How to partition a room without building walls

If you need to divide a room into smaller sections but you do not want to build walls, or cannot build them due to a tight budget or because you are renting the space, temporary and portable partitions are the answer. Partitions may not be able to offer as much privacy and sound control as real walls, but they can visually create a separate space, redirect traffic, and solve other interior design problems.

Evaluate what functions the partition must accomplish. Partitions are often used to reduce visual distractions between task areas in a large space. Office cubicle partitions are a good example of this. The flow of foot traffic may be another job for a partition. Retail stores often erect partitions to direct flow for marketing purposes. Partitions can also provide backdrops where none exist: a special piece of furniture may need a backing of some sort behind it to focus attention on the item.

Suit the partition to the environment. Free-standing partitions that are not attached to floors or ceilings, such as shoji screens, are not a good idea in homes with small children and pets. Knocking over these free-standing partitions in rough and tumble households is too likely. Very large and heavy partitions, like sets of accordion-folding doors or mirrors, will not be practical in situations where the space changes regularly. Retail stores and community centres are good examples of ever-changing patterns that need lightweight and very portable partitions.

Double the duty of a partition. You can create a partition wall, and increase storage and display space at the same time, by using bookcases. Finish the back of the bookcase with an attractive material, such as panelling or drywall. Add trims and crown mouldings to complete the "wall" look. Do not overlook using metal utility closets and shelf units as partitions too. You can also mount a thin but solid wall panel to the back of a desk or a console table to create a double-duty partition. Both are very effective in partitioning rooms shared by children and teens.

Offer only a suggestion of a partition. If a subtle visual break is all you need, not any hard surface, consider creating a suspended partition of fine chain mail, netting, or long slender reeds or dowel rods. You can make wonderful suspended partition screens from beads and ordinary objects like paper clips. See-through partitions like this are surprisingly effective, at least visually, in breaking up spaces in large rooms.

Bring back curtain partitions. Curtains have been around as long as people have been building roofs over their heads. Homes in the Victorian age and all the way up to the 1930s often divided rooms with curtains or portmanteaus made of rich materials like velvet. The right materials in the right colours can make an outstanding partition in any room of your house.

Recycle and stack. Another option is to stack cast-off objects, like glass or concrete blocks, or unusual items like old computer towers, to create one-of-a-kind partitions. Keep safety in mind, however, to prevent these stacked walls from tumbling down.

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About the Author

A writer and entrepreneur for over 40 years, J.E. Myers has a broad and eclectic range of expertise in personal computer maintenance and design, home improvement and design, and visual and performing arts. Myers is a self-taught computer expert and owned a computer sales and service company for five years. She currently serves as Director of Elections for McLean County, Illinois government.

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