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Creative home retreats for readers

  • Diane Seymour enjoys a book in the custom-built reading nook and greenhouse on her Sebastopol property. (BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat)

For Diane Seymour it is a quiet refuge, well out of range for anything with a screen to get her attention.

On sunny mornings you will find her there, seated in a cat-scratched upholstered chair, most likely with a cup of coffee and a newspaper, or perhaps with a book on gardening or a John Grisham thriller.

This glass-walled cottage in the garden serves as Seymour's reading nook, a place where she can slip away for quiet time. Like a solarium, it keeps her warm on crisp mornings, allowing her to be inside while feeling like she's outside, within clear view of her horse, goat and dogs.

“I have always dreamed of having a backyard space that would immerse me in the garden to read or just sit and contemplate, regardless of the weather,” said Seymour, a new retiree from law enforcement and emergency dispatch who built her glass reading nook and greenhouse behind her Sebastopol home out of a series of 22 valuable wood-encased window panels she found for a song on Craigslist.

There is a powerful appeal to the idea of a reading nook, a secret place that feels removed from life's demands. Not everyone can afford a full library with walls of books, or a den with a leather wing-backed chair. But with the industriousness of a mouse, determined readers have managed to find little hideaways or build cozy nests out of unused or overlooked crannies.

One way is to create a dual-purpose space, like Connie and Ed Montague did. While remodeling their guest bathroom, the Bennett Valley couple took a discriminating look at their bathtub and concluded that such a sunny spot, with its big window looking out onto their private backyard, was prime real estate going to waste. Since they only rarely take baths, the Montagues, who own TeeVax Home Appliance and Kitchen Center in Santa Rosa, decided to turn the tub into a reading nook when not in use.

They had their contractor build a wooden platform sized to cover the tub, then had a piece of foam cut and upholstered to fit on top. It can all be easily removed when they have guests.

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