From the Forum – Can somebody explain the difference between a bedroom and a “den”?

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Can somebody explain the difference between a bedroom and a “den”?

“My SO and I are renting a 1BR+Den apartment. We’re not planning on moving or taking on new roommates, we’re just curious how 1BR+Den apartments compare to 2BR apartments. Does anybody know? Are there legal/safety code reasons why my landlord is calling that second room a “den” and not a bedroom? It has its own walk-in closet, two windows, wood flooring (the bedroom has carpet), a 1/2 bath, and french doors that shut it in from the living room. Any thoughts?”

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22 Comment

  • No means of egress (window, door) to outside from a den.

  • bedrooms have to have windows of a certain size, a closet, a door (french doors may not count?), and have at least a minimum overall square footage. If it doesn’t meet the letter of the law for all of these then it is technically just another room or a den.

  • Den may not have a closet, and/or may not have the window and/or door required to qualify as a bedroom. I’ve seen “dens” that were very nice — and usually used as nursery’s or sitting rooms, that were considered “dens” because they could only be accessed through another bedroom.

  • Sounds like a nice den–I think the french doors are not considered “privacy doors” and disqualify it from full bedroom status.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    My apartment is one BR with den. In square feet it is larger than the two bedroom down the hall. My guess is because it has no window that makes it a den. The previous owner used it as a nursery / baby’s room. It has a door and a closet.

  • Sounds like, for all purposes except the landlord’s adherence to code, it’s a 2BR. But to be cumulative of everything already here, it’s egress + closet.

  • A bedroom is not required to have a closet just two forms of egress (ie window and a door)

    • Thank you for clarifying this. I looked at a “one bedroom + den” apartment over the weekend. The bedroom had no window and I was confused as to why this could be considered a bedroom. It had a door, and there was another entrance to the bedroom through the bathroom. So technically it had two points of egress without having a single window.

      • pablo .raw

        Does one of the doors open to the outside? The idea is that you can be rescued from a sleeping unit in case of emergency.

        • No, one bedroom door opened to the main hallway, and the other door opened to the bathroom, which was a “jack and jill” style bathroom with two doors, with one entrance through the bedroom and another through the living room.

        • Pixie — Yeah, it sounds like that “bedroom” should have been referred to as a “den,” or a “junior one-bedroom.” So that was the supposed “bedroom” and there was another room that was billed as a “den”? If so, it sounds like the unit should’ve been listed as “junior one-bedroom plus den.”

          • Textdoc – yes that room with no windows was considered the bedroom, and the den was a little nook (with a window! but no door) right off the main living/dining space. These were the “one bedroom + den” floorplans. The layout didn’t make sense, why would you have a den with windows and a bedroom with no windows?? But if the code just specifies that bedrooms must have two forms egress and a closet, then technically this room could be considered a bedroom.
            The one bedroom floorplans had bedrooms with windows, but no den/nook area. This was in a new building in the Navy Yard area. I actually loved the building and the apartment, but hated that there was no window in the bedroom.

  • pablo .raw

    A bedroom has a window sized according to code plus smoke detectors inside and outside the room that are interconnected. The size of the window is not based on the fact that a person can get out, but big enough that a firefighter with equipment can get in to rescue the person who may be in danger. I think the minimum dimension is of 8′ on one of the sides.

    • The egress window size requirement isn’t quite that large — but your firefighter comment is right. The relevant area is the “open” area — so with a normal two-pane sliding window, it’s only the area of one pane that counts. Most people use egress-certified casement windows when they are tight on space, I believe (where the whole window area can open up). The window also must be within a certain distance from the floor, etc. There is also a square footage requirement (I think ~100sf), and as you mentioned other misc requirements for habitable spaces — like smoke detectors and climate control.

      • Are you sure about the smoke detector IN the bedroom? My bedroom doesn’t have that, I live in a big building where management would probably rather comply than pay the fine x 100.

        • pablo .raw

          Maybe last time your building was renovated it was not required. I think they have been asking for that in the last 4 years or so. And yes, in the bedroom and another one outside the bedroom and interconnected.

  • Ha, I only just now noticed the kitty peeking out from under the covers. Nice stealth Animal Fix!

  • Room must have its own closet to be considered a bedroom

  • I work in the building industry-code requires two forms of egress and definitely a closet in order for a room to be considered a bedroom.

  • A legal bedroom in DC is at least 7Ft long, 7Ft Wide, 7ft Deep, has to have a wind bigger than 2ft x 2ft and not higher than 4ft of ground, as well as a Door and a Closet. hope this helps as there are MANY illegal “bedrooms” in DC.

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