A room divider is a quick, inexpensive, decorative, and impermanent wall for your home that provides visual screening between rooms. It can give you privacy where you need it but where you don't want to build a wall. A room divider can also clearly section off a space, adding functionality to your home without the need for the construction of walls. They come in all designs, sizes, materials, and heights. Some go from floor to ceiling while others may just come up to the top of your head.
Below, we’ll break down the five basic types of room dividers and what you should consider when choosing which is best for your needs and space.
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Folding or Accordion Divider
Best for: Larger spaces, quick set-up, and mobility
Folding dividers are made with multiple tall panels made of fabric or other materials connected by hinges that allow them to fold to varying degrees. They require no installation; unfold them and you're ready to go. It's as simple as folding up the divider and putting it in the moving truck if moving homes. Also called accordion dividers, this type of free-standing divider does not attach to your residence in any way, but sits directly on your floor.
A folding divider may have a long and wide footprint. Typically they are thick, sometimes up to 12 inches when unfolded because they need to have a stable frame to stand. If you have limited space, you may not be able to fit a folding divider. In addition, the slightest gust of wind or a bump can tip even a substantial folding divider. Straightening the panels by reducing the accordion effect can help broaden the privacy footprint in a larger space.
This type of divider is a great DIY project, but if you prefer to buy one, they are typically inexpensive, depending on the length and material you choose, and cost less because you don't need any installation equipment to put one up.
Easy to adjust and move around
Adds a decorative element to a room
Many models cover a good amount of space
Not great for limited spaces
Tendency to nearly topple if bumped
May look awkward in a space
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Hanging Solid Divider
Best for: Decorative use
Hanging dividers are panels made from acrylic, resin, light wood, or other solid materials that hang from the ceiling and can slide open or closed to give you varying degrees of privacy and light. Hanging room dividers from the ceiling will require some type of ceiling hardware. Some hanging systems may need only two screws attached to the ceiling in many cases.
At the bottom of the panels, the dividers may attach to the floor to prevent or dampen the panels from swaying. Weighted panels may still sway to some degree, and items such as ceiling fans, can accentuate the movement. This type of room divider can cost more than freestanding floor dividers because they not only require ceiling hardware, but the panels may be heavier or larger, depending on the design.Pros
Lets you let light into a space when needed
Tendency to sway
Typically track installation
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Hanging Fabric or Paper Curtain
Best for: Long expanses of privacy
Room dividers that are made of fabric or paper act more like curtains that divide a space. This type of divider may be less physically substantial and sometimes most affordable, yet other times they can be heavy-duty and costly depending on the material. However, the complexity of the rod or ceiling track system that you need for installation will add to the cost of the divider. For example, a curtain room divider made from thick velvet fabric requires a heavy-duty rod or track system to hold it up.
Often, these types of room dividers can be ganged for long expanses of privacy. But they can be easily opened or closed. Curtain or paper dividers can be hung from hanging systems that can be either a ceiling track with hooks or from a long pole that attaches to opposite walls, just like window curtains.Pros
Easily ganged for length
May muffle sound depending on material
Good visual privacy with heavier fabric
Paper or thin fabric can rip
May billow in breeze
Needs frequent vacuuming, cleaning
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Bookcase Room Divider
Best for: A quick, solid fix that doubles as storage space
A bookcase room divider is a highly functional piece that is essentially a piece of furniture. You may already have a tall shelf that you can move into place to act as a room divider. This type of privacy solution is a perfect divider and storage piece that holds books, curios, pictures, artwork, ceramics, and more. The divider can also offer some sound-blocking abilities if you fill it solid with books.
Few bookcase-style dividers will extend close to the ceiling, which may leave a large gap at the top unless you fill it with items, such as plants. Tall, narrow bookcases may be prone to falling and need to be stabilized and secured to an adjacent wall with anchors or brackets if possible to eliminate any problems. If you choose to buy a bookcase-style divider, look for second-hand options or expect higher price tags at a retailer.Pros
May muffle some sound
Functions also as a storage space
Can be ganged for length
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Prone to falling without securing
Tough to move
May not be tall enough to offer full privacy
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Freestanding Straight Panel Room Divider
Best for: Snug spaces that need privacy
Freestanding straight panel room dividers are like folding dividers, but they are framed panels of fabric or other materials that slide open or unfold into place to offer full privacy. The frames usually sit on legs that stabilize the piece. These types of dividing systems can be very thin and fit easily between two items or into small spaces because they take up less space than freestanding accordion-style dividers.
Some models of panel room dividers allow you to add on panels if needed for larger spaces or additional privacy walls. Typically these panels are frames of plastic, PVC, or metal that have fabric or another type of stiffer material inserted into the frame to provide privacy. Straight panel room dividers may be as affordable as accordion-style ones since they do not need any installation equipment.
Choosing a Room Divider
The most important part of choosing a room divider is making sure it will fit. Measure what length and height divider you will need. In addition, measure your ceiling height so you don't end up with too tall or too short a divider. When considering where to put the divider, consider the stability of the piece. You may want to invest in anchors, room divider stands, or anti-tip furniture straps to ensure your family's safety.
But as with any piece of furniture, you need to consider a few other things before buying. Keep in mind the complexity of the installation hardware when choosing a hanging room divider. Decide whether you want the screen to diffuse light or if you prefer an opaque divider. Lastly, think about if you want a divider that's easy to open and close or if you prefer that it stays static and tethered in place.