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When designer Grace Lee Lim was commissioned to furnish a large open-plan living room in Los Angeles, she knew the piece only to help break things up: a room divider. This portable partition can carve out multiple spaces from one place, taking the role of temporary wall. “I love room dividers because they have so many functions,” she explains, noting that they can also provide a colorful backdrop, add a bit of texture, or act as a privacy shield. And while dividers have been around for centuries (and are often seen as a more traditional decorative touch), there are plenty of iterations available on the market that fit seamlessly into a modern setting. Our list of the best room dividers offers a range of styles, shapes, and materials, including the most basic DIY option for paint or wallpaper.
Best Classic Game: Serena & Lily Balboa Screen
Paintings: 3 | Height: 72 inches | Price: $ $
- hand made
- High quality natural materials
Why we chose it: Can you really go wrong with sugarcane, straw, or wicker?
If you don’t want anything crazy or funky, stick to the classics – the simplicity of a reed or straw screen makes it even more versatile. Handcrafted rattan panels offer a fairly high quality while providing plenty of privacy, thanks to the tightly woven coordinating around the mahogany frame. Yes, there are all kinds of screens like this on the market, but we found ourselves most drawn to Serena & Lily’s offerings because of the details (brass-finish caps on the bottom of its hand-wrapped legs; a smaller center panel compared to the large two flanking it).
Best Shape: Bamboo Lichen Room Divider
Paintings: 1 | Height: 6 feet | Price: $$
- Available for rent
- very big
- Choose between a lighter honey or a darker natural color
- No international shipping available
Why we chose it: If you need a little privacy or a trendy backdrop, click this undulating wonderland.
You can spot this bamboo room divider in digital entrepreneur Alyssa Coscarelli’s Los Angeles home—it’s actually the piece her friends ask about it the most, even though she primarily uses it as a backdrop in photos. Former Domino employee Lily Sullivan uses it more functionally in her eclectic Brooklyn residence, where she hides her feline friend’s litter box. And that is the beauty of this option; It is flexible and lightweight enough to serve a number of uses other than dividing a major space. You can bend this bulkhead into any shape you like, move it into a small corner or extend it completely to 8 feet in length. In fact, Lichen’s spatial designer Kristen Espinal keeps it tossed until bedtime, when she opens it along her upper railing to create privacy between her personal space and the rest of the apartment she shares with two roommates.
Best Modern: La Palma Screen Tube Room Divider
Paintings: 1 | Height: varies from 24 to 47 inches | Price: $ $
- 3 heights
- free shipping
- Wood, black and white finishes
Why we chose it: Tubular and fashionable.
Although it was originally designed with offices in mind, we can’t resist the idea of bringing this ottoman-like divider home. You can easily use the curvy structure as a sophisticated pet or baby gateway, or to create an intimate sanctuary that still allows light to shine through. Regardless of whether you use bleached wood or powder-coated metal in white or black, this piece fits perfectly in a Leanne Ford—or Benjamin Vandiver—inspired room. But perhaps our favorite feature is the fact that it’s modular and can be linked to other screens in the same range, whether you want to stick with the tube trend or upgrade to customizable canvas screens.
Best Fabric: Anthropologie Upholstered Room Divider Pelle Polka Dot
Paintings: 3 | Height: 77.5 inches | Price: $ $
- Fun, statement-making style
- No need to assemble
- Professional cleaning service required
Why we chose it: Velvet, wood and embroidery meet on three round panels.
There is a lot to admire about this room divider. Paying homage to the ’70s, its bright polka dot-embroidered pattern of green, purple, yellow, and pink is complemented by an upholstered leaf print. We’d bring this piece into a room where we’re trying to add warmth and fun or attention rather than being demure – it’s definitely not for someone who thrives in a minimalist environment. The slightly curved arc of the dark wood provides a bit of contrast and brings the screens together at the same time. Indulge in the mottled look with a foldable chair or coordinating accent seat.
Best Style: Indoor clamshell screen
Paintings: 3 | Height: 72 inches | Price: $$
- Over 60 fabric options
- 1 year warranty
- It costs extra $15 for shipping
- Heavy (50 lbs.)
Why we chose it: Whatever your room is missing: a cabana bar? Eccentric scene? Floral fun? Inside owns it.
While style choices are the star of this screen (there are nearly 100 eye-catching color options, including the ever-popular Scalamandré Zebras), the curvy top of the silhouette exudes an architectural elegance that transcends its cottage roots. The pine frame is fully upholstered in any fabric of your choice. But since there are plenty of offers, try a $1 (or a little) swatch that ships free first.
Best DIY: Home Depot Canvas Room Divider
Paintings: 3 | Height: 48 inches | Price: $$
- Affordable, Affordable, Affordable
- Customize to your heart’s content
Why we chose it: Literal blank canvas.
If Domino’s Style Director Naomi de Manyana had to choose a divider for her next DIY project, she’d go with this four-panel blank screen made of kiln-dried spruce draped in art fabric. For just over $100 (you can upgrade to a longer 6-foot version for an extra $45) you can disable this screen and use the remaining money to paint or wallpaper to customize it. Fabric is one of the easiest materials to work with, says de Manyana, and this particular option is made for glue or brushing, so there won’t be much prep work involved, at all.
Vintage selections from a professional
While Lee-Lim has used screens from major retailers like Crate & Barrel for customers, her secret to finding the best room divider is to search for vintage Asian screens via 1stDibs and Chairish. Here are some of her top picks:
- This Japanese screen is from the twentieth century. “I love the duality of using this as a room divider above a piece of furniture, as well as being able to use it as artwork hanging on the wall. Not to mention the theme—who doesn’t love these pups?” she shares.
- It’s the fun of colorful Swedish screen painting trompe l’oeil that caught Lee-Lim’s attention. “It brings a level of whimsy and fun anywhere it’s located,” she notes.
- She was also tapping into a large screen from the middle of the century for a different look. “It’s very light and feminine,” he advanced. “It can be a nice backdrop and space divider behind the sofa in the living room or nursery.”
- If you need something smaller, a Robert Crowder divider “could be more serious and elegant,” she points out. “But it can still function as a divider if placed atop a low unit or bookshelf.”
How do we choose these products?
The best room dividers aren’t just for ultra-small studio apartments. They’re also great for zoning a large, open room or simply adding a little visual intrigue on the wall. In other words, these spacers perfectly balance form and function. To compile our current list of favorites, we handpicked an array of styles and materials from the brands we know and love, then handpicked DeMañana and Lee-Lim for expert approval. Both also shared their personal recommendations for specific pieces and insights on how to use or customize the splitters.
Our shopping list
Room dividers do what they say: they visually divide spaces into sections. They can also set an intended path for people to move around the room. “Room dividers are great for incorporating more texture (like trim or caning) or art (like painted or china screens) into a space, while creating separation and privacy in a way that’s less permanent than a wall might do, Lee-Lim offers.
Dimensions and panels
When choosing a room divider, it is important to consider the space in which you will place it. For example, you wouldn’t want a short room divider somewhere with very high ceilings. The height of these decorative accessories typically ranges from 3 to 7 feet. The width depends more on the amount of panels – usually three to five folding sections – that can be adjusted to the desired shape.
The material of the panels will determine how much privacy your wall divider provides. Do you want it to be a little transparent, allowing a lot of light to pass through, or do you need it to be completely opaque? This will affect whether you use, for example, solid woven bamboo, bamboo strips, or semi-transparent paper.
design and shape
“I love room dividers that also work as art,” shares Lee-Lim, who adds that you can enter this with italic or hand-drawn details. “You have a great opportunity to enhance the space and also create a visually appealing backdrop.”
Not all screen dividers have to look rectangular or square either—some of our favorites are round, and even asymmetrical, which can give this traditional element some modern or contemporary flair.
Q: Any advice on how to add wallpaper to my room divider?
If you can’t find the right room divider, you can always make things yourself, which Sally Smallwood did for an IKEA Risor screen. She deconstructed it with Fine & Dandy, one of the best statement wallpapers, which she enhanced with an Art Deco-inspired touch on the cranes. For traditional wallpaper, you will need the help of PVA glue. But DeMañana notes that the type of wallpaper you choose should match the material of the screen. For example, if you are using peel and stick wallpaper, you will need a very flat surface that will not interfere with sticking. She cautions that the texture of the duffel will also be tricky when it comes to sticking.
Q: Can I paint a room divider instead?
If a background path seems like a lot of work, there’s always paint. Just keep the material in mind – that’s why DeMañana always sticks to the canvas. You can either go for something completely abstract or use painter’s tape to create stripes or a grid pattern and achieve ultra-clear, clean lines.
Q: Is there anything else I can use to divide spaces in a room?
naturally! Room dividers aren’t the only decorative addition that does this. We’ve also seen designers tap curtains that hang from the ceiling and tall bookcases, too. This is especially useful if you live in a small space without many walls or are not sure how to make a very large living space multifunctional.
The last word
The best room divider is as small a space savior as it is necessary to bring the open floor plan to a more human scale. However, our favorites do more than that – they can add texture, pattern, and artistic flourish to any interior. See you on the other side.
Domino’s editors curate each product on our site independently, because we’re as obsessed with discoveries that aren’t as obvious as you are. Items you purchase may earn us an affiliate commission.