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Room divider ideas: 11 expert ways to divide a room

Jayne Dowle
·10-min read
Photo credit: House Beautiful/Carolyn Barber
Photo credit: House Beautiful/Carolyn Barber

From House Beautiful

Dividing up a room means your space works twice as hard. It’s the ideal solution if you’re looking to create privacy to work from home or section off a bedroom into a sleeping/dressing area. Looking for some room divider ideas? From a living wall of plants to a structural broken-plan arrangement, there is a solution for every home – and budget.

1. Room divider shelves

An achievable room divider idea is to use open furniture, such as cabinets, bookcases or shelving to create different zones, without cutting out light or making the space feel closed in, says Martin Waller, founder of interior design company Andrew Martin.

Ed O’Donnell, founder of design house Angel O’Donnell, suggests using open shelving to place scented diffusers and candles, or succulents and other plants to enhance the air quality of the room.

You should consider furniture and colours carefully to ensure they complement the scheme well. Too bold a contrast between different areas will look jagged, so choose a palette which runs through both sides of the space with subtle highlights to indicate the shift in mood, says Ben Stokes, founder and interior designer for KAGU Interiors, an interiors shop in Tenterden, Kent.

Photo credit: Simon Whitmore
Photo credit: Simon Whitmore

2. Folding room divider screens

Photo credit: Habitat
Photo credit: Habitat

The quickest and easiest way to divide a room is with a folding screen. 'Glamorous upholstered folding screens are a perfect pick if you're looking to zone a self-care area for rest and relaxation,' says Nadia McCowan Hill, resident style advisor at Wayfair.

If you're planning to keep your screen folded out, choose a perforated or woven design – such as wicker or rattan – to ensure light still flows evenly around the room. 'Screen dividers are predicted to be really popular this winter as people continue to look for simple, flexible solutions for zoning home spaces,' says Rachael Fell, furniture buying manager at Habitat. 'Ideal for home workers, screens provide a stylish backdrop for video calls whilst also minimising noise levels.'

3. Room dividers

Room dividers are more solid than a folding screen, but easier to reconfigure than permanent structural work such as adding a wall.

'A room divider is a great and cost-effective way to achieve "broken-plan", and it negates the need to commit to a fixed wall, which will cost more money, and is there for the long haul,' says Andy Briggs, resident interior designer at Spaceslide. 'Room dividers are simply set on a floor and ceiling track, and if you no longer have the need for the room divider, or want to open up your space again, it's easy to take them down.'

Photo credit: Spaceslide
Photo credit: Spaceslide

Spaceslide do room dividers with a different finish on either side. Andy says this works particularly well when sectioning larger bedrooms to create a dressing room, with coloured glass on one side to complement the bedroom's decor, and a mirrored finish on the reverse.

For maximum flexibility, B&Q has Alara, a new range of customisable modular room dividers, which can be added and subtracted as your needs change. Lightweight sturdy panels simply click into place and can be painted to match your décor.


4. Broken plan wall

Huge expanses of open-plan living were already falling out of favour, but the pandemic has hastened our interest in dividing up space to fulfil certain functions, says Daniel Bowler, director of kitchen design company Eggersmann: 'However, rather than re-erecting walls and creating visual obstacles that block out light and restrict movement, the idea of broken-plan living is instead coming to the fore.'

This might mean bringing a half-wall out into the room to create a useful working or reading nook behind, or bringing in a large built-in storage cupboard to create a natural 'break' in a room.

Photo credit: Plus Rooms/FINE HOUSE STUDIO
Photo credit: Plus Rooms/FINE HOUSE STUDIO

Take care to ensure enough light still flows into the area, says James Bernard, director of London design-build company, Plus Rooms. 'Always remember that roofs can be completely glazed with good structural glass available nowadays, enabling homeowners to have all the benefits of broken-plan without the drawbacks of less light.'

5. Room divider doors

Various kinds of internal doors can divide up a space; traditional folding doors, which fold back on themselves and are good for period homes, a bi-fold door which can open as fully as you like, a sliding door, or a space-saving pocket sliding door, which fits into a wall cavity when opened.

'We did a beautiful kitchen, where the utility room can be closed off from the main kitchen with a pocket door to create a calm haven during the evenings, or be opened up to provide quick and easy access into the utility and back door access during the day,' says Helena Myers, owner of kitchen company The Myers Touch.

Toughened plain or Crittall-style black-framed glass doors are a good choice in busy family homes.

Photo credit: IQ Glass/Martina O'Shea
Photo credit: IQ Glass/Martina O'Shea

'The advantage of using glass to create divisions between internal spaces is that it does not impact the light moving through a space and keeps the visual design of the room open, even when it is divided,' says Rebecca Clayton, spokesperson for IQ Glass.

Glass works well between a kitchen and living room, allowing meal preparation to take place in one half of the space without compromising other household members who may be watching television or working.

6. Rugs

Another easy room divider idea is to divide a space with rugs; a great option for smaller homes. A rug can tuck neatly under furniture and won't take up valuable space, but will still help to break up an open-plan area. You could, for instance, lay one rug in your dining area and another in your living area, to delineate each space.

Photo credit: Cuckooland
Photo credit: Cuckooland

'Use different colours, patterns and textures,' says Nick Acaster, group managing director of Rugs Direct. 'But look for rugs that match the furnishings in each area to draw the space together and make it feel like one.'

It’s important to pay close attention to the size of your rug. Decide where you want the boundary of each zone and ensure your rug extends no further than one foot beyond this. Consider furniture too. 'In open-plan spaces, you'll usually want all the legs of your furniture on each rug,' adds Nick. 'In your dining area, your rug should be large enough for your chairs to sit on it even when they're pulled out.'

7. Wall and floor: colour and texture

Colour is a quick and relatively easy way to delineate the functions of two spaces. You could paint the walls behind your kitchen cupboards in a strong shade to define a kitchen from a dining area, for example. Or create the illusion of infinite space by painting a dressing room or en-suite in a complementary deeper shade than the bedroom walls. 'Or perhaps now as we are all trying to squeeze a makeshift workspace into an alcove somewhere in the house, paint this a vibrant or complementary colour to define the space as well as lift your mood,' suggests Ed O'Donnell.

Photo credit: Crown
Photo credit: Crown

You can apply the same principles to flooring. A shift in floor covering will signal a transition between two areas. It is particularly useful in a functional space, such as a kitchen/dining room. This is known as 'segmentation', says Beth Halliday, head of marketing and design at Flooring Superstore. 'You may want a cosy vibe in the living room, choosing a soft carpet for that added element of comfort, but you won't want to spend your evenings cleaning a carpet under your dining table from those inevitable drops and spills. Transition strips – which create a join between different flooring types of equal height – join the space seamlessly.'

Photo credit: Amtico
Photo credit: Amtico

8. Room divider curtains

Curtains are quick and easy to put up, and a budget-friendly option too, enabling you to conceal and screen off certain areas in the home. These room separators are perfect for zoning open-plan layouts or compact spaces, and can add some much-needed colour and texture to your space.

You could use a curtain to separate your workspace from your bedroom, enabling you to conceal your study space at the end of the working day, or use a curtain as a door to conceal a storage nook. All you'll need is either curtain wire or a curtain rail to divide your space.

'For a soft but stylish divider between a bedroom and dressing room, you could install a ceiling-mounted curtain rack and hang fabric which will billow gently and allow you to pass through from one side to the other,' adds Nadia McCowan Hill.

9. Kitchen island

A kitchen island is the perfect way to section off the 'working' part of the kitchen from areas for eating, homework and socialising.

'Not only does an island provide a central focal point in the room, it also serves a useful purpose, providing a fixed spot for informal dining, a workspace, a culinary prep station and storage,' says Mar Esteve Cortes, chief social media officer at Neolith, a specialist sintered-stone company.

Photo credit: Rotpunkt
Photo credit: Rotpunkt

Kitchen designers are quickly catching on to the multi-purpose function of an island. 'Look for versatile furniture solutions that can be used on both sides – kitchen and living – to make the style transition seamless,' says Sophie Devonald, designer at kitchen company Crown Imperial. She suggests using different heights or configurations to create a 'living kitchen' bespoke to your lifestyle. This might involve mid-height units, drawers and open storage within a kitchen unit.

10. Stove

A double-sided wood-burning stove and installation is a long-term investment, costing several thousand pounds (depending on the stove chosen and structural work required). But it makes a stunning way to divide a room, whether it's crackling away for cosy hygge-style comfort or standing alone as a striking centrepiece.

Photo credit: Ludlow/Tim Pestridge
Photo credit: Ludlow/Tim Pestridge

'It is essential to seek professional advice and guidance from your architect or stove dealer at the design stage,' says Mark Ryan, head of sales and marketing at Jøtul UK Ltd. 'Locating the flue system, air intake requirements and safety aspects of the stove are all vital and should be your first consideration at the early stages of planning.'

Before you site your stove, you need to know if the flue will run vertically or need to be dog-legged or staggered. Seeking professional help should take priority before deciding on your new stove's design and size, adds Mark.

11. Plants

Photo credit: Furniture and Choice
Photo credit: Furniture and Choice

A living wall packed with plants to divide two spaces is a desirable feature but will be expensive and slightly difficult to maintain. You can achieve a similar look with a simple DIY project. Online furniture retailers, Furniture and Choice, suggests taking a free-standing oblong clothes rail on wheels – for maximum manoeuvrability – and attaching trailing plants such as devil's ivy, silver vine and senecio with hangers such as butcher’s hooks and macrame holders.

Or you could simply plant up a row of large standout pots with tall plants such as bamboo, suggests Kimberley Hornby, spokesperson for Lechuza.

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