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Divide and conquer

Room dividers can turn an open-plan zone into multi-use spaces with separation and privacy. Find out how to divide a space instantly and inexpensively.

Photo courtesy of Raw Edge furniture


Kate Veteri

28 July 2021

While open-plan living is a popular concept, many homeowners still desire cosy places to escape – and room dividers can instantly make something out of nothing. Discover five clever options that are stylish, flexible and affordable.
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Room dividers can instantly make something out of nothing.
Photo courtesy of Porta.

Partition walls

A vertical divider segregates the room without building a structural wall. Generally, it’s a non-load-bearing wall so it’s easily constructed and may be removed if required. A variety of materials can be used, but the most popular is timber. Partition walls are fixed without a door while slats provide light and airflow without compromising an open-room design. 

If you prefer a non-static room divider, wooden platforms can be fixed on pivots. This provides flexibility – the room can be open plan or can become separate zones. 

Aesthetic elements can be introduced to a lightweight divider, such as colour and texture. In addition, LED strip lighting, which can be installed along the edges of the timber, is both individualistic and energy-efficient.
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Vertical timber divider.
Photo courtesy of Porta.


An open-back shelving unit separates the area and offers storage options where books and decorative objects can be positioned. Or why not try a vertical indoor garden, which can help reduce noise and improve air quality? It will add a tranquil feel and an extra layer of insulation. Overall, these units separate rooms without making the space feel cramped. 

While a divider can take away the spacious feel of open-plan living, turn to interior designers for some inside tips. A popular trick is to add mirrored glass to some of the shelves. Here, adding natural light makes the space feel bigger and brighter. 
Photo courtesy of Raw Edge furniture  
Photo courtesy of Raw Edge furniture 


Robust and sleek, glass units are as varied as your imagination. A black framed glass divider exudes an industrial feel with different patterns, opacities and tones on offer. Frosted or opaque glass allows for privacy but can sometimes make the space feel smaller. Consider etched decorative glass or a mix of frosted and clear glass. 

To add warmth and personality to the space, try a contemporary pattern such as curved framing or differing rectangular sizes. Offset the glass units with an inset niche to add an architectural touch. 
To prevent a corporate feel, make sure the glass divider doesn’t run the length of the room – or have a door installed. This would make it feel commercial in a residential environment. 

Surprisingly, stained glass design is not confined to Federation windows in heritage properties these days. Whether it’s abstract or expressionist, stained glass makes a strong design statement. 
Industrial style glass divider.

Shoji screens

The Japanese-style shoji screen is a lightweight sliding screen consisting of a wooden framework with a durable translucent acrylic insert. For a more traditional effect, try the white Japanese ‘washi’ paper. When positioned, the screen softly diffuses light throughout the house. It’s so lightweight, it can be easily moved to a different space. 

A shoji screen or door is less intrusive to the eye and works seamlessly with surrounding white walls. While the original screen features dark, moody frames, a range of timbers are now on offer to complement the interior’s colour palette. 
Japanese shoji style screen.


Drawing inspiration from design elements of the past, an olde-worlde screen can bring warmth to any room. Originating in China in the 4th century, the portable four-panel screen features ornate design that ranges from birds and flowers to buildings and waterfalls. Now available from quality design firms, the new versions provide a touch of art to the home. 

These oriental screens were embraced – and reinterpreted – by European artists in the 17th century. They were soon utilised for privacy purposes, particularly in women’s dressing rooms – making them ideal to divide a room. 
Throughout the centuries, the divider has changed but has always held its strength as a form-and-function winner. 

Over time, a slight inclusion – wheels – has become a must-have as it offers flexibility in a room. As a decorative touch, add a thin piece of wood around the base to cleverly conceal the wheels.
For a low-key privacy option, large plants may be the answer. Indoor plants placed in large pots – in any colour, shape, size or pattern – makes a design statement. It’s a great way to bring a slice of nature indoors while still providing you with the benefits of room division.

Not an HIA member yet? By joining Australia’s largest national association for the residential building industry, you’ll get access to a range of member benefits, as well as industry products and business services designed to help you manage, operate and grow.

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