Homeowners Make Room for New Rooms

The den, as we know it, is dead.

OK, maybe "dead" is an exaggeration. But that comfy ol' reading room in the corner of the house — and its close cousin, the family room — are going extinct as people choose rooms that are more modern, theme-oriented and multi-purpose.

“There’s a whole range of rooms that people are developing to play into their lifestyle,” said Melissa Sykes, vice president of program production at Home and Garden Television. “The trend is a home that reflects your interests and tastes. We’re seeing a lot of individuality.”

Christopher Lowell (search), host of Discovery Home Network’s “The Christopher Lowell Show," said that instead of small, individual rooms, wide-open spaces in the house have become en vogue to accommodate today's hyper-hectic lifestyles.

“The den is going away,” he said. “We’re multi-tasking more than ever before. The media room, rec room, etc., are all going to be one space, encouraging people to multi-task all in one space."

The big hybrid rooms are often referred to as great rooms (search), which are expansive spaces, frequently with cathedral ceilings, that combine elements of the living room, dining room, den, media room and home office.

Sykes said it’s all part of a trend toward houses with more open, connected floor plans and fewer dividing walls.

“People want to enjoy family and friends. They want to be able to keep an eye on the kids. They don’t want to be separate,” she said. “It’s a more casual lifestyle."

Other homeowners seek rooms with specific themes or functions. Washington, D.C., resident Minal Damani said she installed a Zen room (search) — a quiet getaway in her townhouse with calming décor — because she wanted a peaceful place to escape and be creative without going anywhere but home.

Hers is simply decorated with a white futon, green silk cushions, billowy curtains and Asian candles.

“I fell in love with the promise of calm that Zen offers,” said Damani, 33, who works in business affairs. “I wanted one room that was serenity.” Damani said she spends more time in her "Zen" than anywhere else in the house.

Also popular: media rooms (search), which are equipped with stereos, big-screen TVs, surround sound and Internet access, playrooms for children, fitness rooms and home offices, where telecommuters and those needing to squeeze in work at the house can tap away at the computer and do whatever else their busy jobs require.

“Builders know there’s a trend across the country for people to have these special-purpose rooms versus just a small den,” said New York homeowner Ryan, 33, who asked that his last name not be used due to his high-profile profession. His beach house has a great room.

“You don’t need a den or a library — you need functional things: offices, exercise rooms, Zen rooms, media rooms,” he said.

The fact that constructing houses from scratch and remodeling existing ones are still hot trends has paved the way for made-to-order rooms. Sales of new single-family homes were up 7 percent this fall over last, according to the National Association of Home Builders (search); new-home sales hit a record high in 2003 of more than 1 million units sold.

“Certainly there’s a building boom,” Sykes said. “And there’s a great interest in influencing the design of your home and remodeling.”

The success of home improvement TV shows like TLC’s "Trading Spaces" (search) has also bolstered the interest in decorating, as has the renewed emphasis on home and family that's taken root around the country in recent years.

“Television has played a significant role in getting people to rethink how they’re living,” said Denise Gee, senior home design editor at Better Homes and Gardens magazine. “A lot of the home improvement shows … are extremely popular and addictive, almost.”

But not everyone is refitting a home for meditation, multimedia or a mish-mash of other activities. Sykes said a lot of houses still have that old familiar den or family room, thank you very much.

“You can live quite comfortably and never have a Zen meditation room or a media room — or even a home office,” she said. “Many people are fine watching TV in the den."