A living room without a reading chair is like a spa bathroom without a big tub. Something is missing.
Add a cozy reading corner, though, and the room starts to get friendly. “Comfortable furniture will make you want to stay in the room, and any room that makes me want to actually spend time in there is a winner for me,” says Emily Henderson, an L.A.-based stylist and author of “Styled.” There are thousands of chair options out there and so many factors to consider — height, width, material, color — so we asked for professional advice from Henderson and Nicole Lanteri, a D.C. interior decorator.
Henderson says the most important thing is comfort, “as you will be sitting in it for long periods of time.”
That doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. “My husband likes to sit upright and have a pretty firm chair, [whereas] I’d rather curl up in a chair with a blanket to read,” Lanteri says.
Once you find your match, you’ll want a spot for your feet (Lanteri suggests a small leather pouf) and adequate lighting. Look for a floor lamp with a height of 50 to 60 inches, ideally with a dimmer and without glare.
You can set up a pair of chairs in a family room, or one off by itself in an otherwise forlorn corner of the house. Just try not to overstyle your reading nook with too many accessories, Henderson says. “I keep it simple with either a small lumbar pillow — for those extra-late nights of reading — or a thin decorative throw to add some texture.”
● Refined and edgy at the same time, the Sofia Chesterfield Chair updates the classic Chesterfield sofa with light-colored bun feet and cotton-linen upholstery ($549, urbanoutfitters.com). No matter what, just make sure you like how the chair feels. “There’s looking-at chairs and there’s sitting-in chairs,” Henderson says with a laugh. “The older you get, the more you gravitate toward sitting-in chairs.”
● The mid-century lines of Simple Living’s Elijah Chair and Ottoman Set, both with dark wooden legs, make for a handsome addition to a living room or corner nook ($408, overstock.com). When matching chairs to other furniture in a room, Lanteri says, pay the most attention to the style of the legs. “Make sure that it’s cohesive — not too matchy-matchy and not too chaotic.”
●Not all solid-color reading chairs have to be taupe: The Slub Velvet Willoughby Chair by Hickory has a 42-inch-deep seat and comes in 11 colors ($1,148, anthropologie.com). Plus, the seat cushion is made with down. “A down cushion always helps to keep the chair looking nice and comfy for years to come,” Henderson says.
● Mid-century-style chairs often have low backs, so if you’d like somewhere to rest your head, pay attention to measurements or try out the chair in person. The Pittsburgh Pink Armchair is an example of a mid-century-inspired design that’s taller than most ($745, abchome.com).
● “A reading chair is a great spot to have [a] bold pattern that you might not put on a sofa,” Lanteri says. “You can even do things like add nailhead trim or contrasting piping on the fabric.” Pull up the Hill-Side Palm Leaves Parlour Chair, with its sun-washed palm-fronds pattern, for a funky yet mature seat ($999, cb2.com).
● Make sure armchairs don’t overwhelm the sofa in size or design, says Lanteri, who likes the leather-and-wood Callan Chair from Room & Board for its sleekness ($1,999, roomandboard.com). And measure the seat height of both the sofa and chairs to keep them the same; it makes conversation easier.
● Henderson pays attention to the height of chair legs. “For the most inviting chair, go for a shorter leg,” she says. “Chunky legs are mentally more comfortable to sit on than spindly legs.” The transitional Chloe Club Chair has solid back legs, with the added flexibility of casters on the front for easy room rearrangement ($479, domino.com).
● Upholstered arms tend to be most comfortable when you’re sinking into a novel, but ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. One of the sitting chairs favored by Henderson, a home spokeswoman for Target, is the Windson Wood Arm Chair, which has wooden arms that can be cleaned easily ($230, target.com). The arms also give the chair a slim profile — good for smaller spaces.
● If you have little kids who like curling up with you, think about finding an oversize chair for your family room, says Lanteri, part of Home & Design magazine’s Hot Talent for 2015. The Lounge II Chair and a Half is almost a love seat, at 49 inches wide and 46 inches deep ($999, crateandbarrel.com).
● The Charlotte Chair in velvet is an inviting addition to a seating grouping, but it’s striking enough to stand on its own ($1,770, mgbwhome.com). Henderson advises that a deep seat such as this one is best if you plan on curling up in the chair or putting your feet up; it might be uncomfortable if you like to keep your feet on the floor.
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Chat Thursday at 11 a.m. Designer Nancy Twomey joins staff writer Jura Koncius for our weekly online Q&A on decorating and household advice.