Blog by Beebe Cline

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Reading in Bed Comes Out From Under the Covers

Fellow childhood bookworms can remember the torment of getting absorbed in a new story and, just as the plot was getting good, being told to turn out the light and go to sleep. But I'm betting that we were all equally resourceful in finding ways to sneak a few more pages in. Reading next to the nightlight, in the closet or with the help of a full moon — anything to avoid being found out by our parents and ushered sternly back to bed.

Do you remember Harriet the Spy, in which Harriet reads under the covers with a flashlight every night until her nanny comes in to take the flashlight away? Sans nanny, that was me. (Today's kids have it easier, thanks to the new generation of e-readers with backlit screens.)

When I went off to college, it was exhilarating to have the freedom to stay up and read until dawn if I wanted. I still love being lost in a book when everyone else in the house is asleep — though these days, I'm not so much for crouching beside a 4-watt nightlight and straining to see the page. Here's how to read in bed the grown-up way.
You could always buy clip-on book lights, but why not install dedicated reading lamps on one or both sides of the bed? These diminutive fixtures not only provide ample illumination for the page and keep glare out of your bedmate's eyes, but they also help to make your side of the bed feel like its own private corner of the house. Plus, you don't have to leave your cozy nest to switch them off.

Tip: Hang wall-mounted reading lights close to the sides of the bed or above it (about 6 inches from the edge of the mattress or headboard). Place them at a point that makes sense for the position in which you read: sitting straight up, stretched out on your stomach etc. You want the beam to shine directly on the page, not at an oblique angle.
For maximum flexibility, choose articulated reading lights that you can adjust to suit your height and your reading position. Go for a style that focuses light in a narrow beam rather than diffusing it over the surrounding space.
A double layer of lighting makes this boudoir the ultimate reading haven. Lamps cast a warm gleam that brightens the space during waking hours (picture a lazy winter morning snuggled up with a book); smaller wall-mounted fixtures above the bed shine a cone of light downward at night.

Tip: Not all table lamps are created equal for reading. Ideally, the base of the shade should sit level with your eyes when you're propped up in bed, and the shade should direct light toward you rather than channeling it up or down. Floor lamps also are an option, but they compete for space with nightstands, so it can be harder to make them work.
Reading under the covers doesn't have to be confined to bedrooms — check out this inviting double-daybed setup in a hallway. Twin reading lights and a mini library make its intended purpose clear, and each daybed feels as though it's in its own private nook.
Smart design keeps the two single beds in this space connected but separate. Each has a carefully placed light that won't interfere with a roommate's slumber.

See more of this renovated cottage
In addition to lighting, consider where you'll put your books when you're ready to go to sleep. (Take it from me, tossing them on the floor is not a good solution.) This setup, with generous nightstands and bookshelves built into the headboard wall, is perfect for keeping literary chaos under control.
A slim tiered shelf for reading material makes clever use of this little slice of space between the bed and chest. This is a great way to repurpose a table that's too petite to work well in a living room or den.
What luxury — a bed surrounded by a vast collection of volumes. Putting away a good read when you're finished with it is as simple as reaching up to tuck it back into place.

Tip: If you're lucky enough to have a bookshelf near your bed, switch the placement of books as needed so that the one you're reading is always close at hand.
Shelves turned inward toward the bed keep books within easy reach and also present a cleaner face to the rest of the room. It would be relatively easy to have a carpenter or contractor retrofit a space with a headboard niche like this one.
In a room without much space for shelving, where do you keep the books? Beneath the bed, of course.

Tip: To keep books or other items concealed under a platform-style frame such as this one, attach a tailored skirt with hook-and-loop tape.
If you like to read propped up, a cushy surface to lean on is a must. You've probably seen those giant pillows with arms, but a padded headboard is much more chic. You also can boost the comfort level with layers of pillows to slip behind your back or head. Just be sure they're firm enough to support you; otherwise you'll find yourself slowly slumping into a heap.

Browse more upholstered headboards
Why stop at the headboard? Pad the entire wall for a luxuriant surface and a note of visual softness.
A wingback-style headboard creates a cozy little corner in which to curl up. It also helps to prevent propped pillows from falling off the edge of the bed.