Cheap Ways to Divide a Room

Updated February 21, 2017

When square footage is at a premium, dividing up a room to make it dual-functioning is one way to maximise your usable space. Dividing a room with a temporary wall is a practical way to separate the space, but working within a budget might have you scratching your head. Inexpensive, creative alternatives to built-in room dividers are budget-friendly options that give you the freedom to switch up the design without sacrificing style.

Folding Screens

Folding screens are typically tri-fold wooden frames with wooden slats or printed fabric panels that serve as temporary room dividers. Traditional folding screens feature Asian motifs or design elements in a nod to the earliest Chinese folding screens that were used as both decorative and functional items. High-end folding screens done in the traditional Chinese style may cost several hundred dollars, but modern folding screens with simple plywood frames and inexpensive panels are more moderately priced for tighter budgets. Folding screens are particularly useful if you want the freedom to move the divider to another space if your needs change.


Combine form and function with bookshelves that also serve as a room divider. For a clearly delineated space, floor-to-ceiling wooden bookshelves serve as storage space on one side and a small wall on the other. For a decorative touch, paint the backside of the shelf or cover it with fabric to complement the existing space. If a solid wooden bookshelf makes your space feel or look too small, consider open bookshelves without a back. The items on the shelves break up the two spaces, while the open back allows light to pass through the shelves.


An inexpensive and budget-friendly option for dividing a space is fabric. Fabric can be suspended directly from the ceiling on hooks or suspended from a ceiling-mounted rod. Solid, heavy fabrics with bold patterns or rich colours serve as both inexpensive room dividers and dramatic accent walls. If you want to allow light to pass through the divider, opt for airy, more transparent fabrics like sheer cotton or light organza. Another option is to forgo fabric and opt for a playful beaded curtain instead. Curtains are particularly useful because they can be opened or tied back if you need space to entertain.

Existing Furniture

The most cost-effective way to divide a room is to use the furniture you already own to differentiate between the spaces in a room. If you have couches, arrange the couches so that the back of the couch divides the space into a seating area and another space like an office or an eat-in kitchen. Streamlined, low-set entertainment centres that house your television don't need to be flush against a wall; placing the arrangement in the centre of a room visually divides the space into distinct areas. One of the most subtle ways to divide a room is with flooring. A large area rug in a bold, solid colour distinguishes a seating area or office space from other parts of a space.

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About the Author

Hannah Wahlig began writing and editing professionally in 2001. Her experience includes copy for newspapers, journals and magazines, as well as book editing. She is also a certified lactation counselor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mount Holyoke College, and Master's degrees in education and community psychology from the University of Massachusetts.