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I was wondering what the difference is between a den and a living room.

What does a den really mean?

For example, an apartment with two Bedrooms, two Baths and one Den:

enter image description here

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That is quite the apartment! –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jul 8 '12 at 21:42
    
@cornbreadninja: I cannot afford it actually. :-( –  Tim Jul 8 '12 at 21:44
    
General Reference. Googling den room, my first result is a specific definition on Wikipedia –  FumbleFingers Jul 8 '12 at 22:21
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I think it still merits an answer here, though. Just because Wikipedia says something does not mean we can't provide a more complete answer. Also, I don't agree with that article - the right-hand picture is a living room, not a den. I don't know anybody who would call such a thing a den. –  alcas Jul 9 '12 at 4:36
    
@alcas moreover, the first sentence precludes any notion that an apartment can boast such: "A den is a comfortable, usually secluded room in a house." –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jul 9 '12 at 15:54
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3 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

It is usually meant to be used as a small office in your house. Sometimes it is set down a little lower than the rest of the rooms in the house on the same floor. Most that I have seen do not favor windows, but rather just walls where you can place bookshelves, and if there are windows, they are usually small and placed high for lighting rather than viewing outside.

Here is a picture of Mike Brady's den:

Mike Brady in his den with his wife.

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I now have Brady Bunch incidental motifs milling around in leisure suits in my head. :) –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jul 8 '12 at 23:40
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NOAD says a den is a small, comfortable room in a house where a person can pursue an activity in private. Macmillan defines it as a room in a house where someone goes to relax and be alone. In contrast, the living room is an area of the home where the family might convene together.

Usually, in a floor plan, the den is smaller than the living room. Sometimes, the den is not well-suited to be an extra bedroom (as in the floor plan you provided, where the den has no doorway and no closet). Other floor plans are set up where a spare room could be used as either a bedroom or a den (such as the one shown below). In a floor plan like that, a young couple might start off by using such a room as a den, but eventually convert it into a nursery room, when a second bedroom is needed.

enter image description here

Interestingly enough, Macmillian tags that definition of the word as American, which makes me wonder if it's an uncommon term in the UK.

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I'm more used to BE than AE and to me "den" was not meant to be part of a flat/house. Looking at the plan you attached, however, I'm surprised at the amount of windowless areas (and also by the number of closets). Does it represent a normal layout for a flat in the States? –  Paola Jul 9 '12 at 6:38
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It's what British estate agents, and consequently their clients, grandiosely call a study. –  Barrie England Jul 9 '12 at 8:27
    
@Paola: The lack of windows on what I'll call the "North" side suggests that this is a duplex of some sort; I imagine another unit – perhaps a mirror image of this one – would be abutted on that side. As for the closets (so many?), in the U.S., I think builders started putting more closet space into living quarters a couple of decades ago; that seems to increase the appeal for prospective buyers or renters. About your last question, it's hard to describe a "normal" flat in the U.S., it varies quite a bit, depending on if the complex is in an urban or suburban area, as well as the city size. –  J.R. Jul 9 '12 at 9:37
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Sorry, for the number of closets I was misled by the previous image (there are seven). Perhaps they are used instead of wardrobes? And my comment about the lack of windows was due to the fact that in Italy I think there is some kind of law which forbids the use of windowless rooms for living purposes. I guess there may be some exception for toilets, but surely you don't find kitchens, dining rooms or similar rooms without windows. I doubt the flat in your image could be sold as it is. –  Paola Jul 9 '12 at 12:21
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Americans generally don't use wardrobes, except in very old houses which don't have an adequate number of closets. –  Peter Shor Nov 15 '13 at 7:20
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To me, a 'den' is an American term for what we call a 'study' in Australia. Houses in Australia have a family / living room for everyday use and a lounge room for more formal occasions. However, in apartments or small houses where there is only one common sitting area (apart from the dining room), that room could also be called the lounge room. The apartment layout above is typical of the apartment my wife and I live. Our second bedroom (the smaller of the two) is called the 'study'. It has a sofa bed, flat-screen TV with cable, bookshelf and two computers. Often, we work from home in this room. On a related point, in Australia, an 'apartment' is typically in a multi-story building (the term "condo" is not used here). A 'unit' is a row of single-story, non-detached dwellings, usually one or two-bedroom. A 'flat' is the same as a unit, but detached from one another. A town house is just the same as in the UK.

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