six ways to divide your space

A layout of an open concept home

No matter the size of your home, sometimes it just makes sense to divide your rooms to make the space work better for you. We’ve been using this trick for years in larger houses for years, but even micro-apartments and condos often look and function better when the space is separated and defined.

With that in mind, here are six great ways to create two rooms from one without making any structural changes or breaking the bank.

1. Use a bookshelf as a divider

A long room can be beautifully divided into two parts by placing a bookshelf (or a pair) perpendicular to the wall. To make the room seem bigger, choose an open bookshelf like the Mod 55 or the Frankwell which lets the eye travel through the shelves into the adjacent space.

Both of these units are finished on both sides, which means they will look great from any part of the space. And, as a bonus, once in place, you will have created the perfect corner for a small reading or study nook.

2. Divide the room with plants

Plants are hugely popular right now and for good reason—they can bring life to your space and are the accessories that go with everything! In the same way that you can use bookshelves to divide a space, you can create a “wall” of tall, trailing and hanging plants.

For an interesting display, start with a low, open shelving unit like the Flintley, then place a row of hooks in the ceiling directly above to hold macrame plant hangers of varying lengths. As your plants grow and you add to your collection, your living room divider will fill in and become more lush.

3. Divide the room with a rug (or two)

Rugs can be used to delineate one space from another, either to define the spaces by use, to create a cozy area in a larger room, or to give a space identity. Although you aren’t building walls, per se, the outline of the rug tricks the eye into thinking there is a room there.

A good way to pick the right size rug to define your living room space is to find one that allows all the furniture legs to sit on top. The same rule applies to dining room rugs, but make sure it’s at big enough that the chairs stay on the rug when they’re pushed out. If your table has sides without chairs, allow at least 12” on each end.

Also, if your home lacks a proper foyer and your front door opens into your living space, you can use the rug trick to create the feel of a separate entrance. Choose a rug large enough to define the space and then add a few welcoming accessories like a small bench, mirror, and umbrella stand or coat rack.

4. Hang curtains

Bed Curtains

If the space you want to divide contains your living and sleeping quarters, you might consider hanging a set of floor-to-ceiling curtains between the two areas, to draw closed when needed. This is an especially good option if you ever plan to have guests stay the night in your living room space—even if the curtain is semi-sheer, you will both appreciate the added privacy. Plus, drawing the curtains closed at bedtime will make your bedroom area feel more cozy and romantic.

If your ceilings are quite tall, or if you just want to play with colour or texture, you may want to extend your panels’ length by adding a coordinating or contrasting band of another fabric, either at the top, bottom, or somewhere in the middle. For width, ensure that the panels add up to at least 1.5 times the width of the space they’re spanning to allow for a little softness when fully closed.

When it comes to hanging the curtains, most home improvement stores will have a variety of options for you to choose from, depending on the width of your room, including a simple track system that is installed on the ceiling to aircraft wire that is installed at the top of the walls and tensioned with special turnbuckles. Remember, the heavier your curtains, the sturdier you’ll want your hanging system to be; tension wire is best suited for use with curtains made from lightweight, semi-sheer fabrics.

5. Create a barrier with furniture

One of the most common ways to divide a space is to place the sofa in a way that sections the room in half. Done! Well, not quite. It might take a few more tweaks to make it look like two defined spaces and not just a sofa in the middle of a room.

To avoid the “floating sofa” scenario, you might also want to use a rug to create a cozy conversation area, like we did in #3, above. Or, you might choose to place another piece of furniture, like a desk or server, behind your sofa to create a work zone or to provide storage for the dining area. Be sure the top of the piece is level with or lower than your sofa to prevent an awkward view from the living room side.

If you're designing a space that will be primarily used for family fun and entertaining, a bar height table and stools can be used as a barrier to divide the room and create three distinct zones—tv watching, dining, games, for example. Placing the tall dining set in the center of the room, perhaps with its own lighting, gives it importance and differentiates it from the other areas. Plus, it will become a natural gathering spot and a handy place for drinks and snacks when the room is in use.

6. Highlight a focal point

Using wall art as focal point

One of the problems with multi-use rooms is they tend to lack focus. Your eye takes in everything at once and gets a little confused—is it a living room? A dining room? Both? If it’s not an option to divide your space physically, a good option is to use focal point to draw attention to one part of the room.

Start with your primary focal point in the part of the room that represents its primary use. In the case of a living room/dining room or living room/home office, it’s usually the living room. Once that has been decided, is there a feature of the room that you’d like to highlight, like a beautiful view or an architectural element like a fireplace? If not, you can create your own focal point with wall art, a beautiful piece of furniture, or by creating an accent wall with paint or wallpaper, for example.

Then, direct all the attention to your focal point by highlighting it with lighting and complementary design elements and building your seating area around it. HINT: @designonhermind's gallery wall (pictured above), featuring Samsung's The Frame TV and Kerrings cabinet is a great example of how to create a beautiful focal point with art and furniture working together in harmony. See how she put it together.

You can create a secondary focal point in the other area of the room, or if you may choose to downplay it, especially if it’s more utilitarian—an office or hobby space, for example—by using a subdued colour palette and keeping clutter and distractions to a minimum. This will ensure the focus stays on the primary part of the room, which is exactly where you want it.

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