Emily Henderson

Rustic Spanish California Home

The Reading Nook

Have you ever dreamt of having a cozy little reading nook in the middle of your house? Have you ever dreamt of curling up in it and reading Sydney Shelton books back to back whilst pretending that your screaming children are tended to in the next room? Backtrack question: Have you ever even read a Sydney Shelton book? Fun fact about me: I have read EVERY SINGLE ONE that was written by the time I was 18. And Danielle Steele. And V.C. Andrews. In fact,  I know in my heart and brain that I will someday write a romance novel. It’s actually not a joke; I’ve talked about it for 15 years now. Ironically, I got my degree in English. As in literature. Kill me.

When I’m done with my novel, I will knock on this house’s door and invite myself to sit in this reading nook and read said novel. Where else should one read an epic love triangle/forbidden love story?

Until then, I’ll keep on designing and shooting makeovers. So lets get on with it:

Reading Nook Before

When we started this house it was under construction, which made my job easier (read the back story here). All the contractors were in place and the schedule was dictated. This room was particularily easy as far as construction – the built-ins were happening, then we’d paint and refinish the floor (which we did, throughout the house).

Reading Nook Before 1

We painted it my favorite blue – Hague Blue from Farrow and Ball. Those sconces were temporary. We had to have sconces in for inspections but our sconces hadn’t arrived yet so I picked up these piece of garbage sconces for like $12 from Home Depot. The electrician put white plates on the outlets, when they still need to be traded out for darker ones.

Then it was time to play with furniture.

Reading Nook Progress 1

I really like the theater seats that they bought in there because its an appropriate space for them – its a hallway, and these seats were more sculptural than functional. They just kinda fit. That little green dresser in there was so cute, for sure (and now lives in the dining room), but once they decided they wanted it to be a reading nook/library we changed it up and put that leather chair in there.

Emily Henderson_Hague Blue Reading Nook_Leather Chair_Gallery Wall_Bookshelves

Here she is now. They switched out the leather chairs. They sold me back my vintage 70’s leather one because they already had this bad boy that was originally downstairs and it looked pretty good up here. So to save some dough we switched it out. And no, I don’t make it a habit of ‘buying things back from clients’, but I actually LOVED that chair and knew I could sell it. I think I bought it originally for $350 from a vintage store, sold it to them for $800 (I sell things based on how much its worth not any formula from purchase price) and then I sold it for $1200 at the end (I think the OKL sale). Not a bad profit. Although I secretly still wish I had it.

Anyway, thats how it looks now, and its just this jewel of a room in the middle of the house. This room opens to the kitchen, master bedroom, nursery, dining room and the guest bathroom. So its the perfect pass through with that awesome navy blue. They have tones of this going throughout the house so its not jarring, its just kinda wonderful.

Emily Henderson_Hague Blue Reading Nook_Leather Chair_Gallery Wall_Bookshelves1
Emily Henderson_Hague Blue Reading Nook_Leather Chair_Gallery Wall_Bookshelves2
Emily Henderson_Hague Blue Reading Nook_Leather Chair_Gallery Wall_Bookshelves3
Emily Henderson_Hague Blue Reading Nook_Leather Chair_Gallery Wall_Bookshelves4

Yes, that is my side table up there that I’d had for years, but it just looked really good here so I sold it to them. I forget how much I charged them but probably around $200 because I’m a terrible business person and when I want a project to look good I somehow come down in price at the last minute.

Emily Henderson_Hague Blue Reading Nook_Leather Chair_Gallery Wall_Bookshelves5

I wish I could take credit for that family photo wall, but she actually did it without me. I told you she had good taste. We moved some around so it felt more balanced. She used a variety of frame finishes and colors, but all white, black or wood, so it looks cohesive and totally home-y, homey.

The shots above are from a couple weeks ago. We reshot it because Country Living only shot/published one photo, and that didn’t seem like a complete makeover for the blog (magazines tend to run few photos because of page space). But this is how they shot it (below), not too different but so fun to see:


You might be thinking that they de-saturated the colors in the rug (or that we saturated them) but i’m pretty sure they just used the rug from the living room. It’s hard to tell. I like the other rug more here because, as you know, I love color. Since they wanted to shoot from that angle they moved the side table which makes sense for the shot, but less sense for the space (because it ended up being basically in front of the chair).

Reading nook

Wall color – Farrow & Ball Hague Blue

For those of you who want to recreate this look, get to it:

Get the Look Reading Nook_Combined

Get the Look:

1. Wall Sconce | 2. Leather Club Chair  | 3. Side Table | 4. Black and White Art | 5. Rug | 6. Decorative Books | 7. Wood Object | 8. Woven Basket | 9. Blue Throw

Get the Look for Less:

1. Wall Sconce |2. Leather Club Chair | 3.  Side Table | 4. Black and White Art | 5. Rug | 6. Decorative Books | 7. Wood Object | 8. Woven Basket | 9. Blue Throw

We shot a video in there over a year ago (I think I was 3 months pregnant here) so you can see the space, although the propping is way different. xx

Reading Nook Before_after

All before photos by my terrible iphone, the Country Living photo by Max Kim Bee, and all my after photos by Tessa Neustadt.  Video by Sharkpig. 

Check out the Living Room, Guest Bedroom, Master Bedroom, Dining Nook, Kitchen, Nursery, and Master Bathroom.

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  1. Whoa! You are AWESOME! Hague Blue is my favorite color.Ever. I painted my dining room that color a couple of years ago and have been struggling ever since to resist the urge to paint EVERY ROOM EVER in it… Mostly, our bedroom tempts me. But I worry that it will make the room too dark (the dining room is in the centre of the house and, like the room above, connects to lots of other spaces with hits of navy), as we have dark wood floors and a rug in similar shades to the one in the reading room. Seeing the gorgeous space above makes me realize that, in fact, our bedroom really DOES need to be Hague Blue. Our big, south-facing window will bring in lots of light, just like the skylight above, and the white moldings and trim will keep it from being too dark.

    So thank you. Very much. As always, you have utterly impeccable taste. *mwah!*

  2. Just wanted to say that I’m loving the new “Get the Look” & “Look for Less” series! I know from experience ( I do them on my own blog every now and again) that they can be incredibly time- consuming … so thanks to you and your team for taking on the added workload!!

  3. This is beautiful! I wish I had a reading nook! I shiver at the thought of “decorative books” though…something tells me that if a person needs to buy such a product that maybe they won’t actually be using said nook to…read books.

    1. LOL, I needed to correct that, too. But the magazine actually spelled ‘unassuming’ wrong in a caption, so no harm, no foul, Emily! ; )

  4. I would never have tried such a dark color when other rooms are almost white at least before, I could live in a room like this. Only item I miss is the old man portrait. Perhaps it was just for staging but it felt like a fit with the color and room.

  5. HI! Long time reader.. just letting you know this “look for less” section of your design posts is my absolute new favorite thing ever. Well… tied for Charlie posts… And thats saying a lot.

  6. Ms. Emily, you can sell me your furniture anytime. AND I will NEVER sell it back to you. NEVER. In fact, I will just keep asking you for more. Your chair is way cooler but I see why they did it, gotta save somewhere.

    PS. english degree, of course!! there’s a reason why your blog gets the most comments I’ve ever seen– because you write so darn good. :-)

  7. Love this little nook and I have a question…I am hunting for some old moody portraits and I have no idea how to find soemthing like that. I love the one of the old man under the sconces. I am assuming you find them thrifting?? I am terrible thrifter so just wondering if there is some magical website that sells old oil paintings?

    1. Stay tuned for our ultimate art roundup post. There are a few good vintage online resources. But otherwise its really just the flea market and thrifting. unless you want to spend thousands at sothebys.

    2. I’ve seen some cool ones on Ebay. Though that’s buying them sight unseen. Prices tend to climb higher than I would be willing to pay for the best ones but steals can still be had if you check often/obsess over it.

  8. Absolutely LOVE that wall color, especially when paired with the warm colors in the rug. I have not been able to get enough of blue and green paint colors lately. Such a warm and inviting space overall.

  9. Looks like a wonderful place to sit! I love the rug, I wish I could find affordable vintage rugs in Switzerland. Or even cheap saturated vintage looking rugs. It’s my dream to have the perfect rug.

  10. Absolutely fabulous. Definately the definition of cozy. I just imagined myself covered in that throw with a cup of tea devouring a juicy novel. By the way, Rage of Angels by Sheldon is one of my all time favorite books.

  11. fyi: both rug links go to the Dash and Albert “Look for Less” one.

    I love this to death with the moody paintings–but this space is awesome, too. It’s making me want to paint my awkward squarish hallway with four doors (and three entrances) this beautiful colour. (Farrow and Ball isn’t even available locally!) But, I don’t know. I’ll think on it. Thank you so much. I, too, love the look for less feature.

  12. this is really beautiful, but as a devoted reader i don’t see any source of either ambient or reading light. the sconces are too far away and i’m guessing don’t put out more than 75 watts, and the charming side table lamp is obviously a desk lamp, with the metal shade focussing the light downward to a small space beneath the lamp, ie., the side table and not the book that’s being read three feet to the side.
    i’d love to see a styled reading nook in which you actually could see the book you’re reading, and recs for nice looking reading lights.

  13. Whilst I like both chairs…I really think the other chair with the big painting worked better…it had more of that slouchy sink in and cuddle up with a blanket feel, and made the whole space quieter…a real place to dissapear into with a book. Whilst it looks lovely now, ….It all looks a lot more….bright and clean cut. And less of a place to …dissapear into.

  14. I’m going to second what Jeanette said. I, too, am a devoted reader…an older reader with poor eyesight. I struggle to figure out light for reading. I’d love to learn how to bring in truly useful but attractive lighting. I read a lot of shelter magazines, and every time I see a reading area, I study the lighting situation to see if I could actually see to read there, and usually I couldn’t. Perhaps you could do a post for us fellow English lit majors who don’t want to sacrifice style for utility (and vice versa).

  15. Love this! Here in Texas a majority of the homes have formal dining rooms in the front of the house and my husband and I are always like what would we do with that space??? Love this cozy nook! The chair from PB is more, but so worth it! Our living room furniture is from PB and we have had it for 8 years and it still looks brand new. :)

  16. Another poster mentioned it above but this quote from you:
    “The electrician put white plates on the outlets, when they still need to be traded out for darker ones.” has me really wishing for more info on that! I thought white plates were standard and that’s the best one could hope for as the “antique” bronze ones are clearly a no-go same for every other non-white plate I’ve ever seen available. Is this not so?? I’ve never seen a painted plate look decent especially after a bit of use so I doubt that’s what you do. Please share your receptacle and switch plate selection tips!

  17. The level of coziness you achieved here definitely makes you an honourary Dane.

    (Danes are obsessed with “hygge”, which is roughly translated to coziness)


  18. Ooh. I could stare at these pictures all day. I love the moodiness of Hague Blue because it never looks quite the same from space to space, which I think is what makes it so dreamy. It’s like the Don Draper of paints—handsome and unpredictable yet perfect for any situation!

  19. Fear not! I bought your yummy leather awesome-sauce chair off Chairish awhile back, and my family loves it. Splurge for us ($725) that was SO WORTH IT. My daughter calls it the reading chair, and my 18 month old cries if you take him out of it. It found a good home :)

  20. Emily,
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful creations. I would like to get a leather chair
    that as you have in your photo.
    Can you help me?

    Thanks, jetty

  21. Any idea what kind of chair that vintage 70’s one was? I absolutely love the arms. Or maybe you have suggestions on a chair today that has a similar silhouette? Thanks!

  22. Could you tell me where you got that specific carpet? I love the colors and cannot find one that is that vibrant! Thanks!