When you see the word “Den,” what do you imagine? A room for entertainment? A small nook in a hallway? A secluded space for relaxation? How about a small cave bears use for hibernation?  

The definition of a den room differs from person to person and bear to bear (okay we'll stop with the bear den jokes now). So, when a “den” makes it to the listing of a condo, apartment, or house, there is often confusion on what type of den it is or what that entails.  

Even amongst REALTORS®, the definition of a “Den” can sometimes be unclear. With no specific regulations to define this space, many buyers are left guessing or, worse, making assumptions! 

Here is a clear-cut definition of what a den room is and the possibilities of what it can mean depending on the type of property you are looking at.

Den’s Meaning

So, what is a den? 

Put simply, a den is a small, multi-purpose room in a house used for private activities. Typically, this can be an office, game room, home cinema, play area, and much more. The size, layout, and functionality are what define it. Generally, this room is smaller than a bedroom and windowless but because there's no true definition of den when it comes to real estate, you could find rooms with windows be listed as dens.

What are the criteria for a den room?

As mentioned, there is no hard and fast definition of a den room, however, there are some general criteria that a den should follow to be considered a den in a house. 

To be classified as a den, the room should be:

  • Separate from the living room

  • Large enough to serve a purpose

  • Windowless (Not always) 

  • Can be Doorless

  • Able to fit furniture and decor

The den room is usually near a kitchen, by the front door, or an easily accessible part of the house. We expect the definition to change as real estate trends change. 

What size is a den?

While there is no set size, a traditional den would be approximately 8 feet by 6 feet, with some of the larger den rooms being 12 feet by 8 feet.

The dimensions vary from house to house, but a den room is typically smaller than other rooms in the house. In some homes, the den functions as a recreation room, library, tv room, or even a small guest room. To accommodate these activities, the room must be large enough to fit a single bed, a desk, and/or tv.

However, seeing as the den isn’t the largest room in the house, it is best to keep furnishings to a minimum to avoid crowding the space.

Den vs. Bedroom

While some dens are almost the same size as a bedroom, they are not the same. In fact, the distinction between the two is the primary reason for the separation in terms.

According to Alberta law, a bedroom must have two egresses, whether this is a second door or a window to act as an emergency exit. A bedroom must let in natural light, be a certain size for comfortable living, and be properly ventilated and accessible.

Even for basement bedrooms, there must two ways to exit. Unless the bedroom has a door that leads directly to the building exterior or the building has a fire sprinkler system, each bedroom must have at least one window that can be opened from the inside without using tools or technical skills.

In general, a den does not have a closet either. Although some homeowners may convert the room into a bedroom by adding a wardrobe or drawers, the intended purpose is not to host guests or household members.

What is a den in a house?

Ultimately, it is up to you. A den is a bonus room with endless possibilities for families and single homeowners. It is a great area to sit and relax or do activities, from games and crafts to movie nights. Some owners even convert the den into a small guest room by adding furniture such as a bed, drawers, and wardrobes (since there is no closet space).

What differentiates a den from other rooms such as a living room or family room is it is much smaller with less furniture. It typically has a dedicated function such as work, play, or entertainment and you can set it up any way you like.

What is a den in a condo?

If you see ‘den’ listed in a condo listing, be cautious. Dens mean different things to different people, but especially in the context of condos and apartments. 

In the past, it used to be a windowless room big enough to be an extra bedroom. Over time, the meaning has changed and in condos, this room is much smaller. In newer condos, it is usually not more than a four by three feet area or it is a small space in the hallway to store items.

This is not always detailed in listings or made clear in pictures, which is why we emphasize going with your real estate agent to ensure you know what to expect. Some condo owners may add ‘den’ to a listing when they are describing a small nook in the space for storage, and this sometimes results in an increase in the price of the unit, even if the actual space isn’t much.

However, for those who don’t need a bonus room, the ‘den’ in the entryway is often a good place for books or shoes.

Note: There are some condos that do have traditional dens, but it is important to see the condo unit for yourself to determine the actual size. 

Final summary

Whenever you see a den listed on a property, approach with caution and do your due diligence to verify the layout and size. Remember viewing homes online versus in person can be different because what you see isn’t what you get. Dens are great multi-purpose spaces that work

Posted by Cody Tritter on
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