The Best Room Dividers Turn One Space Into Two
Neutral or patterned—the options are endless.
Published Aug 6, 2022 1:00 AM
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Reading up on Domino’s shopping guides is like having your own personal product concierge. We do the tedious part—deep-dive research, hands-on testing, and tapping experts for advice—so all you have to do is hit “add to cart.” That’s why we call them Simply the Best.
When designer Grace Lee-Lim was tasked with furnishing a large, open-plan Los Angeles living room, she knew just the piece to help break things up: a room divider. This portable partition can carve out multiple spaces from a singular one, taking on the role of a temporary wall. “I love room dividers because they have a multitude of functions,” she explains, noting they can also provide a colorful backdrop, add a bit of texture, or act as a shield of privacy. And while dividers have been around for centuries (and are often thought of as a more traditional decorative touch), there are plenty of iterations available on the market that would seamlessly fit into a modern setup. Our list of the best room dividers offers a range of patterns, shapes, and materials, including a DIY-able option prime for paint or wallpaper.
- Best classic: Serena & Lily Balboa Screen
- Best shape: Lichen Bamboo Room Divider
- Best modern: Lapalma Screen Tubes Room Divider
- Best texture: Anthropologie Pelle Polka Dot Upholstered Room Divider
- Best patterns: The Inside Scalloped Screen
- Best DIY: Home Depot Blank Canvas Room Divider
Best Classic: Serena & Lily Balboa Screen
Panels: 3 | Height: 72 inches | Price: $$$
What we like:
- High-quality, natural materials
- Dust often
Why we chose it: Can you really go wrong with cane, rattan, or wicker?
If you don’t want anything too crazy or funky, stick to the classics—a cane or rattan screen’s simplicity makes it that much more versatile. The hand-caned rattan panels provide a somewhat sheer quality while still offering plenty of privacy, thanks to the tightly woven format around a mahogany frame. Yes, there are all sorts of screens like these on the market, but we found ourselves most drawn to Serena & Lily’s offering due to the details (brass end caps at the bottom of its hand-wrapped legs; a smaller center panel compared to the large two flanking it).
Best Shape: Lichen Bamboo Room Divider
Panels: 1 | Height: 6 feet | Price: $$
What we like:
- Available to rent
- Choose between a lighter honey or darker natural color
- No international shipping available
Why we chose it: If you need a bit of privacy or a trendy backdrop, tap this wavy wonder.
You can spot this bamboo room divider in the home of digital entrepreneur Alyssa Coscarelli’s L.A. home—it’s actually the piece her friends ask her about the most, even though she mainly uses it as a backdrop in photos. Former Domino staffer Lily Sullivan uses it more functionally in her eclectic Brooklyn residence, where it hides her feline friend’s litter box. And that’s the beauty of this option; it’s flexible and lightweight enough to serve a number of uses beyond divvying up a main space. You can bend this divider into whatever shape you need, scrunching it up small into a corner or fully extending it out to its 8-foot length. In fact, Lichen’s very own spatial designer, Christine Espinal, keeps hers rolled up until bedtime, when she’ll unfurl it along her loft railing to create privacy between her personal space and the rest of the apartment she shares with two roommates.
Best Modern: Lapalma Screen Tubes Room Divider
Panels: 1 | Height: Varies from 24 to 47 inches | Price: $$$
What we like:
- 3 heights
- Free shipping
- Finishes in wood, black, and white
- Long lead times
Why we chose it: Tubular and trendy.
Although originally conceived with offices in mind, we can’t resist the idea of bringing this dowel-like divider home. You could easily use the curvy structure as a sophisticated take on a pet or child gate, or to create an intimate hideaway that still allows light to shine through. No matter if you go with the blanched wood or powder-coated metal in a white or black, this piece would fit right in with a Leanne Ford– or Benjamin Vandiver–inspired room. But perhaps our favorite feature is the fact that it’s modular and can attach to other screens from the same collection, whether you want to stick with the tubular trend or upgrade to customizable fabric screens.
Best Texture: Anthropologie Pelle Polka Dot Upholstered Room Divider
Panels: 3 | Height: 77.5 inches | Price: $$$
What we like:
- Fun, statement-making pattern
- No assembly required
- Requires a professional cleaning service
Why we chose it: Velvet, wood, and embroidery meet on three rounded panels.
There’s a lot to admire about this room divider. An homage to all things ’70s, its bright polka-dot embroidered pattern of greens, purples, yellows, and pinks is complemented by an upholstered leaf print. We’d bring this piece into a room where we’re trying to dial up warmth and playfulness or draw attention rather than be demure—it’s certainly not for someone who thrives in a minimalist environment. The slightly curved arch of the darker wood provides a bit of contrast and simultaneously holds the screens together. Dive into the dappled motif with a matching folding chair or accent seat.
Best Patterns: The Inside Scalloped Screen
Panels: 3 | Height: 72 inches | Price: $$
What we like:
- 60-plus fabric choices
- 1-year warranty
- Costs $15 extra to ship
- Heavy (50 pounds)
Why we chose it: For whatever your room is missing: A cabana stripe? A whimsical scene? A fun floral? The Inside has it.
While the pattern choices are the star of this screen (there are nearly 100 eye-catching, colorful options, including the forever popular Scalamandré Zebras), the curvy, arched top of its silhouette lends an architectural elegance that goes beyond its cottagecore roots. The pine frame is completely upholstered in whatever fabric you choose. But since there are so many on offer, try a $1 swatch (or a few) shipped first for free.
Best DIY: Home Depot Canvas Room Divider
Panels: 3 | Height: 48 inches | Price: $$
What we like:
- Customize to your heart’s content
- Somewhat short
Why we chose it: A literal blank canvas.
If Domino’s style director, Naomi deMañana, had to pick out a divider for her next DIY project, she’d go with this four-panel blank screen made with kiln-dried, mitered spruce wrapped with art canvas. For just a little over $100 (you can upgrade to a taller, 6-foot version for about $45 more), you can snag this screen and use your leftover funds for paint or wallpaper to personalize it. Canvas, deMañana says, is one of the easiest materials to manipulate, and this particular option is primed for glue or a brush, so there won’t be much prep work involved, if at all.
Vintage Picks From a Pro
While Lee-Lim has used screens from major retailers like Crate & Barrel for clients, her secret to finding the best room dividers is searching for vintage Asian screens via 1stDibs and Chairish. Here are a few of her top picks:
- This Japanese screen from the 1900s. “I love the duality of using this as a room divider on top of a piece of furniture, as well as being able to use it as an artwork hung on the wall. Not to mention the subject matter—who doesn’t love those puppies?” she shares.
- The playfulness of the painted wainscoting of this trompe l’oeil Swedish screen is what drew Lee-Lim’s attention. “It brings a level of quirkiness and fun into whatever space that it’s in,” she notes.
- She would also tap a large mid-century screen for a different vibe. “It’s so light and feminine,” she offers. “It could be such a lovely backdrop and space divider behind a sofa in a living room or a nursery.”
- If you need something smaller, a Robert Crowder divider “can be a little more serious and elegant,” she points out. “But it can still function as a divider if placed on top of a low console or bookshelf.”
How We Chose These Products
The best room dividers aren’t just for supersmall studio apartments. They’re also great at splitting up a large, open room or simply adding a bit of visual intrigue against a wall. In other words, these dividers perfectly balance form and function. And to put together our list of current favorites, we selected a range of styles and materials from brands we know and love, and then tapped deMañana and Lee-Lim for their expert approval. Both also shared their personal recommendations on particular pieces and insight on how they’d either use the dividers or personalize them.
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Room dividers do what they say: They visually break up spaces into sections. They can also set an intentional path for people to move around a room. “Room dividers are wonderful to incorporate more texture (like fretwork or caning) or art (like painted screens or chinoiserie) in a space, while also creating separation and privacy in a less permanent way than a wall would,” offers Lee-Lim.
Dimensions and Panels
When picking out a room divider, it’s important to consider the space you’ll be placing it in. For instance, you wouldn’t want a short room divider somewhere with extra-tall ceilings. These decorative accessories typically range in height from 3 to 7 feet. The width is more dependent on the amount of panels—usually three to five foldable sections—that can be adjusted to a needed look.
The material of the panels will determine how much privacy your wall divider provides. Do you want it to be a bit see-through, to let through a lot of light, or does it need to be completely opaque? This will impact whether you go with, say, solid woven rattan, strips of bamboo, or semitransparent paper.
Design and Shape
“I love room dividers that also function as art,” shares Lee-Lim, who adds that you can bring that in with wainscoting or hand-painted details. “You have a great opportunity to enhance the space and create a visually arresting backdrop as well.”
Not all screen dividers have to look rectangular or square either—some of our favorites are rounded, even asymmetrical, which can give this typically traditional element a bit of modern or contemporary flair.
Q: Any advice on how to add wallpaper to my room divider?
If you can’t seem to find the right room divider, you can always DIY your own, which is what Sally Smallwood did to her IKEA Risor screen. She decoupaged it with Fine & Dandy Co. wallpaper, one of the best statement wallpapers, which enhanced it with an Art Deco–inspired take on cranes. For traditional wallpaper, you’ll need the help of PVA glue. But deMañana notes that the type of wallpaper you choose should match up with the screen material. For instance, if you go with peel-and-stick wallpaper, you’ll need an ultra-flat surface that won’t interfere with the adhesion. The roughened texture of canvas, she warns, will also be tricky when it comes to sticking.
Q: Can I paint a room divider instead?
If the wallpaper route feels like too much work, there’s always paint. Just keep the material in mind—that’s why deMañana almost always sticks to canvas. You can either go for something completely abstract or use painter’s tape to create stripes or a grid pattern and achieve supercrisp, clean lines.
Q: Is there anything else I can use to split up spaces in a room?
Of course! Room dividers aren’t the only decorative addition that does this. We’ve also seen designers tap curtains hung from the ceiling and tall bookcases, too. This is especially handy if you happen to live in a small space without many walls or you aren’t sure how to make an extra-large living space multifunctional.
The Last Word
The best room divider is as much a small-space savior as an essential for bringing an open floor plan to a more human scale. Our favorites, however, do more than that—they can add texture, pattern, and an artistic flourish to any interior. See you on the other side.