12 DIY Ideas for Faking a Cozy Book Nook in a Small Space

published Aug 26, 2020
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day bed with string lights, surrounded by bookshelves

To have a book nook is to have a space to escape, to dream, to get cozy, and dive into someone else’s life for a few moments. If you’re fortunate enough to have a full-on library in your home, congratulations—and can I come visit? If you’re living in a small space like me, though, it might be a little trickier to carve out some space to flip through a few pages every once in a while. A good book nook incorporates three key things: great lighting, adequate book storage, and a cozy factor. Here are 12 ideas to help get you started in creating your own little book nook in a small space.

1. Place your reading chair by the brightest window in your home

Abigail Renegar says she’s inspired by light when decorating, and she knew this bright corner of her home would be a perfect spot for a reading area. 

“Having the book nook right by the windows is so nice for both sunny days curled up in the natural light and rainy ones cozied up under a blanket,” she says. (The cats are a nice addition, too.)

2. Add additional lighting for ambiance

Samantha Andrews placed her comfy reading chair by a bright window in her bedroom and accentuated it with some lovely string lights. Another tip from Samantha? Surround yourself with things that make you happy.

“My reading nook works best for me because it’s in my room, my favorite place to be, it’s well lit, and has my favorite things around me: books, blankets, candles, and slippers,” she says.

3. Try a clever hack to get the look of hardwired lights

Don’t have a bright window for your makeshift book nook? Neither did Whitney Rankin, but she used this opportunity to get creative. “The sconces add a little extra touch, but are not hard-wired,” she says. “I used Velcro to mount them and put battery-operated puck lights where the bulbs would go.”

She also maximized on her kids’ book nook by using the L-shaped corner cubbies for storage, as well as seating.

4. Build a bookshelf with items you already own

Lauren Eykholt, Seattle-based pyrography and mixed media artist, said she had an awkward space between two doors that was a little too small for a regular bookshelf, and, as a renter, she wanted to build something that didn’t put holes in the wall. 

“As a pyrography (wood burning) artist, I have a lot of wood hanging around and I noticed a board that was almost the perfect length for the nook,” she says. “The next day I went to Home Depot and had them cut pine planks to the exact width between the doors and the rest is history.”

5. Make a bookshelf with simple, inexpensive finds

 “I’ve always loved a little dusting of rustic feeling in my decor so when I saw these crates at a local Michael’s store, I knew they’d be perfect to stack for bookshelves,” says Michelle Martin.

She said she simply screwed together the three crates and then found some small hairpin legs on eBay to jazz up the bottom of the shelf and keep it off the floor.

Credit: @shelf.help

6. Make flexible shelving to allow room for a growing collection

Alanna says creating a personal library corner is imperative for her, no matter how big or small the space.  

“Simple stacked wooden crates from the hardware store has proved to be an easy way to create customizable shelving that I can add on to and move around as my collection inevitably grows,” she says.

By placing them horizontally and vertically, she’s able to move them around as she pleases. “There is an organized chaos to the color-coordinated spines that truly reflects who I am and how I read,” she adds.

7. Use a movable book cart

Don’t have the space or patience to build a bookshelf? Try a movable book cart.

“A lot of people don’t have room for big bookshelves so these carts are a great compromise,” says Breanne of Bee’s Reads. “I love being able to look over and see my favorite books right next to me.”

For a similar look at home, try the three-tier utility cart from Target.

Credit: @aoms_blog

8. Use just part of a bookshelf

Munisa got creative with her shelving and simply secured part of a bookshelf atop a desk. All the other elements are in place: bright light, coziness, and turning the books around helps sustain a calming vibe in her book nook.

9. Add plants

Rachael Robinson from @Readingbringsjoy said she knew she wanted to feel surrounded by books when she was creating her book nook, and so she did just that. Then she added a few plants.

“Plants are always a bonus to add to your nook because it adds even more life to your space outside of the life that is being lived between the pages of my books,” she says.

10. Block out outside noise

“We live in a busy subdivision and one of my favorite things to do is read outside, but every time I tried to sit out there I just didn’t feel as peaceful as I thought I would because of all the noise,” says Shannon Bellisle.

So she talked her husband into building a lower deck behind a large lilac tree in their yard, and then surrounded her reading chair with additional plants. She says the project ended up taking about two years, but that she is reaping the benefits now in her cozy space.

If you don’t have the time or budget for a deck remodel, no sweat—there are a few easy tricks for helping sound-proof your space. First, make sure to lay down rugs, which dampen noise; so can heavy curtains on windows. Then, decorate with woven hangings. Finally, you can shift your furniture around to put your reading chair in the quietest part of the room. And when all else fails, turn to noise-cancelling headphones.

11. Add a sentimental factor

In addition to being surrounded by books in your nook, why not kick it up a notch and surround yourself with favorite pages from books, as shown here?

If the thought of ripping pages from books makes you cringe, you could also hang favorite poems, handwritten notes, and maps of places you’d like to travel one day—via book or plane.

12. Don’t be afraid to go all-out fantasy

“I think every house needs a little magic hideaway where you can lose yourself in the world of books,” says Interior Designer Inge Watrobski.

She turned the unused space under her stairway into a fantastical book nook that also doubles as an extra spot for guests. By installing a radiator cover, adding storage, picking colors with care, and sourcing unique materials, you can sense the care that went into making this nook feel special.

“Some gold star bunting, vintage books, my grandfather’s old camera, and a hanging starburst light all contribute to the fairytale feel, old fashioned feel,” Watrobski says.

She also hung curtains that make it feel like a secret hiding spot when they’re drawn. “Most of all, I have not scrimped on the magical embellishments which give it a real sense of inhabiting a fantasy world, despite how practical the space actually is,” she says.