Esmé Stern

Published on June 18, 2021

Even though social distancing requirements are loosening and offices are reopening, the way we exist in our homes will never be exactly the same. According to a 2020 report from Zillow, our desire for privacy (intensified by a year and a half of remote working and homeschooling) is becoming more important than our penchant for breezy open-concept layouts, with more and more homes sporting individual rooms in recent years. But as many studio dwellers will tell you, not all of us have an abundance of walls, which means we sometimes have to get creative with the next best thing—a room divider.

Partitions come in all shapes and sizes. Some solutions, like folding screens, barely take any effort to set up, while others, such as built-in bookcases and nonstructural walls, require a little more planning. All that to say, breaking up your space can be as involved as you want it to be. (Psst: Often a row of large plants will do the trick.) Try any of these floor-plan hacks and you’ll be living large through remote work and beyond.

The Fringe Curtain

open kitchen dining room with wooden island and beaded curtainPin It
Photography by Impressive Spaces

In this Kansas City, Missouri, rental, designer Spencer Sight picked a ceiling-mounted bamboo hanging that looks like a more elevated version of the early-2000s beaded variety we all had in our bedrooms. It divvies up the dining area and kitchen without compromising the open airiness of the floor plan—truly the best of both worlds. 

The Lengthy Sofa

white studio apartment with neutral furniturePin It
Photography by Johnny Fogg; Styling by Jen Levy

When your bedroom is also your living room, you have to use furniture to your advantage. That’s what Jen Levy did in her sunny 600-square-foot studio: A large cream-colored couch draws a clear line between the two. 

The “Frigloo”

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Photography by Thayer Gowdy

Photographer Thayer Gowdy knew she wanted her refrigerator to have prime real estate in her open-concept Ojai, California, home. At the same time, she realized it wasn’t ideal to force guests to stare at the appliance’s back every time they lounged on the sofa. Her solution? An arched structure (dubbed the frigloo) that not only houses electrical and plumbing but also offers a place for her extensive record collection to shine on the other side, expertly breaking up the space. If you’re not up to the DIY task, consider placing an arched cabinet on the other side of your large appliances to ensure all eyesores are properly hidden.

The Perforated Screen

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Photography by Jon McMorran

When it comes to small spaces, natural light is key. That’s why Sara and Adam Gilmer wanted to protect the stream of sunlight emanating from their stairwell’s window while still sectioning off the neighboring breakfast nook for cozy family meals. They turned to a perforated metal screen that not only filters the rays but also separates stair traffic from dinnertime.

The Breeze Blocks

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Photography by Andrew Butler

In an effort to differentiate her living room from her kitchen, Mariah Burton used an abundance of breeze blocks, a see-through type of cinder block made popular in the ’50s and ’60s. She simply stacked them on top of one another, added a coat of sealant, and—voilà!—a room divider that casts gorgeous geometric shadows on the floors and walls when the light hits just right.

The Step Bookcase

blue sofa in a white room with red tablePin It
Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Graphic designer Timothy Goodman’s bookshelf checks off two boxes at once: It disguises part of the bed and offers a ton of storage. High-to-low pieces like this are key because they maintain an open and airy feel.

The Bamboo Screen

bamboo divider and cactus plantPin It
Photography by Sugar and Cloth

The quickest way to create a sense of separation is with furniture, specifically folding dividers. They can go anywhere (between a bed and a sofa, in front of a clothing rack, next to a dining table) and they’re easy to spice up. Sugar and Cloth transformed a simple one from IKEA with a few long strands of colorful yarn.

The TV Stand

open living rom with large sofa banquettePin It
Photography by Sean Litchfield

Since there was only one wall available for artwork in this 600-square-foot apartment, designer Charlotte Sylvain of Studio Fauve came up with an ingenious invention: a banquette–meets–media console with a remote-controlled lift that conceals (or reveals!) a flat-screen at the touch of a button. When left up, the TV separates the living and dining areas.

The Large Leafy Plants

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Photography Courtesy of Jess Blumberg

Designer Jess Blumberg delineates her sleeping space with decor, specifically a butterfly chair and a grouping of tall greenery, including a snake plant and palm tree. There’s always room for a mini jungle no matter how tight your quarters.

The Drapes

pink dining room with large sliding glass doorsPin It
Photography by Nirut Benjabanpot

With just the flick of the wrist, this Hong Kong dining room can be made to feel like a private booth at a restaurant, thanks to two sliding glass and steel doors. But that’s not what has us most excited: The space also features a ceiling-mounted track for curtains, something any renter can emulate without sacrificing their entire security deposit.

The Built-In Shelves

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Photography by Kirsten Diane

DIY blogger Kirsten Diane didn’t craft this minimalist bookshelf for a studio apartment, but that doesn’t mean her bright divider idea can’t be applied to one. If you see yourself in your place for a long while, consider investing in a more permanent partition that stretches floor to ceiling.

The Café Curtains

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Photography by Allyson Lubow

While we appreciate that pass-throughs encourage connection when we’re cooking for friends, we don’t always want the lingering smells following us. An immediate fix: Hang some curtains cut to size (ombré optional). See you on the flip side.

Ask Domino

What are Domino editors’ favorite room dividers?

“I’m all about using a bookshelf as a room divider,” says Domino’s associate style editor, Julia Stevens. “If you fill it up only partially, you are still able to see the rest of the space and don’t run the risk of breaking your room up entirely as you might with a folding screen or wall. Alternatively, you can’t go wrong with a lengthy sofa. Want to add more height to your division? Place a slim console against the backside of the couch and style it with plants, books, and a cordless lamp.”

Can you DIY a room divider?

Whether you’re separating the living and sleeping spaces in a studio apartment or merely adding more privacy to an open-concept living-slash-dining room, you can make your own partition in a pinch. Laurence Leenaert, the artist and founder behind Moroccan brand LRNCE, mounted her handcrafted textiles to the ceiling with metal hooks, which, in the right space, would make for the perfect hanging room divider. But if you’re looking for something a bit sturdier, why not dream big and create a movable wall, like Anthony D’Argenzio did in his This Old Hudson rental residence. All you need is a ceiling track, iron hangers, vintage doors, and a bit of patience.

Introducing Domino’s new podcast, Design Time, where we explore spaces with meaning. Each week join editor at large Jessica Romm Perez along with talented creatives and designers from our community to explore how to create a home that tells your story. Listen now and subscribe for new episodes every Thursday.

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