceiling. Color drenching can evoke a variety of feelings varying from bold and dramatic to crisp and clean,” says Yeo. 

When choosing a color, Yeo recommends a range of blues or plums and particularly effective is a shade of gritty green with dark undertones. 

“Envelop the space in a deep, blackened green,” says Yeo. 

She recommends Regent Green that “adds striking depth and grounds the room with calm. It blurs the surface lines, creating an ambiance that feels both intimate and expansive,” she says. 

You might opt for lighter colors and more discreet patterns and fabrics, particularly if the reading space is tucked in the corner of another room, such as the living room or bedroom. It’s important that the colors remain cohesive and complementary to connect adjacent, open spaces. 

In this instance, define the reading nook with a throw rug and clustered arrangement of furniture. 

Lighting 

Layering lighting is important in a reading room, as it plays an important role in creating cozy ambience and in helping fulfil the intended task of the room: reading. 

Ensure that there is enough ambient light to keep the space from feeling too small. The objective is cozy, not cramped. 

Any overhead lights should be on a dimmer, to reduce glare. Make sure to have table or floor lamps to cast a soft glow over the pages of a book. 

Candlelight is another gothic influence seen in reading rooms. Wax candles are authentic, but messy. Choose LED candles and ornate holders instead. 

Artwork, furnishings and accents 

A library bookshelf in a reading room with a white sofa shows one of this summer's hottest interior design trends
A bookshelf is a must in a reading room. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

If opting for a traditionally styled reading room, choose antique, or antique-looking furniture. Think deep wingback armchairs, recliners, or chairs and a sofa with ottoman. Leather is popular, as is patterned upholstery, like houndstooth, paisley and plaid. 

If your vibe is a little more contemporary, think about curved armchairs with ottomans, in a more neutral color and pattern choice.  

Artwork is an easy and stylish way to communicate the purpose for the room. Choose literary-inspired artwork depicting favorite books, authors or characters.  

Travel-themed artwork and accents are popular for reading rooms, including maps, globes and steamer trunks that double as a side or coffee table. 

A must in a reading room is a bookshelf. Built-ins, ideally with concealed storage integrated. However, a free-standing shelf unit might be preferable, especially if you are considering splitting the space for other uses. A bookshelf can help to define the reading nook. A bookshelf is also a great way to make use of vertical space, especially helpful if the room or nook is small. 

Any decor that will contribute to cozy is desirable. A small fireplace (gas or electric) will keep you warm on a rainy day.  

Look for plush textiles and upholstery that you’ll want to linger on.  

To complete the reading room look consider including: 

  • Beverage fridge, tea set or coffee station for refreshments 
  • Rare or vintage books for display 
  • Whiskey decanter set with crystal glasses 
  • Window seat with plush upholstery 
  • Heavy window treatments, such as velvet or brocade 


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