Not a Living Room or a Family Room

I’m bringing back the den. Homes these days with their studies, studios, media rooms, “man caves” (let me swallow the throw up in my mouth), offices, bonus rooms, finished basements, play rooms, blah blah blah. But does anyone have a den anymore??? That oddball room tucked into every house in 70’s and 80’s suburbia? Did you have one as I kid? I did! It was my favorite room. I don’t remember much about it except that it was cozy, had a giant wicker chair, a massive basket of crayons, a wall-sized oak entertainment center, and it was where my dad played guitar. What more do you need out of a room?

Mid Century Couch Screen Family Living Room

We have a room in our house that is supposed to be the family room: where the TV should go as opposed to the more formal living room, as dictated by the fireplace. But when we were moving in and shifting furniture while completing projects, the TV found its way into the “living room” and has never left. It is my favorite place in our house so why wouldn’t I want to sit in it every night while I watch Game of Thrones and gorge on Thai takeout? So, the living room became the family room. And the family room became nameless and directionless. We didn’t need a living room or a study or a studio or a media room or a man cave or a home office or a bonus room or a play room or anything. (In all seriousness, we don’t need this extra room at all…it’s exactly where our house is too big.) So we started calling it the den (or, sometimes, the blue room, for specificity because my kids are confused by all of this).

Let me break it down: library + lego and block building room + hang out space + guitar room = A DEN. Oddly, it opens to our backyard with a large sliding glass door and there is no wood paneling in sight, so it’s not very den like, I know. It’s no Elvis Jungle Room (clearly the absolute pinnacle of den-ness in the history of all interiors), but it’s weird and wild enough for the name, I think…

Vintage Mid Century Retro Malm Preway Fire Place FIreplace freestanding 60's 70's Living Family Room

Not-that-interesting fact: this is one of the few rooms in the house that isn’t painted white.

Mid Century Screen Hanging

The showstopper of this room is this barbarian here, a 60’s/70’s Preway fireplace. A Craigslist find, that was purchased while my husband was out of town because he would have SHUT THIS DOWN. I, on the other hand, was filled with joy to drive 2 hours, cram it’s filthy parts into my car, scrub it clean, and then struggle to carry its gargantuan and heavy body from room to room until I found a place for it. I will never be parting with this, as if there was any question.

Vintage Mid Century Retro Malm Preway Fire Place FIreplace freestanding 60's 70's

In case you were wondering, this fireplace is nonfunctioning. Can you tell by the Christmas lights strung over the fake logs? It could be functioning with some holes through the roof and a gas line, but for now it’s completely, 100% impractical…depending on how you look at it. I am of the opinion that it serves the room in many ways, though none are utilitarian in manner. The only issue I have with it is that its top funnel piece (not pictured) is 1 inch too tall to fit. My husband already said no to actually cutting into the ceiling. Shocking. The cropped look bothers me so my determination will soon find a work around for that, don’t you worry. (Update: I did!)

Vintage Mid Century Retro Malm Preway Fire Place FIreplace freestanding 60's 70's

This is our one and only bookshelf that brings me great pride in 2 ways: 1. My husband built it. 2. This is almost all of our books, which means I’m a book hoarder no more. More on that another time. And there’s one of my favorite lamps.

Mid century danish bookshelf sliding doors

The couch. We’ve been kicking this thing around for awhile. We found it at the Long Beach swap meet before we got married, which means it was our first couch that was in our first apartment, which means I will always resist attempts to part with it. It was reupholstered then, so it’s due for a job now. I’m having trouble justifying that since the shape is barely working in this room and in my head, I’m not a 2 couch kind of girl, even though my house is. Then again, it has a built-in table, if you didn’t notice, which is pretty sweet and possibly by itself justifies the cost of reupholstering.

Mid Century Family Living Room CouchI found this choice hanging reed screen at a thrift store. Strange, I know. I’m guessing it’s not vintage and is from Pier One or something. There’s a little magic going on with that Ikea pendant in front of it.

Vintage Mid Century Retro Malm Preway Fire Place FIreplace freestanding 60's 70's

This table was a $8 thrift find, and happened to be exactly what I was looking for that day. The days that all thrifters live for.

Vintage Mid Century Burl Redwood Coffee TableToy storage is mainly on this little shelf here (that my husband also built): boxes of legos, marble run blocks, and looming supplies. There’s also a big basket of blocks and big expanses of open flooring for building.

Blond wood shelf toysThis color spewing fabric!!! It’s vintage bark cloth that I originally bought several years ago for a trailer restoration project (now long finished and sold). The panels looked super psychedelic in the small trailer, where they were going to be curtains, but I couldn’t bring myself to sell them, even though I should have because it was a splurge. The wild brush strokes and intense color perfection (red-orange, chartreuse, turquoise, light blue, navy and brown) was unreal. Instead, I carved BC + JJ into a tree with a heart around it and schemed up ways to use the fabric somewhere. And it landed on these walls. My husband built the frames. I put glass on them, mainly for a shred of UV protection since this room is blasted with reflected sunlight all day. But I learned that bark cloth is too tactile to put behind glass so I’m gonna have to ditch it.

Vintage mid century barkcloth abstract framed on walls art

This room is the primary gateway to the backyard so, if nothing else, it sees a lot of foot traffic (mostly kids and dog). There are cute little rows of jalousie windows flanking the sliding door.

Mid Century Family Living Room BookshelfThe most fun thing about this room, if you are under the age of 10, is the curtains. You can spend hours in here playing movie theater or hotel room or night-time with flashlights. The curtains are a thick pinch-pleated tweed, original to the house. I can’t get enough of them.

Vintage Mid century pinch pleat Curtains Drapes bookshelf danish

There wasn’t much in terms of renovation in this room. It was one of the few spaces without wallpaper to remove. All we really did in here was remove carpet, install wood floors, paint and move in. At this point, I’m hoping the baseboard fairy shows up and does up the house because, besides a few plants and that fireplace top (oh ya, and a row of flooring behind the couch), I’m calling this thing about done.

Befores and afters….


Mid Century Family Living Room Bookshelf

Anyone else out there diggin’ dens? Thanks so much for reading so many words!



2 thoughts on “Not a Living Room or a Family Room

  1. Hi Jenny, have you by chance figured out the model number of the black Preway? I found one! It’s white and almost perfect. 50 bucks! I want to track down the manual.


    1. What a score! Good for you! If I remember correctly, the model number is located inside somewhere? If yours doesn’t have it, I can check mine out later for you.


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