The Treehouse: Reading Loft

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle. A huge thank you to Serena & Lily for partnering with me on this space.

Oh man. I am so excited to share this photo tour with you! This was months and months in the making. When we first moved into The Treehouse, and explored the house for the first time, we imagined this space as a reading loft right away. In my head, it was going to be weekend project — throw down some flooring, paint it up, add comfy chair. Done and done. But as I actually started working on the space, I found that I wanted to take my time with decisions and really put thought into what would work best.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Back in September, I thought I wanted wall to wall carpet in the loft. Then, I decided to experiment with a concrete overlay on the floors (which has held up wonderfully by the way). Then, I spent weeks and weeks figuring out what I wanted to do for shelves, and eventually decided on a DIY approach (tutorial coming!). Then, I ordered a chair with custom upholstery — which is a 6 week wait. Then, the room was 95% finished, and I realized I wanted one wall to be blue.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

It’s a tiny space, only 7 x 9.5 feet, but I really wanted to make the most of it, and to make it completely inviting and appealing for all the kids, both little and big. It took me quite awhile to get it just right.

So let’s get to the tour!

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Let’s start with some wide angle shots from each corner of the room so you can get a sense for the loft overall. I know the wide angle lens makes it look deceptively big! But it’s actually only 7 x 9.5 feet — and has a low slanted ceiling over half of the space. Take a look:

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

So. That’s the loft overall. A really happy colorful space. Now let’s get into some details for a bit and discuss some of my decision making:

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

As I mentioned, the paint color came at the last minute. In fact, we painted it on Friday night! But I think it’s a great addition. The color peeks through the crate shelving (just like in the inspiration picture) and the shade of blue is wonderful. It’s called Undercool by Sherwin-Williams — it’s bright but not too bright, and has a touch of turquoise in certain lights. It’s cheerful and calming.

The globe lights are from Ikea (they were part of last year’s holiday collection), and the Man in the Moon Garland DIY is here.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

The chair is the Spruce Street chair from Serena & Lily. The size is ideal! It’s comfortable for a an adult, but it’s not oversized, so it has good proportions for kids as well. As I worked on the loft, I was going for a mostly yellow + blue palette, and this chair was one of the first decisive decisions I made.

The Fox Pillow and Pom Pom Blanket are also from Serena & Lily.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Speaking of color, check out this crazy easy DIY poster! I saw this in the office of my book editor, Lia Ronnen and instagrammed it that day. The poster is a piece of foamcore with postcards attached. The postcards are book covers from Penguin, and you can buy them as a set here.

In the main floor of the house, I’ve focused on neutrals and whites with touches of green and natural woods — which I’ve loved. But in the family room (where the reading loft is), I’ve been using the same white on the walls, but using it as a backdrop for lots of bright color. Which has been fun!

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

The rug is a cotton Rope Rug that I am completely in love with! It’s good looking, and also super thick and soft. So comfortable. It fits perfectly in the space and looks really handsome with the DIY concrete floor.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

As I mentioned, the shelves are DIY, made from very affordable sheets of plywood. I’ve got a tutorial coming soon! I love how they turned out. There are 3 different sizes and they can be combined in endless combinations and adjusted to make room for whatever you need — like the handsome Studio Task Lamp pictured.

I should note here that I’ve been coordinating my books by color since 2009. I don’t do it on every shelf in the house, just where it makes sense. I’ve written about it a few times and I know some people find it maddening. Hah! But if you’re a visual person (I am), it’s actually quite ideal. When I think of a title in our book collection, a picture of the cover is what comes to my mind. So finding my books by color works really well.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

We knew we wanted a footstool so our kids could really relax while they read, and this Moroccan Pouf is just right for the job.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

One of the wonderful things about the loft is that it has two windows that let in beautiful light. I didn’t want to block it out, but I wanted something to filter the light, and I happened to have just the thing in my linen closet.

The sheer mesh curtains have a bit of a story. I bought them for our very first nursery over 16 years ago! And they have moved with us from house to house. I remember buying them clearly, because I bought them from Kmart and it was the first time I’d been to Kmart in years. I went there because I wanted to check out the brand new Martha Stewart line (remember that?) and I went home with these mesh curtains from her collection.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Because some of the shelves are stacked quite high, I knew we would need a stool so that even little June could access every book. This 3-legged Dip Dyed option was pretty much irresistible, and worked with the blue and yellow palette I was putting together.

Behind the stool you might notice a green palm frond basket — and there’s a similar blue one across the loft. We use them to store stacks of paperbacks — like Magic Treehouse and Time Warp Trio and Roald Dahl books (though I wish those were hardbacks).

Read instead.Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

The Read Instead print is fantastic. It lives by the ladder to the loft and tempts readers up the stairs. : ) My friend here in Oakland, Erik Heywood, created the print. He owns a little store in Temescal Alley called Book/Shop. If you ever get a chance to visit, you will be glad you did.

The sewn paper garland DIY can be found here.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

For extra seating, I think these oversize Floor Cushions in Aqua and Navy are ideal. They’re filled with bean-bag like material and you can squash them around as you like. I knew that sometimes the kids would want to retreat to the reading loft with a friend or two, and I wanted to make sure there was more than one comfy spot to hang out.

The small yellow throw pillow was already in The Treehouse when we moved in and belonged to the previous owners.

Here are a few more shots that I had a hard time editing out:

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Lastly, here’s a peek at what the reading loft looks like at night — because everyone knows sometimes you must stay up past your bedtime to finish that last chapter:

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design MomTurn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

I think that about covers it. I hope you enjoyed the tour, and I’d love to hear what you think of the space. Wishing you a cozy, happy reading spot at your own house!

P.S. — A reader commented on Instagram with a request for a post with similar, but more affordable furniture options. I love that idea! I’ll work on it straight away.

124 thoughts on “The Treehouse: Reading Loft”

  1. What a charming space! (Minus the color-coded books — count me among the non-fans! But I can certainly agree to disagree.) The ladder access is so fun, and it will surely draw the kids up at first. I wonder whether the difficulty of access will ultimately get old for everybody — I know I am too lazy to climb a ladder every time I want to pick up a book (and especially to put one away!). I’d love an update in a few months to see how the family is using the space once the novelty is gone. Great design work — no surprise there!

  2. What a fantastic, cozy space! I love the idea of a little nook set aside just for reading – I’d never want to leave it!

  3. I want one for my house, but for me. I love it and especially colour coordinating your books. I had never thought about this but I do like the idea and I think I will play around with my son´s books tomorrow.

  4. what a happy happy place. And i love that it’s right off the family room. My children seldom want to be far away from all the happenings and this gives them a bit of a secret place without being cut off. love it.

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  6. I love it and doubly – I really needed a good floor pillow recommendation! :) The chair and the pillow are so happy and perfect – thanks for sharing!

  7. I am so curious if you are scared one of your kids will drop right through that hole. I have 5 rough and tumble kids ages 8 to 1 so definitely one of my kids would fall through.

    Also, every time I see books arranged by color, I think of a “Curious George” episode that he helps out in the library. At one point, he helps by arranging by color because someone could only remember the color of the book.

    Looks wonderful and useful! My kids would never get tired of climbing up for a good book.

    1. I was thinking the same thing! Sometimes my kids rumble a bit and I have no doubt eventually one of mine would fall through the hole. Either that, or they’d just forget it’s there. I’d put a big pile of quilts at the bottom of the ladder to break the fall!
      This is such an amazing space and I love what it’s been turned into.

      1. We have an outside climbing toy that has a secret entrance (a hole in the floor with a ladder) and I was afraid of them falling, so we build a fence around it (kind of made a separate room) with an opening, so at least there was a warning that the hole in the floor was approaching. We have only had one child fall into the hole in the 10 years it has been there, and she wasn’t hurt. I think that if it is an active space (like a climbing toy) you need to be more careful. With the reading loft being a quiet space, then hopefully the opportunity to fall won’t present itself. You could also have a minimum age or size (we did this with the climbing toy by removing the bottom rung to the ladder, so the little ones couldn’t go up on their own) I love the loft. We have a loft in my girls’ bedroom, and now I am inspired to finish it off.

    2. Good question! So far, we haven’t had any accidents in this loft (though we’ve had 2 falls from a different loft!).

      Because it’s really small up there, the kids sense that they can’t be too rambunctious — if they do, they’ll smack their head on the ceiling pretty quickly. So I haven’t been too worried.

      But every once in awhile I brainstorm an option that would make it safer. Maybe something like a netting-lined trap door that can be pulled down when someone is in the loft. Still thinking about it…

  8. This. Is. Amazing. Also, my sister-in-law gave me those postcards for Christmas last year and I haven’t wanted to use a single one, but it seems like such a shame just to keep them in the box. I’m thinking I’ll copy you!

  9. Love love love this space!!! We’ve talked about converting some of our roof space into a little hideaway nook for the kids as they get older! This is wonderful inspiration and has got me thinking!! :) Thanks for sharing. I love colour coordinating books too – you have such a wonderful range of colours – even too! ;)

  10. I love looveee your reading loft. It’s amazing how you can recreate a small space to make it functional and very wonderful too! I love reading so I imagine my kid also having his own reading nook. :)

  11. Makayla Sampson

    I love it! I want this in my house! What a cozy place for everyone in the family to read their favorite books!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. This space looks so inviting, the perfect place to escape with a good book. I’ve never arranged my books by color, it is beautiful. Usually I arrange my kids’ books by size, and mine chronologically! I have a lot of fiction mixed in with history books, so I guess I like having books about/set in the same time period together. :)

  13. Such a wonderful little space! I love that you colour coordinate your books. I tend to sort my kids books by type or size but I’m thinking I might need to change it up a bit and sort by colour. But shhh… don’t tell my best friend I said that as I laughed at her on Skype a few weeks back when I noticed she’d sorted her recipe books by colour in her kitchen ;)

  14. This turned out so well! It’s making me think about where I could find some space for a reading nook in my house. :) The pictures at night are especially magical. As a kid, I was definitely guilty of staying up past my bedtime to finish one more chapter (or two). Such fond memories! Thanks for sharing this room, and I can’t wait to see the living room too!

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  16. Such a great space! I am getting ready to make a little reading loft of my own (for both my children and myself) and am getting so many great ideas from this post. Thank you!!

  17. I love love love that you have created a reading loft! This would have absolutely been my dream space as a child- I’ve always loved a good book! I also love the way books look and feel in a home, so warm and cozy and inviting!

  18. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this post! and i want to retreat to that little nook right away. i hope your kids go on many great adventures there…

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  21. Very nice post. I have seen so many similar things. Almost scary :-). First of all we also have our books sorted by color. Very nice thing to do. Second we had our kitchen cupboards pimped with those postcards from penguin books. Love it :-). And we also love and have cubes and modular shelves. Have a look at http://bsquary.com. To summarize I like the room you have created there !!!!

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