Here’s Why You Need a “Zen Den”—and How to Make One in a Small Space

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One of the harder parts about working from home is the lack of separation in activities. I used to have a commute I called my “transition zone.” Once I hit a certain cross street on the way to the office, I knew I was in “work mode” and no longer in “home mode.” When that transition zone is the two inches of space separating your bedroom from your living room, however, it can be hard to make that mental jump. Harder still? Returning to relaxation. How am I supposed to chill when my new office is… everywhere? 

My tiny New York City apartment doesn’t have enough square footage for a dedicated home office let alone a special room to meditate, but I have carved out a single corner of my home for relaxation only. I call it a zen den, even though “den” is a remarkably generous term. Whatever spatial constraints you might have, dedicating even a certain spot on the ground or seat on the couch that is meant for zoning out—and zoning out only—can really help separate the boundaries between work and play.

The best part? Your setup can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. Mine is all about comfy pillows, candles, and a plant or two, but here are a handful of tips—and pieces—to help get you started building your own zen den, even if all you’re working with is a little bit of floor and wall space.

Credit: Lululemon

Set up a place to sit or lay down

Now’s the time to finally get that fluffy pouf or floor pillow you’ve been eyeing. Not only does a piece like this give you somewhere to sit or kick up your feet, it can double as your physical zen den threshold: Once you cross over onto this piece, it’s good vibes only. That said, I love options, and sometimes “zenning” out means fully laying on the ground for a 45-minute Headspace session. For those days, there’s nothing better than a cushy yoga mat. Plus, with all that working out from home, a quality one (in a pretty speckled colorway, too) is a smart investment and easy to stash away, if need be.

Buy: The Reversible Yoga Mat 5 mm, $78 from Lululemon

Credit: Parachute

Ground your “den”

Whether you’re sitting or laying, having a defined spot on the ground to do either provides a good visual cue of what this space is meant for. This braided wool rug goes with every apartment aesthetic out there, and it’s soft enough to rest on, should your pouf or mat not have you entirely covered in that department.

Buy: Braided Wool Rug, Starting at $289 for a 3′ by 5′ from Parachute Home

Credit: West Elm

Amp up the cozy factor

Soft blankets make a space feel so much cozier with the least amount of effort possible. They can also add a pop of color and a bit of texture to any size zen den. This throw from West Elm should last you a lifetime and it’s particularly striking—but still neutral—in this midnight blue shade.

Buy: Cotton Knit Throw, $80 $48 from West Elm

Add a partition

If your home allows it, having an actual marker of where your zen space begins is a great way to keep your mental boundaries in check. This macrame panel might be meant for a window, but it looks pretty good hanging straight from a ceiling or tension rod, too.

Buy: Macrame Decorative Panel, $89 from Pottery Barn Teen 

Set the scene with a candle

Smell is one of the most powerful scene-setting senses. This candle‘s lavender notes will help put you into a zenned out headspace. To fully establish your relaxation ritual, only burn whatever particular scent you choose when you are taking time for yourself in your special spot.

Buy: Ojo Candle, $35 from Shanti Creations

Credit: Amazon

Allow yourself to tune out

Buying a sound machine is, hands down, the best $40ish purchase you will ever make. I have this mini version, and I also bought one for my parents. They absolutely change the feeling of a room by offsetting any creaks, clicks, or disturbances from outside. I love the white noise for zoning out and the fan noise for sleeping.

Buy: LectroFan White Noise and Fan Sound Machine, $49.95 $41.96 from Amazon