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The Little Things: Room Dividers

By Sarah Van Arsdale on March 25, 2008

Designer Monthly's Little Things column places a spotlight on those home accessories that are often overlooked, and we'll show how they can be improved to make a world of a difference. Our pursuit is to enhance the decor through economical yet aesthetically superior measures.
The Little Things: Room Dividers

Back in the day, apartments and houses were built with several small rooms; the idea seemed to be that the more rooms, the better, even it meant barely having enough space to squeeze yourself between bed and dresser.

Then came the loft craze of the 1980s, which is continuing today, with many places advertised as "loft-like space," meaning, usually, the only separate room is the one with the toilet and tub.

Sometimes, all that open space works perfectly, allowing the owner free reign with decorating, and giving the place an open, endless feeling. But then there are times when you crave a little separation, and that's where room dividers come in.

And they don't have to make your living space look like a corporate office.

NYIAD Top Tip: You may want to divide the space in order to give the occupants a semblance of privacy, or you may just want to give yourself a separate area that is clearly delineated for one activity or another — it may help you to be more productive, for example, if you have a part of the living room designated as a study area, and another area designated as a place for relaxing.
The Little Things: Room Dividers

Perhaps the most traditional kind of room divider is a shoji screen. These actually date to 200 BC China, with depictions of screens found in Han Dynasty tombs. But it is was in Japan that the screen enjoyed great popularity, with many variations developing over the years, including sliding door screens, cedar screens, and translucent paper doors.

Using shoji screens in your home can give, foremost, an Eastern flavor to the room. With that may come a feeling of casual elegance, and some people find shoji screens made with translucent paper to give a feeling of calm to a room, perhaps because of the opaque light that comes through the screen.

The Little Things: Room Dividers

If the Japanese screen isn't the look you want for a room, consider splitting the room with a room dividing bookshelf. It's best to use a bookshelf that's designed specifically for this purpose, rather than simply putting an open-backed bookcase in the center of a room. This is because a bookshelf designed as a divider will often have wider shelves, and will itself look so good that you will be happy to see it from any angle.

One of our favorites for this purpose is the Kiva shelving unit made by Room & Board. It's tall — 68" high, and so it can really act almost as a wall. And yet, it is open and airy, letting plenty of light in. With books on some shelves, objets d'art on others, this piece will add flair to any large room, while also providing a division between one area and another.

No matter how large or small your living space is, there are plenty of choices for divvying up a room. And if you consider carefully the look you want to achieve, you can find a way to separate your space that's both practical and beautiful.


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