Folding screens may conjure up visions of an old-timey boudoir, but these versatile dividers can come in handy in the modern home, in ways you might not have imagined.
“I wouldn’t use folding screens as a literal screen that you saunter behind in order to ‘slip into something more comfortable,’” says Justin Riordan of Spade and Archer Design Agency.
Instead, designers use folding screens for a variety of purposes, both practical and decorative—they can transform a space, conceal clutter, or just add visual flair.
Here are seven ideas that could make this convenient home accessory your new best friend.
1. Hide a flaw in a room
A shoddy paint job, cracked plaster, or a window that looks into a dark alley—all are prime candidates for a folding screen. Use it to cover up whatever ugliness you’re dealing with, recommends Beverly Solomon of the eponymous design firm.
And when organizing pros can’t tame certain piles, a folding screen is the answer.
“I placed one in a home to carve out some space for a person whose spouse was on his way to becoming a hoarder,” notes Julie Corracio of Reawaken Your Brilliance. “The screen gave the woman her own space so she wouldn’t have to look at his mess.”
You can also conceal office equipment (printer, scanner, shredder, that tangle of cords) or little-used exercise gear (we’re looking at you, StairMaster).
2. Frame a bed
Renters can rejoice! They no longer have to lug heavy, unwieldy headboards up the stairs. Riordan recommends the above pick ($280, Wayfair.com) to place behind a bed, which not only creates a headboard but also adds texture to the room.
A fabric screen is another smart headboard option, particularly if it’s padded underneath (it’s softer to lean on). A mirrored folding screen can also work in the bedroom or dining area, as it’ll reflect light and make a small space appear larger.
3. Use as large-format, inexpensive artwork
Folding screens can become large-format, inexpensive artwork, reports Riordan.
“Whenever I’m faced with a huge wall or hallway to cover and low funds, I turn to a folding screen,” he says.
This fish screen ($99, Wayfair.com), for example, can be taken apart and hung as a series of paintings, he adds.
4. Define a space while allowing light in
While folding screens are great to help define spaces in an open floor plan, what if you don’t want to sacrifice light? Problem solved with this rice paper screen ($80, Hayneedle.com), which allows light to filter in, keeping your room feeling airy and bright.
“This is my favorite look when you have a small space and you want to create two distinct areas, such as a spot to eat and another to watch TV,” explains Coraccio. This pick is also lightweight and easy to slide from room to room.
5. Add style to your outdoor space
You don’t have to limit your screens to the home’s interior.
“Depending on the materials in the screen’s fabrication, you could even use it in your garden,” notes Solomon.
6. Add a pop of color or detail
The genius behind folding screens is that they’ll allow you to add a pop of color or detail to an otherwise bland area. In this case, a lack of bookcases isn’t a problem when your screen displays tomes for you ($96, Homedepot.com). You could also seek out a screen with cork or blackboard material as inserts so you can post notes, write lists, or hang inspiring photos in your home office or kitchen.
7. Jazz up a kid’s room, or hide clutter
Of course you’ll want to hide that mountain of toys, laundry, train table, and art easel with a screen, but you can also get creative with a screen that matches your child’s interests.
A kid who’s into dinosaurs or other animals might dig this look, above ($129, Amazon.com). And check out screens with attached hooks to hold bathrobes and jackets, or ones with sewn-on pockets so your children can stash their Lego bricks, paper dolls, and other small toys.
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