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We could write a whole book on creative ways to divide up a room. Chapters would include strategic sofa placement, floating bookshelves, and using two smaller area rugs instead of one. But when you really want to separate things, nothing gets closer to an actual wall than a room divider. 

They’re also a great tool for keeping your more behind-the-scenes possessions out of sight. In a perfect world, there’s a proper utility closet, gym, and office. But until that’s a reality, screens keep the Peloton, printer, or even just storage bins corralled in the living room. Our top picks range from maximal pattern parties to calming woven classics, but whatever you choose is guaranteed to be an improvement on visible clutter. 

Our Favorite Room Dividers

Earthy Delights

Like unfurling a jute rug, a grasscloth or wicker room divider adds earthiness that grounds the space and also happens to go with, well, everything. VidaXL’s bamboo style rolls up, so you can easily tuck it away when you’re not using it. 

Customizable Cuties

Fabric is very personal, and it can take a while to find a pattern that feels right. Luckily, there’s no shortage of options for covering the below. Expect stripes, floral, animal prints, and solids galore.

Sheer Beauties

For those looking to create separation but not fully conceal, these will get the point across while still feeling light and airy. Our favorite is from CB2’s collaboration with Gianfranco Frattini, a folding screen made of blackened ash wood and based on the Italian designer’s original 1960s design. 

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Function

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,” says designer Grace 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.  

Materials 

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. 

Ask Domino

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. Also, 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 can 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—canvas is a great one. 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. 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.


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