How to Set Up the Most Relaxing Zen Den Imaginable
Thanks to my neverending to-do list, a near-constant stream of work emails, and phone notifications that never stop, my days feel pretty chaotic. It's not possible to get rid of my tech (I have to work, for starters), but I can rethink my space by creating a Zen den. This typically technology-free room (or designated area) is specifically designed to help you unplug, relax, and give yourself a mental break. Although the concept isn't new (it was featured in a 2017 Los Angeles Times article and a 2019 trend report from house-plan website Plan Collection), more and more people are trying to figure out how to create one, according to Pinterest.
The ideal Zen den differs from person to person. Interior designer Nancy Charbonneau's version, for example, includes comfortable seating surrounded with natural light and a few houseplants. "My own 'Zen den' is in a corner of my living room, and for me, it works better that it's in a more open area rather than an enclosed space," she says. "It's more about the sense of peace, and not necessarily the pieces, in the space." Even a closet can work as a Zen den, says California-based interior designer Michelle Lisac. "I've had clients carve out a space in their closets so they can be alone and have that much-needed quiet time," she says.
How to Create a Zen Den in Your Home
To design your own retreat, you should first decide how you plan to use the space. Do you prefer to unwind with a good book and a cup of tea? Then ensure enough square footage for a comfy chair and a side table. If yoga or meditation is your go-to relaxation activity, you might want space to lay down a mat or floor cushion. Once you've settled on your Zen den's function, locate an area of your home that meets your criteria.
Although a spare bedroom or office works well, you don't need an entire room. A corner of your living room or bedroom, your master bathroom, or even a large closet can serve as your personal quiet space. Ideally, your Zen den should be away from high-traffic areas of the home, such as the entryway or kitchen, that could get noisy and disrupt your quiet. If kids or pets are a potential distraction in an open room, consider setting up a folding screen to temporarily ward off interruptions.
If you can't find space inside, however, interior designer Nina Grauer suggests moving outdoors. "Sometimes quiet spaces look like your back porch or balcony where you can breathe fresh air and leave everything else inside," she says. Consider designating a lounge chair on your deck or a swing on the front porch as your Zen den.
Indoors, a space with good lighting is essential. "For instance, a room that has a lot of natural light will instantly enhance your mood and get you started for the day ahead," says Channa Alvarez, production designer for Living Spaces, a home furniture store. If you plan to use your Zen den in the morning, choose a spot with east-facing windows so you can take in the sunrise while you relax. For decorative lighting, Houston-based interior designer Laura Umansky suggests steering clear of ceiling-mounted lighting including recessed lights or chandeliers. Instead, she prefers floor lamps or wall sconces at eye-level or below to create a grounding effect.
Furniture and decor also contribute to a space's soothing atmosphere. Nathan Thomas, a design director for Pembrooke & Ives, recommends using plush textiles, such as mohair throw blankets, and lightweight window treatments in soft, muted colors such as cream. "Paired with furniture that has soft curves, this recipe of color, material, and form allows for a sense of instant calm upon entering the room," he says.
When accessorizing, remember that less is more. The space should be free of clutter, unnecessary objects, and (especially) technology that could distract you. To encourage focus, South Carolina-based interior designer Cortney Bishop suggests hanging one piece of oversized art to draw your eye and provide a moment of "escape." Then layer in cozy throw pillows and blankets, candles, and a few of your favorite books to add comfort and a personal touch.
Whatever your Zen den looks like, it's your personal space to disconnect and leave stress behind. So set down your phone, grab a good book or roll out your yoga mat, and just relax.