"Wide open spaces" might be a calming mantra for some, but when it comes to our homes, a lack of privacy can definitely be a pitfall rather than a source of serenity. Whether you're living the city life in a studio apartment that has the kitchen, bedroom, and living room all rolled into one, or you're looking for a functional way to divvy up a space that's too expansive to handle (like a newly-finished basement), division is key. However, putting up walls isn't always an easy (or affordable) route to take. Instead, it pays to get creative—using unique architectural elements, common household furnishings, or even fabric to make your spaces a little more separate.
Click through for some of our favorite room divider ideas, ranging from involved architect-approved options to simple DIY solutions you can tackle in a weekend or less.
Make It Personal
Using draperies as room dividers is nothing new, but the way that designer Alexandra Champalimaud put a personal twist on this classic look definitely is. Champalimaud selected curtains that resemble the Portuguese flag to introduce a unique and unexpected element to the space—and to make these artful dividers a functional focal point. The best part? This idea can easily be replicated for any number of national flags (or even semaphore designs) to align with your own family's story.
Studio apartment dwellers, this one's for you. Designer Kevin Dumais utilized a custom freestanding media piece to create a faux "wall" that both provides storage on one side and defines a bedroom area in this open space. Adding artwork to the back of the unit completes the polished, sophisticated appearance and further delineates the different "zones" from the moment you step inside.
Embrace The Architecture
In a space with lots of history, it makes sense to give a nod to the past with your room divider—like these stunning partial walls, spotted at the storied Apthorp Building in New York's Upper West Side (the former home of Nora Ephron). The sleek and modern kitchen is balanced beautifully with the architectural element of the glass and metal.
Try Subtle Space Dividers
This cozy kitchen has a few tips we'd like to steal. First, banquette seats that extend out into the room create a natural division between the breakfast nook and the kitchen. But perhaps the most ingenious part of this design is how subtle cues along the ceiling allow us to interpret the spaces as separate—the unique reclaimed beams up above add just enough contrast to catch the eye and allude to separation of the spaces. We'll definitely be trying this trick at home.
Make It Multifunctional
Everything old is new again—so it shouldn't be so surprising that the original DIY room dividers, a.k.a. screens, are making a major comeback. While you might associate these ornate fabric or rattan screens with vintage dressing rooms, they're a stunning (and versatile!) way to divvy up a space. We love how adaptable they are, especially for those limited by small-space living—when guests are over, it's easy to use a statement-making screen to hide a messy desk, or open the space up to allow for more room to congregate.
If you're dividing up a space that has a partial wall already in place, this double-take-inducing curtain trick is a clever idea. Add floor-to-ceiling draperies starting at the existing partial wall, then extend it out into the space you want to divide. The final touch, as explained by designer Dana Wolter: "Floating a piece of art on draperies allows the art to stand out—and add a pop of high-impact color. Here, the artwork was hung by placing wood blocking behind the sheer draperies. We then attached a nail to the block through a small hole in the sheer draperies." The result is both quirky and ethereal, making it look like the art is curiously suspended on the curtains.
Mix In Metals
Gorgeous wrought-iron detailing isn't just for your front gate. This stunning, glamorous design creates visual separation without completely closing off this chic dining area—so you can see through it and stay in on the action, without letting the different spaces bleed together.
Scour architectural re-use stores for ornate, historical materials that can serve as a one-of-a-kind room divider—from beautiful latticework to reclaimed window frames. You never know what you might uncover.
Make It Pop
Sometimes, all a space needs in order to feel "separate" is something to draw the eye toward the division. This dining room came complete with a partial wall, creating some separation from the rest of the home, but the unique wood wall treatment is what really makes it bold. Try DIY-ing a similar effect with peel-and-stick wood products—an easy way to transform a space (and draw a visual line in your floorplan) in just an afternoon.
Barn doors have been a major trend for years now—and with their rustic-yet modern farmhouse charm, it's easy to see why. But why not take a cue from the actual barn doors of old and use an oversized fixture to section off a space? Pass-throughs can be reimagined to be completely closed off when needed, with barn doors serving the purpose of a pocket door. The result: more cleanly segmented spaces that allow for privacy—or parties—depending on what your current mood requires.
Show Your Tile Style
Standalone soaking tubs are on every homeowner's wishlist right now...but not every bathroom was designed with them in mind. This space uses a partial wall to create some necessary separation between the shower area, while also adding a luxe backdrop for those long spa-like soaks.
In love with a tile style that's way above your budget? A low wall is the perfect place to add in your favorite splurge-y style (without breaking the bank), since it doesn't require much square footage. (Just be sure to use a coordinating—but more budget-friendly!—tile treatment elsewhere to keep things cohesive.)
Shop Your Home
Sometimes, the best room dividers are right under your nose—in the form of furniture pieces that can be repurposed. Designer Katie Martinez used a wide desk to divide up this space, solving the need for a headboard and a clear path to the built-in bookshelves all at once. How's that for working overtime?
Fake It (Or Make It)
This is an easy idea we love for playrooms, basements, lofts, and really, any other large space that's lacking in both storage and separation. Designer Katie Hackworth made clever use of simple shelving and swaths of fabric when designing her own office's HQ in a formerly overlooked older building. She and her team managed to "fake" a wall of storage with affordable modular pieces, and then create a clean visual by hanging fabric behind. Okay with a little hide-and-seek? You can always leave the fabric element out if you want to keep an eye on the kids in the other room.