"Wide open spaces" might be a calming mantra for some, but when it comes to our homes, a lack of privacy can definitely be a pitfall rather than a source of serenity. Whether you're living the city life in a studio apartment that has the kitchen, bedroom, and living room all rolled into one, or you're looking for a functional way to divvy up a space that's too expansive to handle (like a newly-finished basement), division is key.
However, putting up walls isn't always an easy or affordable route to take. Instead, it pays to get creative. Using unique architectural elements, common household furnishings, and even fabric, it's simpler than you may think to separate your spaces. We've gathered the best solutions to divide and conquer—ranging from involved architect-approved options to simple DIY ideas you can tackle in a weekend or less.
Below, discover our favorite room divider ideas to make your home as stylish as it is functional.
Make It Personal
Using draperies as room dividers is nothing new, but the way that designer Alexandra Champalimaud put a personal twist on this classic look definitely is. Champalimaud selected curtains that resemble the Portuguese flag to introduce a unique and unexpected element to the space—and to make these artful dividers a functional focal point.
The best part? This idea can easily be replicated for any number of national flags to align with your own family's story.
Rethink Your Layout
In open-concept rooms, the layout is key. Designer Mani Tagba of Afro Bohemian Living used this bar table to break up space between the dining and living areas in her home.
Rather than a square or round table centered in the room with chairs on each side, this piece of furniture is tall enough to separate spaces at counter height. Thanks to the arrangement of seating, chairs are faced away to make the room feel like two dedicated areas with different functional intentions.
Studio apartment dwellers, this one's for you. Designer Kevin Dumais utilized a custom freestanding media piece to create a faux "wall" that both provides storage on one side and defines a bedroom area in this open space. Adding artwork to the back of the unit completes the polished, sophisticated appearance and further delineates the different areas from the moment you step inside.
Use Paint to Your Advantage
If you're working with a large great room, it can be challenging to separate the kitchen and dining areas from the living space. The furniture in this living room already helps to create a conversational section, but the most important element in this design comes down to paint.
Use contrasting colors to visually differentiate between spaces. Here, the trim makes a statement with sharp black lines that rest between each white room.
Embrace The Architecture
In a space with lots of history, it makes sense to give a nod to the past with your room divider—like these stunning partial walls, spotted at the storied Apthorp Building in New York's Upper West Side (the former home of Nora Ephron). The sleek and modern kitchen is balanced beautifully with the architectural element of the glass and metal.
Use an Architect's Eye
This entryway has a bold, built-in design that makes the open staircase feel like a new space. Separate the upstairs hallways from the main living areas on the first floor by installing floor-to-ceiling details rather than standard railings.
If you're not up for hiring an interior designer, this project can easily be completed in a DIY style by using metal bars attached to wood frames. Bonus: This trick can work to separate a bedroom from the living room in studio apartments as well.
Make It Multifunctional
Everything old is new again—so it shouldn't be so surprising that the original DIY room dividers, a.k.a. screens, are making a major comeback. While you might associate these ornate fabric or rattan screens with vintage dressing rooms, they're a stunning (and versatile) way to divvy up a space.
We love how adaptable they are, especially for those limited by small-space living. When guests are over, it's easy to use a statement-making screen to hide a messy desk or open the space up to allow for more room to congregate.
Design a Separate Sleeping Space
We could curl up in this bed all day. Simple curtains are used to separate this bed from the rest of the room, which is especially handy if you live in a studio apartment. In the morning day, tie your curtains back for a burst of natural sunlight. When you're ready to wind down, pull them closed for a cozy space that feels perfectly private.
Try Subtle Space Dividers
This cozy kitchen has a few tips we'd like to steal. First, banquette seats that extend out into the room create a natural division between the breakfast nook and the kitchen.
But perhaps the most ingenious part of this design is how subtle cues along the ceiling allow us to interpret the spaces as separate—the unique reclaimed beams up above add just enough contrast to catch the eye and allude to the separation of each area. We'll definitely be trying this trick at home.
Float Your Furniture
We can't stop swooning over this open living room design. Since the room is painted all white and there are no walls to physically create two rooms, a floating daybed is styled in the center of the room on a plush rug.
Viewing the space from the other side, the daybed acts as a central focal point to make the living room feel like a private corner.
If you're dividing up a space that has a partial wall already in place, this double-take-inducing curtain trick is a clever idea. Add floor-to-ceiling draperies starting at the existing partial wall, then extend it out into the space you want to divide.
The final touch, as explained by designer Dana Wolter: "Floating a piece of art on draperies allows the art to stand out—and add a pop of high-impact color. Here, the artwork was hung by placing wood blocking behind the sheer draperies. We then attached a nail to the block through a small hole." The result is both quirky and ethereal, making it look like the art is curiously suspended on the curtains.
Divide With Rugs
To create separate areas without putting up curtains or room dividers, style different rugs that make a visual impact on the floor. In her open living space, Tagba made a formal dining area with a simple neutral rug to contrast white designs on the other side of the room. Just be sure to choose the right rug size when placing them underneath dining tables: There should be enough room for each chair to pull out from the table comfortably without leaving the rug.
Mix In Metals
Gorgeous wrought-iron detailing isn't just for your front gate. This stunning, glamorous design creates visual separation without completely closing off this chic dining area—so you can see through it and stay in on the action, without letting the different spaces bleed together.
Scour architectural resale stores for ornate, historical materials that can serve as a one-of-a-kind room divider—from beautiful latticework to reclaimed window frames. You never know what you might uncover.
Create Separate Seating Areas
This tip works best in large, open areas: If you're styling a great room or an extravagant patio like the designers at Bespoke Only did in this space, create separate seating areas for groups to gather in a more intimate setting.
By choosing different styles of furniture for each table and placing a central rug between accent chairs, this oversized patio feels like four rooms in one.
Make It Pop
Sometimes, all a space needs in order to feel separate is something to draw the eye toward the division. This dining room came complete with a partial wall, creating some separation from the rest of the home, but the unique wood wall treatment is what really makes it bold.
Try DIY-ing a similar effect with peel-and-stick wood products—an easy way to transform a space (and draw a visual line in your floorplan) in just an afternoon.
Contrast Your Flooring
If you have the budget to spend, a small change of flooring can make all the difference in your home. Changing paint colors from the dining area to the cabinetry help these two open rooms feel separate, but the real impact comes from the floors.
Contrast floors are hot in the interior design world, and they're not going anywhere anytime soon. This space is a perfect example: By switching from hardwood floors to a patterned tile design, this cozy entry nook is a room of its own.
Barn doors have been a major trend for years now, and with their rustic-yet modern farmhouse charm, it's easy to see why. But why not take a cue from the actual barn doors of old and use an oversized fixture to section off a space?
Pass-throughs can be reimagined to completely close when needed, with barn doors serving the purpose of a pocket door. The result: more cleanly segmented spaces which allow for privacy—or parties—depending on your mood.
Take a Step Up
The midcentury-inspired architecture in this space is a vintage lover's dream. With two small steps that span the length of the room, this living room is completely separate from the formal dining area. White paint between each step helps add an element of contrast to the hardwood floors.
This isn't a project for beginners, however—if you're planning to raise your floors, it's best to consult an architect to find the best design options for your particular space.
Show Your Tile Style
Standalone soaking tubs are on every homeowner's wishlist right now, but not every bathroom was designed with them in mind. This space uses a partial wall to create some necessary separation between the shower area, while it also adds a luxe backdrop for those long spa-like soaks.
In love with a tile style that's way above your budget? A low wall is the perfect place to add in your favorite splurge-y style since it doesn't require much square footage. Just be sure to use a complementary tile treatment elsewhere to keep things cohesive.
Consider the Lighting
Even if you don't have walls or furniture that can create various areas in your home on its own, a few quick lighting upgrades might make the statement you're looking for. In this living room by House 9 Interiors, the dining nook in the corner feels intentional thanks to three white pendant lights.
The designers matched the color of the lights to the room's ceiling, which adds a hint of flow while allowing the hardware to create contrast. Central lights above the table draw the eye away from the living room seating to make a space perfect for dining, studying, reading, and more.
Shop Your Home
Sometimes, the best room dividers are right under your nose (in the form of furniture that can be repurposed). Designer Katie Martinez used a wide desk to divide up this space, solving the need for a headboard and a clear path to the built-in bookshelves all at once. How's that for working overtime?
Swap Your Sofa
Facing the sofa away from the dining room is an age-old designer layout trick to make the living room feel separate, but this piece of furniture takes it to a new level. With a custom, intricate wooden backing, this sofa looks similar to a half wall (but with much more style).
Swap your sofa for a new design, or take on a new DIY project by building a wood frame to wrap around the edges of the furniture. Be sure to match the height of your sofa for a seamless look that feels intentional.
Try a Geometric Approach
We're mesmerized by this living room layout. In the large great room, an intimate seating area is possible thanks to angular lines from the rug to the accent chairs and coffee tables.
This geometric approach leaves plenty of negative space for an interesting visual effect, but it also helps the room's other seating feel separate. It's all about flow: By positioning the chairs opposite (but next to each other) between each space, the natural walking paths lead to different sides of the open room.
Fake It (Or Make It)
This is an easy idea we love for playrooms, basements, lofts, and any other large space that's lacking in both storage and separation. Katie Hackworth made clever use of simple shelving and swaths of fabric when designing an office HQ in a formerly overlooked older building.
She and her team managed to "fake" a wall of storage with affordable modular pieces, and then create a clean visual by hanging fabric behind. Okay with a little hide-and-seek? You can always leave the fabric element out if you want to keep an eye on the kids in the other room.
Style Nooks With Furniture
This simple room divider idea is a great way to create cozy nooks on a budget. Place a bookshelf or cabinet next to your sofa to block off a private area, then choose a few pieces of floor décor to style around it. Here, a lush plant and angled coffee table create a visual difference between rooms.