How to decorate a den – 5 expert tips for the perfect comfort room

Learn how to decorate a den and follow these expert interior design tips to create the perfect, cozy retreat

three ways for how to style a den
(Image credit: Future Owns/Pooky/Cat Dal Interiors)

When it comes to learning how to decorate a den, you need to get the essentials right – furniture, color palette, and lighting are all vital in helping you to achieve the warm and welcoming atmosphere of your dreams.

There are plenty of den ideas that will spark your imagination – but, how do you turn these ideas into a reality? We have spoken to interior design experts to discover their essentials for designing and styling a den. 

'Your den should be a carefree space with an atmosphere imbued by the family, friends, and even the pets that pass through. In our den, nothing is too precious. It's a bold and colorful room, with plenty of lighting for both atmosphere and reading,' explains designer Molly Mahon

'We've created cozy reading nooks next to the fireplace which is upholstered in hand-block printed fabrics with cushions piled high in prints designed to make you smile. We completed our space with a tufted wool rug which is soft and fluffy underfoot. In the evening, hand-woven quilts are brought downstairs for snuggling on the couch.'

How to decorate a den

If you're thinking about ways to make a house look cozy, then a den is a great addition. It can be large or small; located off your main living room or perhaps in the attic or basement; it can be for the whole family to spend time together or a private space where you can decompress after a busy day. Your den is what you make it – and there are plenty of cozy room ideas that will encourage you in your design choices.

1. Define its purpose

small den with armchairs and bookshelves with ladders

(Image credit: Sofology)

The first step when learning how to decorate a den is to work out its purpose as this will determine the look and feel of all the other elements in the room. Is your den to be a quiet place where you enjoy reading your book? If so then draw on reading nook ideas and pair a comfy armchair with bookshelf ideas

Alternatively, do you dream of kicking back and listening to your favorite music – if this is more your vibe then perhaps consider soundproofing paired with a professional sound system? For a movie room, dark walls and blackout blinds are essential for creating that immersive movie experience. 

Regardless of its purpose, however, your den should be a place where you want to spend time, so let its design be guided by your passions.

2. Pick a moody color palette

Living room or cosy snug with dark blue walls, brick chimney breast with lit woodburner. patterned cushions and eclectic mixture of antique furniture

(Image credit: Future/Polly Eltes)

By definition, a den (also known as a snug room) should feel cozy and relaxing – something that can be achieved by your choice of color scheme. Dens are predominantly used in the evening, and as such work well with dark colors and ambient lighting – be sure to incorporate ways to add warmth to a room, too. 

’It all starts with the walls – opting for darker tones such as deep blues, forest greens or burgundy reds will create a dark and moody space that sets the mood for relaxation instantly, while brighter and lighter shades will add color, personality, and be just as restful. If you can include wall paneling, then you'll be sure to create a sophisticated look,’ advises Emma Deterding, founder and creative director, Kelling Designs. ‘Ultimately, it's about creating a space that's a true reflection of you and your personal style, so be sure to pick designs, colors, and prints that you truly love to create the perfect den for you.’

Try drawing on fall color schemes; these colors make a living room cozy and will have the same effect on a den. 'Also consider wrapping the room in the same or complementary shade,' adds Anna Hill, Brand Director and Colour Consultant, Fenwick & Tilbrook Paints. 'Take the paint across the ceiling and color-drenching the skirts and doors for that extra all-encompassing effect. When figuring out how to style a den, avoid white ceilings at all costs!'

3. Layer lighting

layered lighting in a cozy den with dark velvet sofa covered in cushions and red rug

(Image credit: Pooky)

In a den, the right lighting scheme is vital. ‘Coziness is key for the room that does what it says on the tin – the den should be the most welcoming space in the home, and somewhere to relax and unwind from the day,’ explains Jo Plant, head of design at Pooky

Take inspiration from small living room lighting ideas and expert advice on planning living room lighting to ensure that your space is cozy and welcoming. 

‘A cozy atmosphere is usually achieved by breaking up a space and creating smaller, more intimate, independently lit areas.  Rather than strong overhead lights, try using more localized lamps, or a floor lamp to highlight a particular part of the room.  Colour and intensity are also vital – try using a soft warm yellow or white light, rather than a stark white, and use a dimmer to find the right intensity,' adds Jo Plant. Discover the best places to buy lighting to find the perfect fit for your snug or den.

Complete the space with one of these fireplace ideas. 'It is no surprise that an open fire is always considered as the coziest place in a house – the lighting from the fire is localized, soft, and accented, and the color and intensity are just right,' concludes Jo Plant.

4. Select the perfect upholstery

Vibrant sofa with tartan skirt and cushions by Johnstons of Elgin & Ben Pentreath

(Image credit: Johnstons of Elgin & Ben Pentreath)

When learning how to style a den, the priority is relaxation. With this as the aim, the power of seating can’t be underestimated. ‘When it comes to selecting upholstery, it’s important to think carefully about how your couch will be used and by whom,’ explains Suzanne Musemeci, head of sales at Sofas & Stuff .  

'If it’s a family space, then consider an all-encompassing corner couch, where you can all snuggle up together. Alternatively, if it's a private reading room, then a pair of high-back armchairs or a generous loveseat might be more fitting. When selecting the perfect upholstery for your den be sure to visit plenty of showrooms and try them out in person to ascertain their comfort levels and the feel of the fabrics and filling – this is impossible to conclude by browsing online. ‘When testing a couch think about how you like to sit, or lie on your couch, as that will also affect the type of design that you might find most comfortable,’ adds Suzanne Musemeci – it is rare that you sit bolt upright on a couch with your feet on the floor.

If you're looking for advice on purchasing the right upholstery for your den then you can't go wrong with the best couch or a purchase from one of the best places to buy couches.

5. Create a cozy atmosphere

cozy snug den with purple couch and cream armchairs and beamed ceiling

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

There are plenty of cozy living room ideas and cozy corner ideas that can influence how to style a den. ‘Dens are generally cozy spaces that invite you in with plenty of soft fabrics, plush cushions, and deep colors. The aim is to create a cocooning feel; a space in which to escape the outside world. Plaids and wools work well here and when paired with deep colors, like Mouses Back by Farrow and Ball, heavy curtains, and a roaring fire, you have the perfect haven within the home,’ explains Louise Wicksteed, design director at Sims Hilditch. Complete the look with atmospheric candles, wood burner ideas, thick rugs underfoot, and a blanket or two, ready and waiting.

'Finally, don’t forget about scent!' adds Sam Baldry, Head of Design at Swoon. 'To induce supreme relaxation, you should aim to satisfy all of your senses. So, now that you’ve catered for the others, choose a diffuser or room spray that makes you feel warm and tranquil to finish off the job – we’d recommend lavender or sandalwood.' Incorporating some of these ways to make your home smell nice will ensure that your den is the perfect space to relax.  

How do you make a den more cozy?

You can make a den more cozy by painting walls and ceilings in the same warm, dark shade – sapphires, emeralds, and rusts are all great choices. Color drenching a room will make it feel cocooning, perfect for challenging cozy vibes. From here, opt for layers of textiles – faux fur, wools, and velvets across upholstery, throws,  cushions, and floor coverings – to complete the look.

How do you arrange furniture in a den?

The arrangement of furniture in a den depends on the purpose of the room. A cozy reading nook will need its furniture  – likely an armchair – positioned in a way that maximizes the light – whether natural or artificial. On the other hand, a cinema room will need its generous, comfy couch facing the television. 

Holly Reaney
Content Editor and Sub-editor

Having graduated with a first class degree in English Literature, Holly started her career as a features writer and sub-editor at Period Living magazine, Homes & Gardens' sister title. Working on Period Living brought with it insight into the complexities of owning and caring for period homes, from interior decorating through to choosing the right windows and the challenges of extending. This has led to a passion for traditional interiors, particularly the country-look. Writing for the Homes & Gardens website as a content editor, alongside regular features for Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors magazines, has enabled her to broaden her writing to incorporate her interests in gardening, wildlife and nature.