How to Divide and Conquer Your Open-Concept Floor Plan

Sliding Glass Panels

One of the biggest catch phrases, as well as one of the biggest design trends, of the last dozen or so years is the open-concept floor plan. In the Lower Mainland, condominium owners have embraced open layouts in a big way, but  for many, how to divide and conquer your open-concept floor plan is a big challenge!

Because most condominiums are small, it’s important to keep the space as open as possible to avoid feeling that sense of claustrophobia you often get living in a confined space.

But the flip side of these open floor plans is that you are most likely cooking, eating, relaxing, entertaining, and, in the case of lofts, sleeping in one large room. While this is in many ways an open-concept condo’s appeal, it can sometimes be annoying if you crave some separation or privacy from your better half or roommate.

“When all of your spaces flow together, it can feel stifling in a different way,” says Alda Pereira, who runs her own award-winning interior design firm in Vancouver, Alda Pereira Design. “Sometimes, it’s nice to have a little visual separation.”

Great Divides

Room dividers come in a wide selection of colours, finishes, materials, and design styles, and they are an interior design trend which has the power to enhance and separate your home. Curtain room dividers are the most cost-effective choice. Made of plastic or fabric, curtains are soft, flexible and flowing, adding an air of romance. Curtains add pattern, texture and vibrancy to any interior design.

“Today’s contemporary room dividers are made with new and exciting materials and display innovative techniques and decoration patterns, allowing condo owners to add bold accents and personality to their own unique décor style,” adds Pereira.

Screens come in handy when making use of wasted corners. Whether you want to section off a private area, shield some luggage or just add visual interest to a wall you can’t paint, a modern, decorative screen can be a cheap fix.

However, a word of caution. “Low wall dividers can seem awkward in a small room unless they’re done just right,” says Pereira.

One of her preferred ways to divide up a space is with a custom-designed bookcase, which can be either stacked open-style or with closed shelving.

“Not only do they provide much-needed storage in small spaces, such as condos, but they look great,” she says.

Designer Tricks

Her rule of thumb is to match the height of the screen or bookshelf to the tallest person living in the space, allowing two to three feet of space between the top of the unit and the ceiling. The only exception to her rule is an opaque divider, such as a paper screen or an open-shelving unit, that lets light through the centre.

The seasoned designer frequently uses double-sided bookcases to break up a space, and they don’t always have to float in the middle of the room. They can also be placed against larger pieces of furniture, such as a sofa or bed.

“This trick helps create a defined space and gives your larger pieces of furniture something to anchor to,” she adds.“Another of my favourite ways to split a room is with mirrored structures.”

Pereira explains that a mirrored partition, with mirrors on both sides, provides the benefit of both division and continuity of space, all the while giving the illusion of a larger room.

Yet more of her preferred partitions are the expandable metal mesh room dividers that hang from the wall. Not only do they add a design element, create privacy and enhance the sense of space, they also allow light in.

“The expandable metals are limitless in terms of styles, colours and products offered,” adds Pereira. “They are strung and operated like draperies to open or close off your space.”

A Touch of the Orient

Perhaps the oldest forms of dividers are Oriental screens. The folding-room screens were found in China in the seventh century where they were reserved for those of wealth or for royalty. Back then, the screens were very heavy, ornate, and stationary.

Today they are used to divide rooms, create a more efficient use of the space within the room, and as accent pieces to add personality to your home.

“Many Japanese screens fit into a modern space quite easily,” says Pereira, adding they can also be on casters so they can be moved around easily. “You can even make your own. You can purchase hollow doors from a hardware store, hinge them, paint them or customize them with fabric.”

Sliding panels and movable decorative screens in antique, retro or contemporary style beautify any interior design. Whatever you choose, it’s important that the divider match up with your existing furniture. If your taste is rustic, a sliding barn door will match your aesthetics perfectly.

“Sliding barn doors can bring elegance and sophistication into your home interiors,” says Pereira. “These larger sliding doors offer a homeowner the option to fully conceal a room for privacy and open it up to maximize the space.”

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