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Lighting: Ideas for when you want to read in bed

From finishing the last few episodes to organising next week’s Zoom call – the bedroom is no longer just a place to fall asleep. And while some of these things (that true crime series) might do the opposite of helping you get ready for bed, thumbing through a few pages of that new novel might actually help you relax.

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Need some persuading to ditch the pre-bedtime tech? Think about this. Toasty, snuggly duvet. Glowy lighting, a mug of tea and that book of the moment. Sounds nice, right? You sort the tea, and we’ll teach you how to set the mood – it’s all in the lighting, we’ll have you know.

Decide on your lighting

The key to feeling cosy, relaxed and in the mood for reading? It’s all in a carefully lit room. Let’s break it down a bit – what you need to do is find your way of layering light throughout the bedroom. What do you want your bedroom to feel like? Ambience is so important in a space like this. it’s all about giving you enough illumination to comfortably spend time in here, without going too bright, or cool-toned. This might mean installing some recessed lighting. Maybe it’s a large ceiling pendant, or spotlights to direct more light towards a particular wall. Even a few carefully placed floor lamps can create the look and feel you need. Make sure to pick bulbs that give off a soft glow, or shades that diffuse the light – you don’t want your bedroom to have the same feel as the office. Warmth is important here. Now let’s talk about task – or accent – lighting. This goes where you might need more light. We’re thinking about the bedside right now, but don’t forget your makeup table, or next to the full-length mirror. This can be a little brighter than your ambient styles, as its main purpose is to highlight certain areas or things. That can just be to draw attention to itself, though – statement shades in bold colours or shapes can really elevate your space and make it feel personal.

Types of lighting

When you’re reading from the comfort of your bed, you should think about how to give your eyes the easiest ride. You don’t want to be straining over small fonts in the dark, or having to read in your own shadow. Bedroom lamps don’t have to feel kitschy or boring, either – there are options for every style and individual taste. You don’t even have to choose something for your bedside – a wall or floor lamp could be a much better fit for how you’re living. Think about where the light source itself is positioned. When you’re immersed in your book, you want to be able to easily read the pages without having to squint. You should aim to have your light source at shoulder-level, or above and to an angle – this allows for enough brightness, and your shadow won’t get in the way.

Bedside table lamps

If you have a small bedside table, go for a smaller bedside lamp (obvs). Otherwise, it might take up all the space, leaving no room to put your phone down and nowhere to perch your mug. You should follow this rule the opposite way, too – small lamps could disappear on a larger table, so match the size of your light to the proportions of your table. This way, nothing is overbearing or lost in the background – and it’ll be easier on the eye, too. Luckily, most bedside lamps are designed for delving into the pages of a book, emphasising softness over bright, harsh lighting.

Wall lights

While fixed direction lamps are great for giving you all that ambient lighting, you might want more focus when you’re trying to read. Another classic option? A couple of wall lights above the bed. We’d choose something with adjustable angled or swing-arm styles for that bespoke reading experience – fancy. It’ll give you a bit of freedom in adjusting your light direction. This way you can shine directly onto your pages when you need to, or turn it away for a softer glow.

Ceiling pendants

If you’re getting a little bit bored of nightstand lamps, or lack the space for extra furniture, ceiling pendants can be a handy hack. They’ll subtly accentuate each side of the bed, carving out a dedicated space either side, and you can go all out with the design, if you like. Just don’t install anything directly above your pillows – this will cast all kinds of shadows and disrupt your reading experience. We’d choose something with coloured or frosted glass shades – this way you get all the atmosphere of a bedside lamp, with all the reach of having the big light on.

Floor lights

Not into nightstands? Well you can’t really read in the dark. Pop a floor lamp on either side of the bed – the best thing about these styles is they’ll really frame it. Choose something tall and elegant, again with a softer shade to really get that glow going on. However you look at it, reading in bed is way better than scrolling that sale page. It’s de-stressing, and gives you time to yourself after a totally hectic day. So follow our tips for stylish, practical lighting – switch them on and switch off.

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