On the Hill, a House divided usually leads to ugly gridlock. But at your own place, splitting one room into two can make good design sense, whether it’s for privacy concerns or to break up a large space.
A folding screen might be the first thing you’d think of to, say, fence off the bed in a 400-square-foot Logan Circle studio or to create a dressing area in a Vienna bungalow. But other options — curtains, netting, bookcases, plants — can also cordon off things harmoniously.
Still, “don’t just create a little box and break up the sight lines of a room,” says Darlene Chimaliro, a D.C. interior designer with Studio MOD(ish) (studiomodish.com). “Having light come through is key.”
And don’t throw a Japanese Shoji screen in your living room simply because you crave an exotic vibe. “It should make sense why you’re dividing a room,” says Arlington decor blogger Michele Ginnerty of My Notting Hill (mynottinghill.blogspot.com). This means “yes” to using velvet drapes to section off your desk in a big bedroom but “no” to wedging Grandma’s ’70s brass screen into a weensy bathroom.
Here are some ways to stylishly put a partition in your place.
In a jumbo, one-room loft, “think about mounting a big door to the ceiling on a sliding track,” says Chimaliro. Score patina-ed vintage ones at Community Forklift (4671 Tanglewood Drive, Edmonston, Md.; 301-985-5180, communityforklift.com); non DIYers should consider hiring a contractor to install them.
Renting? Folding screens can create a new “room” sans nails. Look for rustic styles at World Market (worldmarket.com) or glam ones at Jonathan Adler (1267 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-965-1416, jonathanadler.com).
Open bookcases — think Ikea’s blocky Expedit — can break off part of a room and provide storage, all without spoiling a small zone’s sight lines. “It’s nice to even use a piece of furniture that’s only four or five feet tall,” says Ginnerty. “That way you signal a separate area, but don’t block out light.”
The same off-the-rack drapes (try Pottery Barn, West Elm or Restoration Hardware) that you buy for windows can also be mounted on the ceiling to create a home-office zone or bed nook in a studio apartment. Measure first, then buy curtains that hit the floor, or you’ll get an unappealing high-watered look. One sleek mounting option: Umbra’s Glide Track System ($30-$50, bedbathandbeyond.com).
If privacy isn’t an issue, you can zone a room via a long line of house plants (just be sure you’ve got a good source of light) or, if you’ve got hippie leanings, an old-fashioned bead curtain.