Divide and conquer with these room divider ideas that make use of folding screens, partitions and more.

Before we dive into the heavy stuff, let’s clear the air with the names. Room dividers go by a few different names and are often called folding screens, folding Shoji screens, and/or partitions.

Great…now, let’s learn a little about their past!

Traditionally, room dividers are tall, heavy, wide, completely solid (a.k.a. not see-through) and hard to move, meaning that they truly divide a room. These types, and in particular, the folding type, are often associated with the iconography of historical Asia. The predominance of the ornate, folding blockade, if you will, developed out of a practical need for privacy and warmth and served as a makeshift wall.

In modern home designs, the same practical reasons for the need for these types of folding room dividers have diminished greatly; advances in architecture over the centuries have led to the locking doors, room-separating walls, insulation and heaters we know (and, too often, take for granted!) today.

Room dividers, however, are still prevalent in homes across Western and Eastern cultures – albeit for non­-functional, almost entirely decorative purposes. It is common to see in contemporary design the use of a divider as a statement vignette in its own right. Popular varieties will even be designed more for room transition than room division, and still others will include shelves, to serve as a sort of ‘bookcase-divider’ (see #1 and #2 below).

Below is a list of the top 16 most popular contemporary uses of room ‘dividers’ (if they can even be called that anymore!). Get inspired by the ways decorators are reinventing the historical staple of Asian design, and see how you can incorporate its unique versatility (divisive or not!) into your home.

Affordable Ways to Divide a Room

1. The Open-Shelf ‘Bookcase

room divider screens
A room divider with shelves allows for chic book display – and an easy, chic way to establish the two different ‘sides’ of a room. (This is great for spaces with limited privacy, like shared bedrooms and dorms.)

2. Use It for Hallway Transition

wall divider

Place one against the wall in an entryway or hallway for tall, standout style – and call it a ‘room transitioner’ for accuracy’s sake!

3. Make a Vignette

small room screen

A small room divider is designed purely for decor; play it up by curating an aesthetic vignette in a living room or bedroom corner.

4. As a Wall Divider

wall divider

Creating a defined space starts with the walls. Set off a distinct area just for reading (or other hobby) with a stylish wall divider like the one pictured here (above).

5. With Sloping Shelves

book room divider

Infuse character by going against the grain of what a room divider “should” look like. Sloping shelves with leaning books add charm and whimsy!

6. With Vintage Accessories

room separator

With warm leather furniture, a vintage wood room divider – with vintage accessories – is as homey as ever.

7. To Define a Reading Nook

reading divider

Reading is, by nature, a cozy activity. It requires the reader to physically be close to the book – and to sit down or curl up to get comfortable. If you love to read but don’t have the luxury of a separate ‘reading room’ or nook, then use a room divider. It’ll enclose your reading space to make it feel like it’s all its own – playing to a ‘cozy’ feel

8. To Make an Entrance

room divider ideas

Want to spruce up your entryway? Ditch the traditional console table and opt for a statement divider!

9. As Dining Storage

In a small dining nook, a bookcase-style divider serves up the perfect storage companion.

10. In a Kitchen Corner

Kitchen cabinets with cabinet doors may be the classic way to do kitchen storage, but, unless the doors are made of glass, they pose one problem: you can’t show off any of your pretty decor! The solution? A nifty room divider with shelves. (This way, you also won’t have to deal with cabinet doors, so if you use it to store plates and dishes, you’ll it’s easier to reach for them! Double the win!)