The decorative folding screen has become a common interior furnishing that is both functional and aesthetically impactful. It is believed screens were original to China, although in 17th century northern European interiors they were quite popular to shield drafts and give privacy to the usual one-room households and bathing chambers.
French suites and English drawing rooms made screens quite fashionable. By the 19th century, they had become a ubiquitous decorating item nearly worldwide.
Screens are quite versatile. They can help shield an unsightly view, divide an oversized room and anchor a seating area. They can be as long as a room's wall and come in all sorts of lengths, from tabletop versions to monumental floor-to-ceiling versions. They can bring so much style and give instant architecture to a room, which lacks interest. Screens have become interior designers and decorator's go-to trick of the trade.
Screens are masterful at concealing anything you don't want seen: an old radiator heater, a doorway to a less attractive room, and even a pile up of messy clothes. It has become a tasteful way to hide almost anything.
Hallways, which by nature can be long and boring, are a great place to show off a screen. Long walls can be broken down to seem smaller if two or more screens are placed side by side. Often screens are hand-painted depicting a bucolic rural scene or cityscape or floral arrangement, and by virtue of the length can only be seen in their entirety when opened on a long wall.
Large rooms that lack a natural division, such as an archway, colonnade or fireplace, can use a screen. Screens are practical because they are movable and can be put in place to make any gathering feel comfortable. They can be removed or pulled back if the room needs to be larger, or can be reigned in to create a smaller area within a large room for a more intimate gathering.
Some homeowners, interior designers and decorators use screens behind a sofa as a decorative embellishment or in lieu of artwork. Behind sofas, they act as a dramatic furniture backdrop. They add an air of individuality to an otherwise boring and simple room. Depending on their style, it can act as guide to the interior design, or act as a focal point because of how decorated they are.
There really is no right or wrong location for the placement of a screen. They can go in almost any room. They can be placed in a living room, a dining room, a library, even a bedroom to separate a lounging area from your bed. Their versatility is what has made them such an intrinsic furnishing in decorating. Their scale gives a room an air of elegance. While screens are available in myriad materials, old and new, antique lacquered Chinese screens (also known as Coromandel screens) are the preferred ones for fine interiors.
So don't go hiding behind any screens; most people take pride in showing off their treasured screens.
• Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Florida.
© 2017, Creators Syndicate