Types of Room Dividers

Many people find that, either due to poor design or the need to utilize a room differently than what was originally intended, room dividers are a necessary addition to their home. There are a number of types of room dividers, each of which can fulfill one or more functions in many different rooms. The style of divider chosen is generally based on the purpose(s) it is fulfilling, and “divider types” can actually be looked at in two different ways.

Concealing and Privacy

Maybe the architect who designed your home thought that having a bathroom off of the dining room was a really good idea. You, however, may find that this makes it a bit embarrassing for your guests. Using a screen to conceal the entrance gives people a moment to distance themselves before they are again in the public eye. A old style dressing screen also allows quasi-privacy for changing one’s attire.

Sometimes rooms have multiple functions: if you have a play area for your child in your home office, you don’t necessarily want your clients to see the toys on the floor.

Create more Intimate Space

In a very large room, you may wish to use room dividers to create cozier areas. Both by reducing size and by adding a decorative element appropriate to the small space you are creating, a room divider can help set the mood.


A different approach than artwork hung on the wall, but just as evocative, a decorative screen can be used to create style, or match the décor for a special occasion or holiday.

Make Multiple Simultaneous Activities Easier

Room dividers that provide more of a barrier for sight and sound make it easier for different groups to do different things in the same overall space. Room dividers can partition off an area for a home office in either a bedroom or living room, or create a separate sleeping area for siblings sharing a bedroom.

Adding Functionality

A room divider that incorporates a bookcase, a whiteboard, a bulletin board, a chalkboard, a plant stand, or some other functional item not only separates the room, but adds possibilities to what can be done in the room. A bookcase divider can create a tiny library in a corner of the living room or family room. A plant stand can create a mini-conservatory.

Types of Screens

Besides the screens with specific functionality, like bookcases, office dividers, plant holders, etc., there are some basic types of screens, which differ by materials, function, and how they work.

  • Free-standing Screens

    Free-standing screens have 3 or more panels, and either stand on the panels or on small legs. The types include:

    • Shoji Screens: wooden frames with rice paper inlays, which allow light to pass through. Some come with shelving built on and some have artwork on the rice paper.
    • Gathered Fabric Screens: fabric hung in wooden frames can be removed for cleaning.
    • Photo Display Screens: holds plain or matted photos.
    • Canvas Pocket Screens: add privacy and storage at the same time.
    • Lacquered Screens: hand-painted wood, coated with lacquer, these add beautiful artwork to a room.
    • Silk Screen: often handpainted with ink and water colors.

  • Built-in Screens

    Unlike free-standing screens, built-in screens are a permanent addition to your home. They are installed through a variety of methods, usually using floor and ceiling tracks or casters, or are built into the wall and slide out. The types include:

    • Folding Glass Doors: permit light to pass through, while maintaining privacy.
    • Folding Panel Doors: opaque screens that partition off areas.
    • Folding Louvered Doors: another more solid partition.
    • Sliding Doors: for example, shoji sliding doors permits light to pass through, but maintains privacy. These are available in both double- and single-sided models.

  • Curtain Dividers

    Cloth and beaded curtains are another type of room divider that is used. They have a decorative element, but do not provide much privacy in terms of sound.

Written by Mary Elizabeth