Home & Garden

How room divider screens can bring depth to your living space

No place for separation anxiety here

Three panel wooden room divider screen, sold at Joss & Main Credit: Joss & Main

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Whether it’s to create separation in a large room or to cover up something unsightly on a wall (ugly radiator, we’re looking at you), implementing a room divider screen can solve a variety of home design issues. And, when it boasts its own unique design elements, the screen adds artistic flair to your space.

Decorative room divider screens come in a variety of materials, including wood, bamboo, fabric, lacquer, and paper. Choosing the right one and deciding where to place it can be daunting. We tapped a few interior design experts for advice on how to add “art” to “partition.”

How to select the right screen

Alessandra Wood, VP of style for online interior design service Modsy, says look no further than your current style to decide on the right one.

“If your décor is modern with an eclectic lean, patterned fabric or bamboo screens can add color or texture to the space,” she says. “If your décor is more streamlined, I’d opt for something that blends traditional and contemporary, such as this one from Urban Outfitters.”

Screens can double as art pieces

Rice paper screens can work in “Muji” style minimalist décor or “Japandi” (Scandinavian functionality meets Japanese rustic) spaces that leverage minimalist décor and light woods.

chairish and one kings lane
Credit: Chairish / One Kings Lane

Many online retailers, including Charish and One Kings Lane, feature room dividing screens among their stock.


Beyond splitting up space, NYC- and Paris-based interior designer Alexander Doherty suggests that “a phenomenal way of adding personality to a room is by decorating with a screen that essentially takes the place of art.”

A perfect choice for doing so is a Coromandel screen. Dating back to the late-17th and early-18th centuries, these room divider screens are carved wooden folding panels coated in black or dark lacquer and sometimes decorated. “Coco Chanel was actually famous for owning numerous Coromandel screens in her Paris apartment,” Doherty adds.

Doherty cautions against shorter screens, especially if you’re placing them against a wall and behind a piece of furniture like a sofa or bed. The screen should be tall enough that it goes as close to the ceiling as possible for that freestanding, concertina effect. If you find a shorter screen that you love, he suggests placing it to the side of a piece of furniture. For example, on one side of a sofa with an end table and lamp.

Fashionable screens solve functional problems

New York City-based design expert Kendra Ovesen says screens are an extremely versatile and affordable way to make a big impact in any space—something that’s important in today’s climate. “Right now, many of us are using our homes as the ultimate multi-purpose space—working, eating, sleeping, relaxing,” she explains.

Unless you have the square footage, this new way can be challenging. “Creating physical boundaries helps give structure to your day,” Ovesen says. “And screens are a flexible way to bring temporary definition to any room.”

west elm duo
Credit: West Elm

West Elm's Cecilia screen comes in a variety of colorful fabric patterns that makes a statement in any living space.


Set up a room divider screen to carve out your workspace, to create a feeling of privacy, and to enhance focus. Then when you’re ready to clock out, fold the screen up or move it to a wall for easy access.

A simple decorative screen also acts as a great problem-solver. Unsightly radiator? Cramped quarters? Damaged wall? The screen has it covered—literally.

Ovesen emphasizes that a screen can conceal the parts of your home that you don’t love instead of breaking the bank or starting a complicated project.

“You can go full statement piece and pick a fabric pattern with tons of personality, or get a design that [uses] other materials like glass or metal,” she says. Her pro tip: Reflective materials can make small spaces feel roomier.

Wood notes, “Placing a colorful screen behind your sofa adds depth to the space and can help break up large planes within the space.” This popular tactic works well in eclectic spaces where you might have artwork or mirrors hung on that wall as well.

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