telophase: (Default)
telophase ([personal profile] telophase) wrote2014-10-16 09:35 am

So. The subject of dens.

This AskMeFi question on the subject of differences between UK and US houses ended up with a small side-trip into the concept of dens. Someone gave this explanation of a den: A den is sort of a library/office/guest room. It may or may not have a door and is often off the living room. It's not really all that useful, except when you have guests. Then it is.

Which is a bit different from what we called a den (or 'family room'). I posted this:
Where I grew up (Texas), a den is also known as a family room, and is a less-formal gathering/hang-out space. The living room (or parlor, if you have delusions of grandeur) is the formal gathering/hang-out place. At my grandparents' house, the TV was in the den, while the living room had the uncomfortable furniture that kids weren't allowed to splay out on, and which was used for adults to have dull, boring conversations when my grandparents had dinner parties. At my parents' house, the den had the TV and my mom's loom, and the living room had the fireplace and the stereo. Again, when my parents' friends or coworkers came over for activities other than watching TV, they were entertained in the living room, while I stayed out of their hair in the den and watched TV.

Mr Telophase and I have a vaguely similar setup in our house, but it's now split between the living room (fireplace, bookcases) and the media room (TV, video games). I insisted on that when we were house-hunting, because I wanted to be able to sit in one room and read without being distracted by his gaming.
So. What is YOUR concept of a den? (Besides a lair for animals, hah.) I suspect it's really been superseded by media rooms in modern houses. Toby's parents have a great room, which is a living/kitchen/breakfast area, and a really tiny dining room off of it, and a room that they use as a combo office/media room. They built their house a few years ago.

My mom's house is closer to 30-40 years old, and while the kitchen is a separate-ish room, it's got one big room, divided into three by archways, that wraps around the kitchen and serves as living, dining (Mom uses it as an office), and...big weird room that looks like it used to be a back porch that was enclosed, but which I think is actually built in. Here's a rough floorplan I threw together. (It's a townhouse--row house for you Brits, if I've got that terminology correct--with houses attached to it on either side.) I have NO EARTHLY IDEA what the thinking originally was for that house. It was built for entertaining, I think, but the kitchen is weirdly enclosed, except for that island open to Room 3 on the plan. Room 2 is VERY DARK, even with wide archways separating it from the living room and Room 3. I'd have at the very least bashed a pass-through between that room and the kitchen. Mom uses it as an office, and splits Room 3 up between her dining table and a big loom.
thistleingrey: (Default)

[personal profile] thistleingrey 2014-10-16 03:47 pm (UTC)(link)
Huh, interesting. Den was more the bonus room than the family room where I went to high school, but it was my uncle's study (his office at home--he was a dentist b. 1920s), so I grew up with semiotically flexible "den." :P We definitely had the living room awkwardly off limits, though in my current home there's no room for a separate pretty-for-visitors space. There isn't even room to seat visitors for dinner if it's more than one visitor--table has four chairs--so I have ceased worrying about anything.
thistleingrey: (Default)

[personal profile] thistleingrey 2014-10-16 03:55 pm (UTC)(link)
Heh, yes, our dining room is the shared office (two adult desks and a child-height table), which is the real root of why we can't seat people for a meal. I figure we're here a lot more than they are....

I suspect that we'd do trays if it weren't for the little one. It's much simpler for the small inevitable mess to fall beneath one chair and wiped up immediately than to be tracked all over the house....
thistleingrey: (Default)

[personal profile] thistleingrey 2014-10-16 09:30 pm (UTC)(link)
A friend has a child-sized table and two chairs set up next to their adult-sized eating table because they didn't want to deal with high chair/booster. Theirs is from IKEA, with a shorter chair than ours. Their 4yo is nearly too tall for them, which means, extrapolating backwards, that she was probably able to squirm herself into/onto the chair in the 12-18 mo range. FWIW. (My daughter could get onto our little chairs unassisted around 20 mo, which didn't matter because she wasn't interested in doing stuff at a table much before then.)
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[personal profile] ellen_fremedon 2014-10-16 04:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Link text to the MeFi thread is not linking.

I think of dens about the way you do, but it's mostly a concept I learned through reading-- a lot of houses I spent time in growing up had a more formal living room and a less formal space, but I don't remember 'den' being a common term. Usually the less formal space was in a finished basement or a converted enclosed porch, so it was called "the basement" or "the porch."
skygiants: Autor from Princess Tutu gesturing smugly (let me splain)

[personal profile] skygiants 2014-10-16 09:01 pm (UTC)(link)
Growing up in Philly, we called the basement the den -- it had a TV, my brother's video games, my parents' record player, and exercise equipment, as well as being a general catchall for other stuff we weren't sure where else to put it. Definitely a much less formal version of the living room.
tessercat: (it's just tea...)

[personal profile] tessercat 2014-10-16 11:51 pm (UTC)(link)
In the downtown Toronto condo market, a den is "omg some extra space not directly attached to the living room!"

Often serves dual purpose as a child or roommate bedroom, because real 2 bedrooms are another $1000 more per month.

For us, when we had one, it was the craft room aka the Bat Cave, because it was at the back of our unit, with no windows.

Not to be confused with the solarium, which is a glass-enclosed den on the front of a unit that doesn't have a balcony.

I don't think I've lived in a house with a den. :)
torachan: (Default)

[personal profile] torachan 2014-10-17 05:20 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, your idea of a den is mine, too. For people I knew who had two common rooms, the living room was the more formal one where you'd entertain guests and it had a couch and chair(s) but no TV or that sort of thing, and the furniture was higher quality and just generally everything looked made-up and not too lived in. Whereas the den or family room was where the family actually hung out. Furniture was more used-looking (especially if there were young kids or pets) and it was generally not as clean and spotless as the living room (living room might have a coffee table book or some bookshelves, but den/family room would have books and stuff scattered all over), and there was TV and video games and that sort of thing.

Did that person say where they were from that den meant the opposite of what we all think of it as? My info is not just from where I grew up (SoCal) but also from people I've visited in the midwest (Indiana/Wisconsin) and east coast (Virginia).