Indeed, privacy in the age of Covid has become a luxury. Enter the room divider, or folding screen – a free-standing piece of furniture that can prove incredibly practical (not to mention sanity-saving) if you’re craving your own little space.
Originating in ancient China, the hinged variety are often ornate affairs, used as a decorative addition to the living room. A smart, contemporary room divider can create a nifty partition wall, allowing you to introduce a home office space in the corner of the sitting room, or to give the kids their own space in a shared bedroom.
While it may be tempting to simply plump for the prettiest, a room divider can also darken and overwhelm a smaller room.
Think carefully, not only about the dimensions of your screen, but also the colour and materials. One that successfully partitions, but which also allows the light through, is your best bet if you’re short on space.
There’s a wealth of designs to choose from, whether you’re after a glamorous Art Deco-inspired screen for the boudoir or a chic contemporary number that can be adjusted to suit your modern living needs. Some offer additional functionality in the shape of extra storage space, too, which is always handy.
We put a range of room dividers to the test, from the simple folding variety to versatile storage units on wheels.
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Beachcrest Home galligan room divider
Offering a shabby chic look, this versatile folding screen allows you to choose configurations of three, four, five, or even six panels, so it’s perfect if you’re after a room divider with serious width. The window-like frames are made from strong paulownia wood with an aged finish, adding to the screen’s vintage look, while a linen and cotton mix fabric in a natural hue fills the frames. This one’s lightweight but reliably sturdy – and great value for money.
Buy now £149.99, Wayfair
Cox & Cox rattan webbing screen
This is a really pretty room divider with a timeless quality. The three-panel screen is crafted from rattan, with a natural cane frame. Thanks to its fine webbing, the piece softly diffuses the light it allows through, further adding to its beauty. But attractive natural materials aside, we loved its fuss-free utilitarian shaping that reminded us of a Victorian hospital screen. This is a wholly versatile piece that suits bedrooms, conservatories and living rooms alike.
Buy now £275.00, Cox & Cox
Kreis Design pegboard room divider folding screen
London-based designer Nikki Kreis was ahead of the curve when it came to our impromptu and unexpected home office needs. This three-way folding screen is crafted from sustainably sourced birch plywood and offers an ingenious way to zone areas while storing and displaying our favourite knick-knacks. It’s both pretty and practical with its perforated holes creating a polka dot effect, while the 12 wooden pegs and four small shelves allow us to build our own bespoke storage display. We loved the attention to detail in this room divider, not least its smart leather hinges.
Buy now £450.00, Kreis Design
Fifty Five South celina deco room divider
Never mind the home office, this jazzy room divider is made for the home bar. Fashioned from tough glass with a strong iron frame, this Art Deco-inspired three-way screen is a hefty one. But its substantial weight means you know it’s not going to topple over.
Featuring a sharp geometric pattern in jewel-like blues, outlined in bright gold lines, it is a seriously striking statement piece. We loved its variation in tone and its rich visual texture. While the screen does fold away neatly, it’s guaranteed you’ll want to keep this one on display at all times.
Buy now £553.00, Fy
Housecosy kendrick room divider
This is a nifty room divider that doubles up as a versatile bookcase on wheels. Made from solid oak and engineered walnut, it is a robust piece of furniture, yet it allows the light to stream through thanks to its spacious voids. The unit has just two storage sections with fixed backing, otherwise, it’s all about the open shelving – fill it with as much or as little as you like and it will still feel airy. We loved the colour contrast in materials (choose white or black against the natural wood) and the easy-to-manoeuvre castors.
Buy now £399.00, Housecosy
Maisons du Monde kampala black metal leaf room divider
The kampala screen brings a faraway aesthetic to any living room. The all-metal room divider features a series of intricately cut-out leaves that are gilded on the edges to give the piece an arresting visual texture. The gold accents catch the light beautifully while adding a softness to the otherwise dark and dramatic piece. What we loved most about this one was its contrast in form and materials. It may be hard-edged, but the leaves look like they’re floating.
Buy now £165.00, Maisons du Monde
La Forma lilita room divider with mirror
This is a stylish and practical room divider from Spanish brand La Forma. It’s crafted from rattan, including the black painted frame, and features three oval folding panels and a central, circular mirror, making it ideal if you’re looking to cordon off an area of the bedroom to give yourself a small dressing room set-up. The fine-woven screen offers privacy but with a light and airy feel, and it doesn’t overwhelm the space. We loved its contrasting colours and elegant shaping.
Buy now £385.00, Cuckooland
VidaXL hand carved 3-panel room divider
Hand-carved from solid mango wood, this is a decorative three-way folding screen that looks and feels more expensive than it is. Finished in a light grey wash, it also offers a charming aged look – in fact, this room divider could pass as a prized piece picked up from a vintage shop. We found that the lacy patterning allowed light to flood through – an attribute that’s handy for smaller spaces that you want to keep bright once they are sectioned off. It’s also a sturdy screen that folds away neatly when not in use.
Buy now £125.00, Mano Mano
Shimu shanxi butterfly screen, black lacquer
Our priciest pick takes its design cues from the beautifully painted furniture of the Shanxi province of China. Crafted from solid wood and with the ability to fold four ways, this room divider is as decorative as it is functional. With its black lacquer background, the piece offers a glamorous sheen, while delicately handpainted butterflies fill each frame with vibrant colour and shimmer. This one’s exquisitely crafted – even the metal hinges are ornate. An investment piece to treasure.
Buy now £1745.00, Shimu
The verdict: Room dividers
Beachcrest Home’s galligan room divider got our top vote for its versatility, affordability, and its pretty vintage aesthetic. It is a sturdy piece that doesn’t overwhelm the space thanks to its light paint finish and its natural fabric, which lets the daylight through.
For our home office needs, Kreis Design’s pegboard room divider brought a cool, calm, Scandi vibe to our set-up, while proving practical on the storage front too.