November 5, 2018

Style Solutions: What To Do With A Dark Den

As I mentioned over the summer, we’re starting a new monthly series called Style Solutions, where I review reader submissions of design dilemmas and pick one to help solve.  I’m already working on one for next month, which will be an open concept condo and how to utilize the small best and make everything feel cohesive, but this month’s room is a dark, wood-paneled den in desperate need of an update!

This space has a LOT of potential, but I can see why it would be overwhelming to tackle it.  The reader who submitted this was just so unsure about what to do with the paneling, which left her a bit paralyzed regarding the whole room, so she never did anything to it. She asked about painting it a light color or drywalling over it.  But I actually think the opposite! I’d paint this room a darker color, a green with some grey in it- specifically Benjamin Moore’s Rainy Day, up to the beams in the ceiling which I’d leave natural.  This will hide a bit of the paneling, but keep them from the expense of drywalling.  The dark color will make the room feel cozy, and with ample light properly distributed through the room, it won’t feel “dark”. Here are some “before” pictures of the space with my notes:

The ideal placement for a TV in this room is above the fireplace, so I’d get an attractive Frame TV (our new favorite for our clients) and put it here and turn that awkward nook to the right of the TV into a built in reading nook with a cushion and drawers below for toy storage (see sketch further down the post).

The mirror from above the TV could be repurposed to bounce the light from the window back into the room.

We need to maximize this window and so I’d hang the drapery panels wider as to not cover much of the window. And I’d lose the loveseat in favor of a pair of chairs.

Here’s the new floorplan, which gives everyone a place to sit and some extra storage!

A (very) quick sketch of the reading nook.

And here’s the overall look for the room!

The homeowner wanted a leather Chesterfield sofa, which I actually think is perfect in here with the new green walls.  I added some lightness and texture through grasscloth wrapped nightstands (which have a higher height that work better with the high arm of the sofa than a standard side table) topped with a pair of funky (and affordable) lamps.  I’d ground the space with a large jute rug layered with a vintage rug atop it for a rich feel. Drapes in a natural linen with sable velvet trim will lighten the space a little too and define the window as a focal point.  Above the sofa, a large scale piece of art.  The chairs I’d do in a neutral buffalo check and they flank a simple brass and glass coffee table (if this is too worrisome with kids around, a flat top ottoman in a neutral velvet with a tray on top would work great here too!)  For the reading nook cushion, an affordable stripe and some cozy pillows.

I would LOVE to get cozy in this space and watch a movie or read a stack of magazines! This scheme could work well in a bedroom or office as well! I hope this was a fun exercise for you as well, to see just what I’d do with YOUR space. :)  If you want to submit a space or quandary of your own that really gives you trouble, just email pictures and details to


paint- Benjamin Moore Rainy Day // sofa // tv // jute rug // vintage rug // painting // fern prints // chairs // sofa pillow- floral // sofa pillow- graphic // drapes // sconces // drapery hardware // coffee table // side tables // table lamps // floor lamp // leopard pillow // bookshelf // vases // frames // built in cushion fabric // green pillow // ikat pillow


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