Why Dens Are Popular Again in the World of Open-Plan Homes

We love open-plan homes: large family spaces, open sight-lines, and the feeling of airiness that makes life so pleasant. But what do you do when you want a place of your own, where you can go and shut the door? Try the den.

In the ‘70s, people began calling their family room the den, but dens are traditionally small rooms devoted to non-work activities. Often, they are pass-throughs to other places, making them forgotten spaces.¬†Reclaim yours: Float furniture off the wall, forcing traffic to the edges of the room. Then add an octagonal ottoman for more seating, and to help all those doors and corners make visual sense.

open living space

Dens can be for entertaining friends, but most often they’re where we pursue activities in private (think: studies or man caves). Storage can be an issue in dens. Make the most of the wall space by building shelves up and over furniture. Throw away the old notion that small rooms have to be painted white. Dark shades, like PPG’s¬†Improbable), make the room feel taller because they lead the eye up to the white ceiling.

dark gray accent wall sitting

Made for meditation, dreaming, and list-making, dens are the perfect space to escape from the world. Enhance the feeling of den-as-sanctuary by painting your room a soothing color, like Debonaire.

different shades of blue living room

A den should feel like it evolved, rather than being designed. To get that look, pull pieces from other places in the house and layer colors, patterns, and favorite accessories. Dark, glossy walls, in a deep blue are a great option.

blue accent living room old tv

In the last decade or so, builders put an extra room in the foyer, usually across from the dining room. Meant to be offices, they usually end up being junk rooms. To compound matters, these rooms typically have French doors, meaning everyone sees the clutter first thing when they walk in. If this rings a bell, take heart. Your space probably doesn’t need a complete overhaul — just some space planning, fresh paint and a new reason for being. Could it become a music room? Library? Kids’ tv room? Art gallery? A writer’s room? Find its purpose and the room design will almost magically take shape.

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Kelley Rebori

Kelley Rebori has written for national brands like Paintzen, HGTV, the DIY Network and Trulia for more than a decade. She loves home renovation projects, chocolate icing and small poodles. She and her husband split the year between their homes in Tennessee and Italy.