A paper or pale-colored, lightweight-fabric screen won't completely block light.

Separating an Open Room

by Lorna Hordos

An open room feels spacious and airy, but if you separate it into temporary separate spaces, you instantly create more ways to use it. Depending on your needs, divided space provides privacy or blocks an unwanted view. Your family's options don’t have to include a permanent wall. A simpler, temporary alternative is reversible, may let through light or offer visual openness.

1. Room Dividers

The "N" shape of a room divider's hinged panels makes it a free-standing partition. Use it outside of a bathroom door to create the idea of a hallway -- and block a direct view of the toilet -- or at an entrance to hide a pile of shoes and row of backpacks, for example. But even a lightweight free-standing divider isn't the safest, most ideal solution if you have a toddler or an infant who relies on the furniture, walls and everything else within reach to pull up on. Securing it to a wall with brackets helps to keep it from toppling, but isn't a fail-safe.

2. Plants

A wall of plants can form a division. Even though you can see through the branches and leaves to some degree, the plants form an illusion of separation. Position a few tall plants, such as ferns or dwarf pine trees, to form an organic screen; hang a row of lush spider plants, ivy or jade plants above them. The "living wall" looks good from both sides; arrange it behind a couch that backs a dining area to form coziness or hide a chaotic family room. Some plants are poisonous, so if you have young kids or indoor pets, opt for silk plants.

3. Fixed Bookcases

Back-to-back bookcases make useful "walls." Open, cube-style bookshelves allow some light through and don't totally block sightlines -- depending on how you fill them. Use open shelving to create an office space at one end of a living room, or closed-shelving units to divide a shared bedroom. Keep the heavy dividers from toppling by affixing them together and to the floor joists with metal brackets, or secure them to a wall using a furniture-strapping kit.

4. Hanging Screens

Hanging or rolling screens have a modern bent, and you can place them near a wall or mid-room. Sliding or rolling screens work similar to sliding patio doors. Hang a fixed screen from the ceiling similar to how you hang curtains. If one side of the space doesn’t have a window and privacy isn’t an issue, use a light-filtering screen. Store two or more screens to pull out to separate a wide span as need demands. Use the screen's location as the starting point for changing the wall color to form even more visual separation.

5. Furniture Placement

By simply rearranging the furniture, you create the illusion of having two rooms. Lay down an area rug where you want to create separate spaces. Group the furniture for each "room" around the rug. For example, pull together spread-out living room furniture to create a cozy conversation area, and use the gained space for a dining room table or a computer nook. A plus is that the open sightline allows you to monitor your children's online activities.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images