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Divide and conquer

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Open-plan living has become increasingly popular over recent years. But there are times it can limit privacy and make it harder to zone areas. Here are a few ideas to help divide a space without putting up walls. Photo courtesy of Porta
Your home, your haven, your sanctuary, the place where the way you feel is just as important as the functions each space perform. But, it can be hard to find your place to escape when rooms roll into each other. 

Modern home layouts often combine the kitchen, dining and living area into a single space. This can make zoning the areas a challenge and create the feeling of a crowded space, while also limiting the privacy and seclusion of the individual rooms. 

But how can you solve this problem in your own home as well as in your projects without needing to build another wall? In this article we outline a variety of clever and elegant ideas to separate rooms, which can provide cost-effective and flexible solutions.

Partition walls

Partition walls are a great way to segregate the rooms without the costly inclusion of structural walls. These kind of vertical dividers designed with the purpose of subdividing a portion of a room from another, meaning it doesn’t require a door. Generally, partition walls are non-load bearing walls and therefore easily constructed, and removed later if required.  

The walls can be created using a variety of materials, but the most commonly used element is timber. Because partition walls are traditionally fixed and don’t act as a moveable object like doors, keep the slats open to provide light and air flow without compromising an open room design.

However, if you would like a non-static divider, wooden platforms can be fixed on pivots. This solution provides you with the flexibility of a section of privacy or one singular open zone.

You can use this as an opportunity to also add to the aesthetics of the room by creating a pattern with timber, paint, polish or even run LED strip lighting along the edges of the wood. This will add additional lighting to the room that is both energy efficient and individualistic. 
Photo courtesy of Porta


If zoning appeals to the client but they aren’t quite sold on partitions, you can create open-back shelving units. This will give the room the same creative divide with the added benefit of including storage space. 

Much like the partition walls, the open-back style will allow for a seamless blend between rooms without making the space feel cramped. They are a great way to display books or decor. But for something a bit more creative, try turning the shelving zones into a vertical indoor garden. Plants can help to reduce noise and add an extra layer of insulation and tranquillity. 

Open-plan living was designed to make a home feel larger and it goes without saying that one problem you may come across when dividing a space is making one large space feel like two smaller ones. To combat this issue and imply a greater amount of space, try adding mirrored glass in some of the shelves. This is a great way to make the space feel bigger and brighter by utilising natural light. 
Photo courtesy Raw Edge Furniture | Designer: Catriona Gregg
Photo courtesy Raw Edge Furniture | Designer: Catriona Gregg


Glass is robust, sleek and contemporary and the effects available are as varied as your imagination.

One suggestion is a tiled effect using clear- or textured-glass. Large tiles framed with black steel tend to exude a more industrial feel. Textures range from rolled patterns or design impressions providing obscuration and decoration. Large panels of glass offer privacy and beauty. Frosted glass is available in full frost coverage or with etched decorative patterning for a more personal touch. Frosted glass allows for greater privacy than clear but can sometimes make the space feel smaller. A way to offset this can be to think carefully about etched options, gravitating towards something with a wider etch, or tiling frosted- and clear-glass together.  

It can be challenging with glass to make it look more homely in comparison to a typical office building but there are ways to shift this feeling. Try various tiling patterns that add more flare than traditional options, such as curved framing or differing rectangular sizes. Or offset the glass with a minimalistic draw or shelving set beneath the glass, acting as a useful base. You could also go for a tinted or smoked colour. 

The major ‘don’t dos’ that will make it feel like an office space are glass dividers that run the length of the room and include a door or ones that rap around corners. They can make it feel very commercial in a residential environment.

In addition, stained glass designs are not only confined to federation windows in heritage properties. Stained glass can be an unexpected touch, whether the designs be abstract or naturalistic, providing the home with a more personalised space.  

An alternative solution could be to use Venetian glass bricks available from Austral Bricks

Shoji doors

For an option that isn’t as static as the ideas above, consider using shoji doors. Shoji doors have been used in perpetuity in Japan and have become synonymous with minimalism and elegance. In many areas of the home, the Western world has turned to Japan for inspiration in creating a space that sets forth principles of ‘zen’. Japanese interior design concepts aim to balance available space with the addition of furniture and objects. 

Shoji doors are created using translucent paper placed over a wooden frame, often designed to slide open (they are also available in a pivot opening). The wooden frame uses thicker wood in tall rectangles with thinner wood sitting inside, either shaped in rectangles or squares, this is known as a lattice frame. The internal thinner wood was originally used as a structural support for the paper.  

Today this isn’t entirely necessary, with traditional paper being substituted with a paper lookalike made of plastic or with frosted glass. However, many still feature the traditional lattice frame shoji doors are known for. 

This ‘opens up the door’ for more layout options with the thinner wood. Making it more customisable to suit the space it divides. 

Shoji doors are less intrusive to the eye and seamlessly blend into traditional white walls. While traditionally they feature darker woods, you can use any preferred wood type. The lighter shades are more subtle and will often blend in with the walls more consistently. 

Moveable options

At the end of the day when impermanence is the only answer you can always turn to furniture options, of which there are many. One of the most popular ones are freestanding folding screens. They have been used throughout history as a way to separate a room and add a level of privacy. Originating in China, the folding screens often featured various artworks across them and to this day many of them still feature artistic designs, making it a great way to include art in the home. 

Over the centuries as Eastern design influences moved westward, folding screens appeared in Europe, where they became increasingly used for privacy purposes, often being used in women’s dressing rooms – making it perfect for dividing a room. 

The possible downside to folding screens can be the size. While they are usually tall enough to conceal a person who is standing, they only have three rectangular screens. This means that it might get a slightly lost in a large space. So, if that’s a downside for you a way around this might be to go back to partition walls, but this time add a small inclusion – wheels. 

Adding wheels to the base of the partition wall or shelving unit allows you to have a more flexible divider that maintains the large statement of the partition wall. To make it look as smooth as possible, add a thin piece of wood around the base to cleverly conceal the wheels.  
If you are after a moveable divider that is a little cheaper than the other options, large plants may be the go. Indoor plants placed in large pots can still make a statement, the pots also have the advantage of being more customisable, often coming in an array of colours, shapes, sizes and patterns. So you will most definitely find something to fit the space. Indoor plants are also a great way to bring a slice of nature indoors while still providing you with the benefits of room division.