Split Up Space with Room Dividers
rooms in the house have to serve more than one function -- whether
you have open-plan areas or not -- all of which are equally important.
The living room may embrace a host of different activities, from
quiet reading to music practice, from watching television to formal
dining. The kitchen is often the place where family meals are eaten
as well as prepared. Bedrooms double as dressing areas, playrooms,
or studies; children's rooms are often shared.
areas require some form of internal organization to avoid chaos
and confusion. Room dividers don't increase the space at your disposal,
but they make better sense of it.
divider can be as permanent as a half-height wall or as temporary
as a freestanding screen.
that you already possess, such as a shelf unit or sofa, can be pressed
into service to distinguish one part of a room from another. Dividers
that provide practical advantages of their own multiply the benefits.
For example, a counter that hides kitchen clutter can also serve
as a breakfast bar; open display shelves offer additional storage
space for ornamental pieces and books while partially enclosing
a section of the living room.
sure the dividers don't undermine the basic qualities of the room
- you need to plan carefully to avoid blocking light or creating
traffic bottlenecks. Equally, it's important to work with the inherent
proportions and decorative character of the room so the final effect
appears well considered rather than makeshift.
you begin, make a rough sketch of the room to assess how best you
can divide it. Pay special attention to entrances, windows, and
traffic routes through the space. Ideally, place dividers so that
each portion of the room receives natural light. This means the
position of the windows is a crucial factor in your layout. Also
take care not to obstruct main entrances or make it difficult to
move around the room.
about how much space to allocate to each activity. Study areas can
be quite compact, for example, whereas a dining area requires more
space so that chairs can be moved comfortably back from the table.
Dividing a shared bedroom usually means splitting the room in half
to provide each person with an equal amount of space.
don't have to follow straight lines. A curving counter is an attractive
way of separating a kitchen area in an open-plan space. In a similar
way, a pair of narrow dividers projecting out from opposite walls
to frame an area can provide more visual interest than a single
divider extending some way across the room.
dividers make sense if you can commit yourself to a fixed room arrangement
for the foreseeable future. Low walls are relatively simple to construct
and you can finish and decorate them to match the rest of the room.
Alternatively, you can fit one side of the divider with built-in
shelving or cupboard space to provide additional storage. Counters
to screen the cooking and preparation areas of a kitchen may need
to be slightly higher to provide effective concealment.
as opposed to half-height, partitioning is also a possibility. In
a bedroom, a narrow partition at right angles to the wall can separate
a bed from a study alcove. On the study side, you can add shelves
for books and files.
shelves make effective dividers when you want to make a visual distinction
between areas but don't necessarily want to block views. Sturdy
storage units, open on both sides, are good for separating living
from dining areas and provide extra storage space for books and
knickknacks. Bear in mind that units must be sturdy enough to withstand
being toppled over if you accidentally knock into them. Alternatively,
you can construct an open wall of shelving that is fixed securely
to both the floor and ceiling.
of the simplest ways of dividing space is to position a dominant
piece of freestanding furniture, such as a sofa, cabinet, sideboard,
or chest, strategically across a room. If you place a table or console
behind a sofa that has its back to a portion of the room, the effect
will look more considered.
make good improvised dividers, too. You can mass together groups
of large plants, such as croton, coffee plant, schefflera, or podocarpus,
or use a freestanding weeping fig tree or palm to divide the area.
Plants trained on wooden trellises, stakes, or canes, such as philodendron,
creeping fig, or grape ivy, grow over time to create a wall of green
between two areas.
a subtler effect, construct a trellis by running lengths of string
or wire from the plant pots or floor to the ceiling and train the
plants to grow up the framework.
baskets can also be used to divide the space. Suspend two or three
from strong ceiling hooks. House plants such as hoyas, Swedish and
grape ivies, and spider plants make good hanging displays and are
easy to look after.
some circumstances, permanent dividers are too restrictive. If you
want to retain the option of changing the focus of the room at a
moment's notice, movable dividers make better sense. Display units
on castors provide one solution; standing screens are equally versatile.
screens can offer just enough privacy for a reading corner or dressing
area, without committing you to a fixed arrangement. The advantage
of screens, aside from their flexibility, is that you can buy them
or decorate them yourself to suit the character of the room.
Japanese-style screens paneled in opaque paper and framed in black
wood molding for a contemporary setting; fabric-covered screens
-- either upholstered or with tied or ruched-on fabric panels --
for a countrified look; or cover a plain screen with a collage of
decoupage images to create a Victorian-style accessory.
panels or folding screens that retract into a door or window jamb
or special housing or open accordian-style flat against the wall
allow you to partition a room in an instant. This solution makes
good sense for children's shared rooms, for example, where you may
wish to provide a degree of privacy for each child at night, without
sacrificing the use of the entire space during the day.
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