Interior Design 101: 6 Genius Ways to Use Partitions

Double the functionality of a room or add structure to an open-plan space with creative partitioning.

May 16, 2017

By Liz Durnan, Houzz / Photo: Original photos on Houzz

In partnership with 

Sometimes an open floor plan is a little too open. It might work perfectly when your kids are young and you need to keep your eye on them, for instance, but when they’re boisterous teenagers, you might not want to look at (or hear) them quite as much. In a big area, you may want to break things up or create separate zones while maintaining airflow and visual connection. If you live in a small place, you may find it helpful to divide areas to create more useable space.

To get the best of both worlds, you can use partitioning effectively to expand a little space or to structure a large one while preserving light and flow. The partition can be functional—by providing storage—or merely decorative. Take a look at these great ideas to discover the many advantages of creative partitioning.

(Photo: Elayne Barre Photography, original photo on Houzz.)

1. Open Shelving

A simple open bookshelf is one of the easiest ways to create a temporary or flexible form of separation between one area and another. And the wonderful thing is that the open shelving lets the light through. You have a partition, but you still have a bright and airy space.

In a small space, such as this studio, open shelving is an effective way to create the impression of two rooms without sacrificing the connection and light.

Tip: Don’t be tempted to fill every shelf. If possible, display a small curated selection of ornaments to keep the shelves from looking too busy or cluttered, especially if you want to maintain a visual connection between one area and another.

This kind of cabinetry as screening can be built-in or free-standing. Shelves fixed in place have the advantage of solidity but are a more permanent feature. If you do change your mind in the future and decide to open up a space, however, removing the partition won’t be as big a job as removing a structural wall.

(Photo: Mr. Mitchell, original photo on Houzz.)

2. Fiber Art

This ’60s-inspired apartment features a dining nook separated from the open-plan kitchen-living area with the help of a macramé screen. So retro, so effective.

(Photo:Crescent Builds, original photo on Houzz.)

3. Curtains

One of the simplest ways to partition a space is with a good old-fashioned curtain and rod. The beauty of curtains is that they’re totally flexible, so it’s easy to open up or close off the space.

Using curtains to divide a bedroom from a living area can create coziness and allow privacy when needed. You can still let in light if and when you choose, making them very flexible in a small space.

Tip: When selecting curtain fabric, think about what you want it to do. If it’s to create privacy and promote coziness, go for a heavy drape. If you still want to let in light, go for a sheer. If you want it to do both, try two curtains—one block-out and one sheer—on a double rod for even greater flexibility.

(Photo: Contemporary Living Room, original photo on Houzz.)

4. Decorative Structures

Some of the many screens around today are also beautiful pieces of design in their own right. This subtle screen creates just a hint of a partition but mainly lets the light and views through.

(Photo: Living2Design, original photo on Houzz.)

5. Windows

Another interesting screen idea is to install interior windows. They maintain a visual connection between areas but help block noise and cooking odours. This makes windows an effective screen between a kitchen and a family room. Here, salvaged windows provide a screen without breaking the bank.

(Photo: Kevin Bauman, original photo on Houzz.)

6. Sliding Doors

Simple and beautiful, sliding doors allow you to have your cake and eat it too. They create a smooth flow between two areas when open, and easily separate spaces when privacy is preferred. Here, they allow for two separate rooms in one moment and (voilà!) an open-plan space the next.


More from Houzz

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