I’m a big fan of reading nooks. As an avid bookworm, they’re a comfy, cozy spot to curl up and read; as an interior designer, they’re an ideal way to fill up an odd spot: functional, visually appealing, and flexible enough to work with the size and style of whatever space you happen to have (and whatever budget you have to build it!). But while a reading nook can be as little as a comfy chair or simple window seat, there’s one thing that can really take them to the next level: the lighting. Swing arm lighting in particular provides a finishing touch that’s not only stylish, but also really convenient.
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So what is swing arm lighting? More or less what it sounds like: it’s a lighting fixture attached to the end of an adjustable arm. How adjustable we’re talking depends a little from one model to the next, but typically these lights can be pulled out from the wall and angled from side to side and/or up and down. This makes it possible to focus the lighting right where you need it – a major perk for somewhere you spend a lot of time reading!
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You can find swing arm lighting in a couple different forms, from the iconic Pixar table lamp to full-height floor lamps, but my personal favorites are modified sconces. When they’re folded up, they look pretty much like regular lighting fixtures. That means that when you aren’t using the reading nook, the lights still give the space a nice finished, polished feel that will make it seem like a more intentional part of your decor, rather than something added on as an afterthought (even if it was!).
Some of the less-adjustable swing arm lighting fixtures are designed with short arms, meant only to be pulled down slightly, with heads that pivot for better angling. On the one hand, these aren’t ideal if you’re the type to contort yourself while you’re reading and want a light that shines directly on your page. But on the flip side they make really nice accent lighting: in their “default” position, they shine a little spot light downward, which is perfect for illuminating a reading nook from the inside, giving it a delightfully warm, cozy glow.
Arms that are more adjustable are a little better for reading, but you want to pay attention to how well the lights fold away when they aren’t in use. While some fold up very neat and tidy, that isn’t always the case – especially for swing arm lighting that has a really long arm, or is especially adjustable. There’s certainly nothing wrong with sconces that extend far from the wall (and in fact they can have quite a nice touch of urban/industrial whimsy), it’s definitely something to be aware of while you’re choosing.
So why bother going to the trouble of installing any lighting at all – let alone a specialized kind? I won’t give you a lecture on eye strain (though if you spend a lot of time with your nose in a book, good lighting is definitely your friend!) or even expound on the virtues of putting your decor in the best light (literally). Instead, I’ll simply say this: it’s worth doing because it’s easy. If you’re framing in a window seat, bookshelf, or other nook-like-structure anyway, you’ll have access to the inside of your walls when you wouldn’t otherwise – and it’s absolutely worth the splurge to run some new wiring when it’s simple, accessible, and easy to do, rather than making a project of it after the work is done.
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Even if you’re not building a permanent window-seat style reading nook (say, if you’re trying to flesh out a bay window), less permanent swing arm lighting can still be a big help – both to the functionality and the style of your space. Swing arm table lamps have a more limited range, but a cozier and more intimate feel to make up for it. You’ll want your lamp close at hand, but that’s not a bad thing: it can actually help add definition to a less well defined reading area as well as shed some light on the page.
If you’re considering adding a reading nook to your home, whether it’s a fancy built-in alcove or a simpler arrangement of chairs and tea tables, swing arm lighting is a great way to supplement your experience and give your space the perfect finishing touch.