Plotting a page-turning setting

Times Staff Writer

CREATING an ideal reading environment is like giving yourself a gift. Blessed with the perfect chair, lighting and accessories, you can create a haven that is all your own. The key? Make it comfortable and flexible, says interior designer Velvet Hammerschmidt of Santa Monica. “Creating a reading space is making a permanent commitment to yourself,” she says. “You’re telling yourself, ‘I’m going to relax.’ ”

The chair: Choose a style of chair first, then test five examples in a showroom, Hammerschmidt says. The designer discourages clients from making any choices based on pictures. “It’s all about scale, proportion and comfort,” she says. “You can’t tell all of that from a picture.” Many materials may contribute to a chair’s comfort — foam, down, Dacron pillow.

Pillows: They add to a chair’s comfort and flexibility. Place them behind your lower back, under your arm or beneath the book you’re reading. “You’re going to spend a good hour-plus reading, so you have to make sure you have the flexibility you need,” Hammerschmidt says. Accent pillows are a key aesthetic addition. The black-and-white striped pillow pictured here adds punch to a mustard-hued chair. “They’re the jewelry of your room, adding color, texture and pattern,” she says.


Proper lighting: Lighting can make or break a space. Multiple light sources are important, Hammerschmidt says. “You have to have good ambient light as well as a task light — a floor lamp or a side table lamp,” she says. Hammerschmidt suggests something like the over-the-shoulder floor lamp pictured here, which has an adjustable height and a dimmer. A dimmer is helpful because it allows the light in the room to change with shifts in daylight. Avoid popular torchier floor lamps, as they cast light upward; light for reading needs to shine down. During the day, natural light should be behind you, Hammerschmidt says. Otherwise you’ll have a glare.

Side table: For a reading area, look for a side table that is simple and clean. “If it has shelves and storage, you feel obliged to fill it up,” Hammerschmidt warns. She suggests a table with enough space to put down a book and a cup of coffee.

Accessorizing: Hammerschmidt likes to pair a reading chair with an ottoman. “Being able to kick your feet up on something adds to the comfort level,” she says. If a reading chair is in the corner by itself, the ottoman needs to match the chair. “Think of it as a chaise,” she says. Stay away from beiges and experiment with color. “Go for it,” she says. Consider adding an ottoman tray or a mohair throw, pictured here. “It’s decadent,” Hammerschmidt says with a sigh. “We don’t take enough time to treat ourselves to a place like that.”

Lisa Boone can be reached at