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 I suspect it's really been superseded by media rooms in modern houses.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.
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[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....
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[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."
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[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.
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[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. :)
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[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).

[identity profile] 2014-10-16 04:28 pm (UTC)(link)
A den is a masculine living room, TV room, or man-cave.

Almost always decorated in brown, dark red, navy, beige, wood-panelling, or similar. May include a bar, but almost always has a couch in front of a TV. If there isn't a couch in front of a TV, there is a LaZBoy in front of a TV.

There is no TV, there is a fireplace and chairs, plus a radio, for watching The Game.

Sometimes has a table, for playing cards or gaming. Sometimes has kids toys. Usually a place where shoes are optional, unlike a living room (midwestern for parlor). We were NEVER allowed to play on the living room couch. We were always allowed to play on the den/family room couch. My grandfather's den had a hideaway couch, and come to think of it, so did ours.

[identity profile] 2014-10-16 04:35 pm (UTC)(link)
The rooms in my parents' house was a little less gender-biased, but we were also wacky academics, so expected to be a bit outside the social norms. The den had Mom's loom, in addition to the TV.

My grandparents' den was, indeed, wood-panelled, with a wet bar and a space built into the wall for one of those enormous console TVs that sat on the floor. They also had a fireplace there, and a pass-through into the kitchen. Oddly, the floor was linoleum, but they put an enormous carpet down for the couch, my granddad's comfy-char-and-ottoman combo and my grandma's upholstered rocker. They didn't have a hideabed, IIRC.

[identity profile] 2014-10-16 04:39 pm (UTC)(link)
Ha! Finally someone else who calls it a hideabed. I think my family and my grandparents kept the hideabeds in there because we had a lot visiting relatives, but we didn't have a formal guestroom. The den/family room would be more comfortable for a guest than a living room, although, thinking about it, I'm not sure there's a fact based reason for that. I just have a visceral 'no way' reaction to keeping a guest in a living room. Huh. Socialization is so weird.


Now that I think of it, my grandmother did keep all her yarn in the den closet, and used to crochet/knit next to my grandfather on the couch when they watched TV. She had a knitting basket in there, but it was very much 'his' space. That's also where they used to sit and read the paper.

Cracks me up about the wood-panelling.

[identity profile] 2014-10-16 05:51 pm (UTC)(link)
Always been a hideabed to me! :D My maternal grandparents had three bedrooms, two of which were used by my grandparents separately. When we came to visit, my parents got the guest bedroom and I got my grandfather's room, and he moved in with my grandmother for the duration. Took me years to realize they slept separately otherwise, as nobody ever bothered to tell me! When my grandmother was terminally ill and we spent a couple of weeks there, someone-or-other rented a hospital-type bed on wheels and I slept on that in the office/whatever room off the kitchen so that my grandfather could keep his room. I don't think that they ever had any more people in the house at once.

My paternal grandparents, on the other hand, occasionally hosted large family groups where we ended up with people sleeping all over the house, including the hideabeds in the porch and living room, both spare bedrooms, and on the floor in every room that had space for a pallet.

ETA: I think my paternal grandparents had wood panelling in the main living room!
Edited 2014-10-16 17:51 (UTC)

[identity profile] 2014-10-21 02:50 am (UTC)(link)
The house I mostly grew up in (built in 1964) had a den like yours, telophase. Really the informal family room with the TV - it was situated on the back side of the house, opened to the kitchen on one side, and to the hall that led to the bedrooms on the other, and to the entry hall that led to the front door. It had a sliding glass door to the back patio and yard. The entry hall was flanked by the more formal living room and dining room (the latter opening to the kitchen). About the only time we were allowed in the living room was Christmas as that is always where we put the tree. Our den did not have wood paneling but it did have some built-in bookcases that took up the wall between the entry hall and the opening to the kitchen.

[identity profile] 2014-10-21 02:57 pm (UTC)(link)
I think the biggest difference in my house with others was that the front door opened onto the den, and the living room was at the back, connected to the kitchen, with sliding glass doors opening to the back yard. So guests walked through the den to get to the kitchen. But given that the front room was much smaller than the one we used as the living room, it made sense.

There was a pass-through from the kitchen to the living room: nowadays, if that house was renovated they'd probably open it up and make it a great room.

(I've driven by that house in the last year. The current residents have American flags all over the place and a card reading "WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?" in the kitchen window.)