Everyone needs a reading sauna


This is one of those projects we hurried to finish before Dana came home.

It’s not that she would have objected to the giant screws ripping into the house or the ungainly chunks of lumber littering the child’s room.

Rather, she would have pointed out the obvious.

“How are you going to get up there?”

“You know heat rises, right?”

“How is the darkest place in the house — the upper reaches of a closet — a suitable place for reading anyway?”

Details. Details.


OK, fine.

So there we some flaws.

Emme and I have been eye-balling her closet for years now, wanting to do something with the wasted upper shelf. It was far too high to use regularly and apparently also far too high for even those cast-off piles of junk you store some place and then forget all about. When we were preparing to work, we found only one or two small toys.

That settled it. We were going to reclaim that space. It was ours. Or, more precisely, hers.

Emme was excited. She knew just what to make of it.

“It can be my reading hovel!”


“Reading hovel, what?”

“Maybe you should go outside and run around a little first, get some fresh air.”

“After this chapter.”

At first, the shelf seemed stable enough without any support system. But the last thing I wanted was to hear the blissful silence of a reading child shattered by the clattering of her tumbling bones. Nothing ruins a good book like a trip to the ER.

So we added some bracing and stood back to admire our handiwork.

“We did it, dad … but … how am I going to get up there?”

Ugh, what is it with this family and details!

I boosted her to the top with some push-button lights and a reading lamp. She requested some pillows and a blanket. After a few minutes of situating herself just so, she pushed her nose into a good book while I did the same in the living room.

Five minutes later, the calls began.

“Daddy! Daddy I’m so hot! Please. Come … help … me…”

Hair matted to her forehead, sweat dribbling down her faces, cheeks red, throat parched.

“I like it,” she said, “But maybe we should install a ladder of some sort or hey! Some rock climbing holds! Just so I can get up and down … on my own.”

It was the pause, coupled with the flushed face, that made the subtext clear.

“Up and down on my own so I don’t die.”

Yes indeed. Every child’s dream reading hovel.


  1. Might as well put one of those classy-looking window units up there for her. Or, if there’s no access to a an exterior wall, a really strong misting fan. I’m sure running water and electrical into that space will be an easy DIY project, right?

  2. Ha! Her closet backs up to our pantry, and we were SO close to convincing Dana to let us build a secret passageway through the wall — an escape route of awesomeness, if you will. And by so close, I mean not at all ….

    But we’re still toying with the idea of an intercom system. Or Life Alert.

  3. lols.. my husband is scheming to build a playhouse under the stairs. when i objected to his sawing through studs on a load bearing wall under our stairs he said he had no intention of doing that.. just cutting the drywall and sneaking the pieces in bit by bit.. uh, a space appx 16″ to center? really?

  4. Seems doable …

    What a cool idea! We have some more wasted space under our stairs as well … hmmm….