Before + After: A Recipe for A Fashionable Den Makeover

My den had a problem.

Even though it had gorgeous views and comfortable furniture, everybody just walked right past it.  This seemed like a great place to spend an afternoon, but nobody — not even I — was tempted to do that:

Fortunately, there’s an easy, step-by-step process to turning a den or family room into an inviting, stay-for-a-while space.  Here’s the recipe:

Step 1: Start with a rug.

The rug is usually the most important accessory in any room.  In this den, the right rug could help define the space better and make it comfortable for lounging.  For this room, I didn’t want the furnishings to compete with the outdoors, so we went with a neutral rug (Dash & Albert’s Marled Grey Woven Cotton Rug) that coordinated with the linen curtains and the furniture.

Before we moved our furniture out, we measured to make sure we got the right size rug.  When you do this, try to include all the large furniture pieces on the rug but leave about 18″ of bare floor exposed all around.

– If the rug is too small, the area will look unbalanced.

– If it’s too large, it will look like wall-to-wall carpeting that just missed.

(For more details on choosing rugs, see our post on How to Choose a Rug for Every Room of in Your New House.)

Step 2: Add comfortable furniture.  If you can, invest in down-filled cushions for your sofas; you’ll be grateful every time you sit down.  But my favorite trick is to use an ottoman as a coffee table.  They’re great for lounging, and if you cover them in a medium dark fabric, no one will mind putting their feet up.  Here, we used a soft brown mohair:

Here’s the room with the loveseat in place.  Before you place your furniture, look at the room and really think about where it should go.  In the picture below, note how well the larger sofa works with the larger patio door behind it, while the loveseat is scaled to fit the smaller patio door on the left.

Step 3: Blend in a dash of your favorite pillows.  Now you have something to sink into …

Step 4: Fill with flowers.  And now you have something pretty to look at.

Step 5: Add a dash of lighting.  On the two side tables, we added reading lamps (on dimmers), which add task lighting and cast a cozy glow at night.  You can also use floor lamps; they’re really important to adding height to your room.

Step 6: Layer with scent.  Next we placed added a diffuser on one of the side tables (scent helps us relax); candles would work just as well.

Step 7: Mix in a stack of books.  In addition to our current books, we always keep a couple of picture books laying about … they’re both beautiful and great for guests to browse through.

Step 8: Fill in with small accessories, like these candleholders or a small sculpture.

Step 9: Arrange a throw artfully on the sofa.  Because you want this handy as soon as it gets a little chilly.

Step 10:  Pour yourself a drink (or two or three or four…)!  Congratulations; you’re all done.

To recap, here are the steps to make over your den:

  1. Start with a rug (see more rugs here)
  2. Add comfortable furniture
  3. Blend in a dash of your favorite pillows (see more pillows here)
  4. Fill with flowers
  5. Add lighting (see more table lamps here and see more floor lamps here)
  6. Layer with scent
  7. Mix in a stack of books
  8. Fill in with candleholders (see more candleholders here) or small accessories (see more accessories here)
  9. Arrange a throw over the sofa (see more throws here)

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