Separate work from play at home with these 11 room divider ideas

Lindsay Tigar, CNN Underscored
Thu May 21, 2020

CNN Underscored has interviewed experts to find the best options to help you cope during this uncertain time. Find all of our coronavirus-related coverage here, and let us know your thoughts here.

For many of us these days, our homes have morphed from the place we lay our heads to our office, our gym, our daycare, our fine dining restaurant, our go-to watering hole and — everything else, too. There may not be any other choice with stay-at-home orders in place, or if you're choosing a cautious approach to going out; but it's easy to get annoyed or frustrated with so many activities happening under the same roof. This is especially true for households that have two (or more!) working professionals, or parents juggling their professional and personal duties.

Rather than having (yet another) stay-at-home meltdown, there are creative ways to make your living arrangements more functional. How? By using wall dividers. Before you imagine that old fold-out screen your grandparents used to stow away under the bed, keep in mind interior designers have used their imagination to dream up all sorts of options.

These smart strategies and hacks can add character, dimension and even property value by sectioning off various areas for specific purposes — and perhaps best of all, keep your home peaceful, rather than chaotic.

Create mounted drapery

Curtains and drapes aren't just for windows, says interior designer Cheryl Luckett. In fact, ceiling-mounted drapery provides a soft and luxurious option for creating division within a space. Though it will take a bit of handy work, this type of divider can provide varying degrees of privacy, based on your preference and situation, she explains. During "working hours," you can pull them open, and then close them when you're logged off.

"Be aware of the drapery panel length," she advises. "To achieve floor to ceiling division, you'll likely need longer panels than what you'd pick for a window."

Try this: Cambria Premier Complete Ceiling Mount Bracket in Oil Rubbed Bronze ($14.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)

Cambria Premier Complete Ceiling Mount Bracket in Oil Rubbed Bronze

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Cambria Premier Complete Decorative Drapery Rod in Oil Rubbed Bronze (starting at $29.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)

Cambria Premier Complete Decorative Drapery Rod in Oil Rubbed Bronze

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Laura Ashley Geometric Sheer Curtain Panels ($48.99, originally $69.99; wayfair.com)

Laura Ashley Geometric Sheer Curtain Panels

Go retro with rattan

Interior designer and home organizer Anna Bauer says rattan has been making a comeback lately in home decor. Not only is it a chic and retro way to divide a room, but it's a quick solution if you're in a bind. Pretty enough to fit in with the rest of your area, yet useful for separating one room from another, it can come out when you need it and be stowed away when you're finished.

"It is also beneficial for dividing a space while still allowing light through, which is often a challenge when choosing room divider panels," she adds.

Try this: Beachcrest Home Macey Room Divider ($119.09, originally $167.70; wayfair.com)

Beachcrest Home Macey Room Divider

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Ria Room Divider Screen ($329; urbanoutfitters.com)

Ria Room Divider Screen

Consider a rolling rack

If you aren't ready to commit to ceiling-mounted drapery, you can pull off a similar look using a rolling rack and a shower curtain or drapes. Interior designer Maggie York says this strategy is an easy and inexpensive way to create sectioned-off space when you need it at home. The trick is to think upscale with your "drapery" choices, so it looks like an intentional part of the space.

"Be sure you choose a rolling rack with an adjustable height for more privacy," she continues. "If you are choosing a drapery panel, make sure it is a ready-made curtain with eyelets or ties, so it is ready to hang on the rolling rack for instant privacy."

Try this: Pipeline Adjustable Height White Rolling Garment Rack ($129.43; homedepot.com)

Pipeline Adjustable Height White Rolling Garment Rack

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Maya Cotton Geometric Single Shower Curtain ($38.99, originally $120; wayfair.com)

Maya Cotton Geometric Single Shower Curtain

Choose an upholstered room divider in your aesthetic

If you're not much for DIY projects, don't sweat it. Luckett says there are countless ready-to-go room dividers available. One idea that will make the room division feel more seamless and less interrupted is choosing an upholstered option that matches your living area's colors and textures. If you can, Luckett suggests finding a vintage (or vintage-looking) option to add another layer of interest and create a statement in your home.

Try this: Mansour 3 Panel Room Divider ($379.99, originally $499; wayfair.com)

Mansour 3 Panel Room Divider

DIY your own panel divider with wallpaper

No matter how far and wide you browse online, you can't find a room divider that checks every box on your wish list. Why not design your own? York says an easy way to match your space divider to your home's theme is to purchase an inexpensive flat-panel room divider and peel-and-stick wallpaper. To pull it off, York says to measure and cut your wallpaper with a razor blade. Then, peel 10 inches of the wallpaper backing off and begin applying it to the room divider.

"Work your way to the bottom and make sure you smooth out the air bubbles with a plastic smoother tool," she recommends. "If you have someone in your home that can help you apply the paper, that will help, but it is possible to pull this off on your own if you do so carefully."

Try this: 6 ft. White Do It Yourself Canvas 4-Panel Room Divider ($129.99; homedepot.com)

6 ft. White Do It Yourself Canvas 4-Panel Room Divider

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Peaches Removable Wallpaper ($49; urbanoutfitters.com)

Peaches Removable Wallpaper

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Newlin Floral Removable Peel and Stick Wallpaper Roll ($16.99, originally $24; wayfair.com)

Newlin Floral Removable Peel and Stick Wallpaper Roll

Create a macrame masterpiece

Though macrame is a popular decor piece, you may not have thought about how it can serve as a room divider. And if you need a project to pass the stay-at-home hours, Bauer says you can create your own!

"The goal when dividing space is to make a clear delineation between the spaces while still cohesively tying them together," she continues. "Macrame is a great way to achieve just enough privacy with style. With the fibers being strong but malleable, you can add extra touches like air plants or photos to your macrame divider customizing it even further."

Try this: MacrameDecorStore Macrame Door Curtain (starting at $118; etsy.com)

MacrameDecorStore Macrame Door Curtain

Use an area rug

Sometimes, all it takes to split up an oversized space is to play a trick on your eyes. As Alessandra Wood, the vice president of style for the online interior design service Modsy explains, rugs of various shapes and sizes send different messages. As an example, you might choose an 8-by-10-foot carpet for your living room arrangements, but then place a long runner and a credenza behind the sofa to signify the start of your dining room.

"I like to think of this approach as the department store approach where you have tiled walkways paired with carpeted departments: the simple change of texture within the flooring signals to your brain that there are different functions in the open space," she explains.

Try this: Annmarie Abstract Cream Area Rug ($49.99, originally $158.05; wayfair.com)

Annmarie Abstract Cream Area Rug

Utilize bookshelves

Luckett says using a bookshelf as a divider packs a functional punch, providing not only division but also storage. There are many routes to go: open, closed, modern, traditional — you name it. Luckett says it's best to choose an approach that works with your aesthetic, and then fill it up depending on how much "see-through" area you want. The fuller the shelves, the greater division you create. If you want sunlight to flow through, though, keep it less packed and more minimalist.

Try this: Cubeicals Cube Bookcase ($111.99; wayfair.com)

Cubeicals Cube Bookcase

Put your sofa to use

Believe it or not, your couch could be the best room divider you have right now. As designer Melanie Harris explains, folks with an open floor plan can place a desk behind a tall and long sofa, and add a swivel chair and table lamp, to pull off the "office" look.

"It works because the sofa acts as a visual divider and creates a sense of a separate space," she adds.

Try this: Funes Desk ($117.99, originally $195; wayfair.com)

Funes Desk

Create a plant wall ...

Not only do plants add life to your home, but they can make a beautiful, garden-inspired way to separate spaces in your home. Luckett says building a plant wall is an excellent option for those with a penchant for bohemian style, since plants come in an infinite variety of heights, widths and foliage density. And hey, if you don't have a green thumb, go the faux route. As you design your vertical oasis, make sure you fill it in enough to provide privacy.

Try this: Boxwood Hedge (Set of 18) ($255.99; wayfair.com)

Boxwood Hedge

... or use tall plants on plant stands.

Another option for those who enjoy nurturing indoor plants is to think tall with your next purchases. As Bauer explains, the benefit of using plants as a room divider is that it allows you to bring in different textures without blocking too much light or airflow to the remaining space. Plus, your plant babies will purify the air. Her best recommendations are snake and Monstera plants, as well as palms, all of which reach for the skies.

"You can choose plant stands that are tall or mid-height depending on the privacy you want. If you're tight on floor space, using hanging plants in a row gives you the benefit of defining each space without impacting square footage," she adds.

Try this: Taranto Multi-Tiered Plant Stand ($93.99; wayfair.com)

Taranto Multi-Tiered Plant Stand

Union Rustic 6 Artificial Agave Succulent in Pot Set ($39.99; wayfair.com)

Union Rustic 6 Artificial Agave Succulent in Pot Set

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed prices at the time of publication.