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Divide and Define Space


Dividing and Defining Living Spaces

However large or small the spaces are you want to transform or create, you may have several questions. Perhaps you want to learn how to divide and define space in interiors. You may wonder how to open up space without having large, undefined living areas. Whatever your budget, there are temporary and longer-term interior design and decorating solutions. Here are some inspirational tips to guide you in your quest for creating interesting spaces.


Learn How to Divide and Define Spaces



Open, unified space with architectural interest and lights that define several living spaces



Light, open, cohesive space with defined areas


If you want to purposefully divide and define space, it will take some practical thinking and planning. Light opens the perception of space. Practically speaking, you can, for instance, consider removing a wall between a dining room and living area. This will provide more space for more uses while also appearing to increase the actual size of the area. Hence, this manoeuvre is both a practical and perceptive consideration.

To easily move around an object in a residential space, you need at least 1m / 1000mm / 3.34ft / 39.37 inches. Also, you need space to pull out chairs for instance. To clarify, you need 1m between the wall and the chairs at a table.

In addition, you will need at least another metre to walk around a breakfast bar or work island on the other side of the wall. However, if you remove the wall you can reduce the clearance total. This is because you will share the clearance space between two fixed objects. Thus, the two functional areas will use less space and the room will appear more open and spacious.

This is an important example to remember whether you are renovating or when planning a space from scratch. But, a small living space delivers its own challenges.



Small space with a high-rise kitchen counter that divides and defines different areas. The whole space appears open and spacious.


One of the key snags is how to form a sense of separate areas when there are no separate rooms.



Design detail defines a space. Also, it creates a sense of a separate area and forms an island of activity.


It is very important to keep in mind that space isn’t only floor space. Floor space, which is expressed as a floor plan, is the horizontal space. The available volume is also expressed as an elevation which concerns the vertical dimension of wall height or ceiling height. In a multi-functional space, an alteration of ceiling height and/or floor level may specify certain functional areas. And, this may also make the whole space less monotonous and more fascinating.



Architectural detail,  especially the ceiling, creates definition and anchors the living room


The possibility of different levels should be strongly considered when there is a need to create a definition of several areas in a larger room. If multiple levels or difference in ceiling height is not possible, there are other ways to specify and separate functional areas.



Open space with defined living areas formed with design detail


Generally, one needs to divide and define space mainly for creating privacy.


For example, when two kids share a room, a need arises to create private areas for each of them. A semi-permanent solution will provide privacy in this situation. When both occupants are in the room at once, the need for privacy will be there all the time.

Likewise, the need for separate areas exists, for instance, in a bachelor flat. If you are a bachelor or bachelorette, or just living alone in a large one-roomed flat, you’ll know what I mean.

An apartment may be small, but can be an open, undivided space. You may choose to have the whole room as an open space for a feeling of spaciousness.



An area is divided within a large, open space. Definition and separation are made possible thru architectural and design detail. The ceiling, fireplace with a light gap at the top, a built-in bookshelf divider and an exposed brick feature wall, divide and define space.


What’s the purpose of a space divider?


Perhaps you don’t mind seeing the kitchen and dining area from your bed. However, when you occasionally invite guests over for dinner, you may want to be able to close off the bedroom area from the dining area. Consequently, this calls for a temporary solution to provide privacy. By the same token, if you have a bigger house, you may also want answers for a vast space.

To clarify, establish if the area calls for a permanent, semi-permanent or temporary privacy solution. In addition, it is necessary to decide whether you need sound privacy, visual privacy or both. Also, decide if you require true privacy, or simply an impression of parting between areas.

Further, consider if a light-filtering or opaque divider option is best. Often, the area one wants to close off has no windows. If, for instance, one will only use the divider during evening dinners, the absence of natural light won’t be a problem.

On the other hand, if one will use it during daylight hours, the divider should let natural light enter. While meeting your needs in terms of permanent or temporary and sound or sight, there are many possible separation solutions you can consider.



A lower wall not up to ceiling height and only midway of the room width. It allows for more natural light to enter. Also, it acts as a permanent room divider without creating a confined feeling.


When you are doing your space planning keep the following in mind. One can use room dividers to make open space flexible and to give it some definition.


A built-in wooden bookshelf divider screen creates definition

A built-in wooden bookshelf divider screen creates definition


Divider Treatment Options


Sliding screens on tracks, Shoji screens, free-standing folding screens, curtains and bookshelves can all be used to define space without closing it in. Also, you can create islands of activity in an open space with furniture arrangements. Your approach to choosing partitions between areas depend on your lighting requirements, degree of privacy you desire and your budget.



A large plant can form a screen and help create definition


You may desire visual privacy without blocking natural light from a window. Translucent Japanese rice paper or Shoji screens rising 1.5 – 1.8m in height are ideal. These will ensure visual privacy without keeping out light. Without forming a sense of a smaller space, a “wall” of plants can separate living areas. Storage cabinets or bookshelves can also serve as dividers. They separate functional areas without getting down the seeming size of the room.


A low, midway wall anchors a desk. It also ensures a defined living room without compromising natural light or spaciousness.

A low, midway wall anchors a desk. It also ensures a defined living room without compromising natural light or spaciousness.


Three-dimensional room dividers

Curtain screens and bookshelves can be effective room dividers for tight spaces. Almost any sort of object may be used as a room divider. One can use 3D dividers wherever space permits. For instance, the typical room divider unit of shelves is still a good choice. It stores objects while separating areas.

The degree to which one fills the shelves with objects can allow one to control the effect of separation. For example, one can achieve a less confined feeling by placing a small amount of well-scaled items on the shelves.



Bookshelf in kids room serving to divide and define space


A large fish tank with beautiful fish can be an excellent area divider. Further, one can fill a long planter box with tall plants. This can serve as a divider solution which is an easy to install, relatively low-cost answer. If you are a plant lover, you can also consider putting a bunch of pot plants on a bookshelf instead of other objects. Or, put them in different planters amongst your other beautiful items. Hanging planters or a living wall are also good options.



Hanging plants can serve as space dividers



Creeper-plant serving as a room divider


Screens to divide and define space

Floor screens of three or more panes are nifty, practical and decorative pieces. They are portable and you can easily adapt them to your different needs. A free-standing floor screen is an excellent decorative accessory in a room while serving its practical purpose. However, a floor screen has a downside. It has the potential of being knocked over. Therefore, it is not suitable in a small area where one can, for instance, push a chair back against it.



Free-standing screens are useful in open-plan office spaces


One may desire a screen panel effect without using a floor screen. In this case, one can install panels hanging from a double or triple ceiling track. Then, like opening sliding doors, one can push them behind one another. A ceiling track is sufficient. Moreover, depending on your situation, it may be a better option than a floor level flow track. In a traffic area, the latter will only create a tripping hazard as well as damage and/or hinder flooring treatments.


At times, space can be especially limited, but one may still desire using panel dividers.

Instead of using a completely closed-off panel, consider suspending panels from the ceiling to create a more expansive look. In some instances, all you need is an illusion of separated space, but you want to preserve the flow of natural light. See-through, light filtering screens may be best. Remember to also keep the style in mind.



Japanese rice paper / Shoji screens are good light-filtering divider options


Mirror panels reflect light in an area and give the impression of more spaciousness. However, a large mirrored screen can be quite costly. A floor screen can also be adjustable louvred panels. The louvres can be twisted to control light. Also, one can always leave them open to create a sense of separate areas without restricting light. In addition, this has a less confining effect than that of solid panels.

Screens can have other purposes than to just separate areas. For example, they can cover windows that face an unpleasant view or hide unsightly architectural protrusions, especially in older buildings. You will find a use for screens in nearly all low-budget interiors. In all cases, make sure they are objects of beauty that are an asset to the décor.



A floor screen can hide a storage space


Curtains to divide and define space

The simplest, and sometimes least expensive, room dividers are those consisting of hanging fabric. The ideal piece of fabric hemmed and hung loosely can be very effective in both function and appearance.

Where light must flow into the enclosed area, voile is the most effective. Moreover, this will ensure an airy and light feeling. When you only need to create an illusion of separation, you can use window treatments as at a window. To clarify, you can simply tie back these curtains as to frame the area. Such framing with fabric marks off an area well without disturbing the flow of the room.

Ceiling fix curtain tracks are available, and they can also be bent to a curve in the factory or on site. This is an inexpensive and effective divider solution. It is especially useful for a small, open plan bachelor flat or apartment.  One can close off and re-open an area often by drawing the curtains just as at a window.



A curtain serving as a flexible room divider



Curtains serve as flexible room dividers. It ensures privacy in an open plan apartment. Also, it softens and breaks up a large, undefined space.


Raising the floor to divide and define space

Through raising the floor level one can create a sense of separateness without using vertical dividers. In some cases, a vertical or upright separation may make an area appear too crowded visually. One can achieve a sense of separation by raising the floor in a smaller area. A small height adjustment of about 150mm / ± 6 inches will make the difference.

Preferably, the separated area should continue with the same flooring/carpeting and wall treatment as the main area. So, this will ensure the retaining of a sense of spaciousness and a constant flow of the décor. The elevation alone serves to mark off the different area. You can especially consider this solution before or while renovating. Be sure to use the services of a qualified contractor with this approach.


A-raised-floor-in-an-open-space-creates-another-separate area-Divide-and-define-space

A raised floor in an open space creates and define another room or separate functional space



A partially lowered ceiling in a double volume space creates a defined living area



A defined, separate living room on lower floor level. The sloped roof with wooden exposed beams and columns aid in creating definition.


Hope you gained a few interior decorating and design tips that you can apply in your interior spaces!


I truly hope this inspired you







Check out this post about Decorating on a Budget!


You’ll find some useful pointers in this FREE Decorating on a Budget WORKBOOK! These will help guide your planning choices. Also, it will help you determine what outcome a job requires. It’s especially handy when working with a tight budget!




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