Define smaller spaces to better utilize them

Updated 11/7/2017 6:10 AM
  • In this case, curtains are being used to close off a small living room annex into its own separate space.

    In this case, curtains are being used to close off a small living room annex into its own separate space. Courtesy of English Blinds

There are some creative and exciting ways to close off unique or awkward spaces in your home. I'm thinking of areas like transformed front porches, dressing rooms or converted walk-in closets. Let's examine spaces that are next to a major room but much smaller in size.

I was inspired by a consultation I had this week at a charming 1929 bungalow that is all of 750 square feet. Fortunately, the little house was equipped with many windows, and when I entered, it felt more spacious than I'd initially anticipated.

In the living room, there were fine maple floors and a wood-burning fireplace was centered on one wall with windows flanking either side. Beyond the compact room was a dining area defined by a wide arch.

During the appointment, we discussed the idea of closing off the dining area with lush Moroccan-style drapes. They would be mounted on the back side of the wall between the dining area and the living room. When left open and tied back, the curtains would act as a subtle, peekaboo texture that clearly separates the two spaces.

Here we see curtains installed for other purposes. One is to close off the cold entering through the glass windows in the living room annex. The other is to create a soft barrier for the living room and darken the room, so TV and movies can be watched without glare.

As the smaller annex space becomes clearly defined, it could be designated as a mini-reading room or library, a yoga space or a weight room. It could also hold a daybed to take afternoon naps in or accommodate an occasional overnight guest. Finally, if it were used as a home office, the curtains would be a nifty way to close off any messiness when guests are around.

Another multiuse piece to block off space is a folding screen. They have been used since 7th century China and are constructed from individual panels that are attached to each other. Generally, these were six- to eight-panel folding screens with decorative painting. Japanese screens are known as shoji, and they often slide as well as fold. Many are familiar with the simple designs of the delicate shoji screen.

Modern designers have examined portable screens, and one of the most famous was designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1946. They experimented with molded plywood and created the Eames Molded Plywood Folding Screen, a portable, foldable screen meant to divide and separate spaces. It is 68 inches tall, 60 inches wide and only 2.25 inches deep. Today, you can order it from Design Within Reach for $2,650; it comes in white ash, ebony or walnut veneer faces.

Consider using a dropping screen, blind or even a roller shade to cut off a specific area. These work well when occupants are allergic to the dust the aforementioned fabric solutions would accumulate, or in places with extremely limited space.

None of these solutions will offer auditory privacy, but they do allow you to efficiently manage small spaces. Any of these ideas would work to separate a shared bedroom as a way for siblings to acknowledge privacy and declare privacy.

• Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at

2017, Creators Syndicate

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