Decorating With Room Dividers, Part 1

From half walls to a well-placed sofa, use room dividers to make the most of the space in your home, creating manageable activity areas that still let you enjoy the benefits of open-plan living.

Most 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.

Multi-purpose 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.

A room divider can be as permanent as a half-height wall or as temporary as a freestanding screen.

Furniture 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.

Make 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.

Arrangement Before 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.

Think 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.

Dividers 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.

2009, Rhonda Morin.

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