Design: Room dividers are more essential than ever amidst the new normal

The Softwall room divider from Studio Molo can be pulled apart and pushed back together like an accordion. Photos: dpa

Open-plan living, working and cooking spaces might be the order of the day in interior design, but we all still need a separate place to retreat to – especially now that more of us are working from home. Room dividers are the solution, and they’ve never looked better.

Retreats can sometimes be hard to find if your home has an open floor plan. And in a time when many people are stuck at home, room dividers and screens are more essential – and more flexible – than ever.

Screens create new rooms. They make the atmosphere in a vast living room cosier by dividing it into smaller areas. Or they can offer a visible and mental divide for the office corner of your bedroom, so you don’t have to look at it from bed.

Depending on the material, screens can also improve acoustics by using fabric-covered panels to dampen noise. Especially for modern floor plans, room dividers are an exciting and practical piece of furniture.

The Lola screens from Bodo Sperlein is a more classical take on the room divider. You can get them with three, four or five different parts, all with the same or different colours.

Designers Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen use paper and textiles for their Softwall room dividers, which have a honeycomb structure that is as aesthetic as it is practical. It can be pulled apart and pushed back together like an accordion: A single Softwall is only as thick as a book when compressed, but it can reach a length of 4.5m when fully extended.

“You make this movable wall curved or linear, ” MacAllen says. “We also thought of the system as modular, so it has magnetic ends to allow for longer partitions and sculptural installations.” Not only is Softwall easy to move, it also absorbs sound.

The Lola line by designer Bodo Sperlein harkens back to the classical idea of a screen, but with a modern edge. The room dividers come with three, four or five sections to which you can attach hooks, shelves and mirrors.

The Paravan room dividers from Arper come equipped with noise- absorbing panels.

Arper’s Paravan room dividers also offer extra functionality: shelves, coat rack elements, whiteboards, magazine racks and sockets. The Spanish studio Lievore Altherr has designed an extensive collection of accessories for the Paravan system, which is particularly suitable for co-working spaces or lounge areas, thanks to its noise-absorbing panels.

Francesco Rota’s Loto room dividers from Paola Lenti are mainly decorative.

From afar, the screens look like a field of flowers. But each “flower” is actually a rounded square steel frame wrapped with coloured rope.

Levante from Missoni Home has already become a classic. Levante is based on a classic three-part screen that Rosita Missoni discovered decades ago at a Paris flea market. The designer keeps the screens fresh with ever-changing fabrics – the most recent one bears a pattern inspired by the paintings of Sonia Delaunay.

The Josef screens by Wittmann are reminiscent of Viennese Modernism. Each of its four sections are covered in varying combinations of fabric and leather, and it makes a lovely backdrop for a seating area.

The Loto room divider by Paola Lenti has a more decorative character.

Interior designer Eileen Gray always tried out her designs in her own house. Her Brick Screen, reedited by ClassiCon, consists of a stainless steel frame and lacquered panels. Gray’s home, built in the 1920s, had the open floor plan that’s considered so modern today. Her room divider was both practical and a sculptural object. – dpa

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