Before we dive into the heavy stuff, let's clear the air with the names. Room dividers go by a few different names and are often called folding screens, folding Shoji screens, and/or partitions.
Great...now, let's learn a little about their past!
Traditionally, room dividers are tall, heavy, wide, completely solid (a.k.a. not see-through) and hard to move, meaning that they truly divide a room. These types, and in particular, the folding type, are often associated with the iconography of historical Asia. The predominance of the ornate, folding blockade, if you will, developed out of a practical need for privacy and warmth and served as a makeshift wall.
In modern home designs, the same practical reasons for the need for these types of folding room dividers have diminished greatly; advances in architecture over the centuries have led to the locking doors, room-separating walls, insulation and heaters we know (and, too often, take for granted!) today.
Room dividers, however, are still prevalent in homes across Western and Eastern cultures – albeit for non-functional, almost entirely decorative purposes. It is common to see in contemporary design the use of a divider as a statement vignette in its own right. Popular varieties will even be designed more for room transition than room division, and still others will include shelves, to serve as a sort of ‘bookcase-divider’ (see #1 and #2 below).
Below is a list of the top 16 most popular contemporary uses of room ‘dividers’ (if they can even be called that anymore!). Get inspired by the ways decorators are reinventing the historical staple of Asian design, and see how you can incorporate its unique versatility (divisive or not!) into your home.
Affordable Ways to Divide a Room
1. The Open-Shelf ‘Bookcase’
A room divider with shelves allows for chic book display – and an easy, chic way to establish the two different ‘sides’ of a room. (This is great for spaces with limited privacy, like shared bedrooms and dorms.)
2. Use It for Hallway Transition
14. Mid-Century Modern Style
If mid-century modernism was a car, it’d be a low rider. This is because it adores all things low: think short furniture legs and silhouettes, and an emphasis on rugs and other low-level floor decor. So, if you’re thinking about joining the mid-century bandwagon, keep your pieces stout – room dividers included!