Open Plan Room Dividers: Opening Partitions

Open plan rooms may be divided simply by strategic placement of furniture or more definitely by open or opening partitions. Open partitions are fixtures with gaps, such as vertical beams in an Elizabethan or Jacobean house, an inglenook fireplace in a Victorian house or, perhaps, a breakfast bar in a modern home. Opening partitions are typically doors, blinds, curtains or panels that create a physical division between two areas but can be easily moved aside or raised to restore open plan living.

Curtains and Blinds.

Curtains as room dividers can be cheap to install and to replace when grubby or damaged or to match redecoration. All that is required is a rail fixed between walls or to joists in the ceiling to enable the curtain to be pulled across. The main disadvantage is probably the lack of audible privacy.

There are various types of blinds that can be used as room dividers: vertical strips, vertical flat panels, roller blinds, pleated blinds and Venetian blinds can all be fixed to the ceiling joists. Some can be drawn aside, like curtains, and others can be raised or lowered. Vertical strips and Venetian blinds can remain in a closed position yet the strips or slats can be manoeuvred to allow light flow and viewing between the separated areas.

Doors and Panels, from cheap DIY to Frameless Glass elegance.

Doors and panels offer a more formal structure to dividing an open plan area into two rooms. During the 20th century, many homes with two reception rooms were converted, by means of removing the interior separating wall, into a single, larger living space. Often, home owners would then add doors or sliding panels where the wall had been, in order to provide versatility in case two living areas were required.

Today, there is a wide choice of doors and panel based folding partition to suit every property type, interior design and decor, life style, personal taste and budget.


  • Doors may be sliding, folding or pivot opening.
  • Doors may be supported at the top, hinged at the side or panels may rest on the floor.
  • Most doors will be made primarily of wood (or wood effect) or glass; some decorative panels may use other materials.


The cheapest doors, geared to the do it yourself enthusiast and budget-conscious, are: sliding door panels, hinged pairs of bi-folds and French door sets from nationwide D-I-Y stores, such as Wickes and B&Q. Whilst functional as partitions, lower priced doors should not be expected to be robust in a ‘boisterous’ environment.

When budgeting for permanent room divider doors, the initial outlay will include materials and labour but the true cost will be reflected in the value of the property. For example, in most cases, a luxury penthouse apartment would merit a larger budget than a small starter home.

Fully open, partition doors should facilitate maximum access. With sliding doors, this can be achieved by installing ‘pocket doors’ that slide into cavities in a hollow wall or the panels can be mounted behind or in front of the wall opening to slide behind or in front of the wall. Each door of a pair of French Doors will pivot open. Bi folding doors can slide and fold, concertina style, to stack at a 90 degree angle at the side of the opening. An innovative ‘hybrid’ is the slide and pivot system, where as many doors as required can slide independently to the end of the opening and pivot 90 degrees to stack neatly at the side of the opening.

Bi folding doors (sliding folding) and slide and pivot doors are known as retractable doors. Retractable door systems are the most effective for open plan living, as the access area between rooms is maximised.

When partition doors are closed, there may be a need to reduce noise between rooms. Well fitting, heavy timber doors or double glazed bi folding doors will provide the most adequate sound barriers.

Consideration needs to be given regarding the visual effect when the room is divided by closed doors. Should it look like two separate, private rooms or should light (and sight) be allowed to flow between? There are interesting options that provide the best of both concepts: sliding panels comprising colonial-style wooden shutters that can be adjusted in a similar way to slatted blinds and blinds fitted within the double glazing of slide and fold (bi folding) or slide and pivot doors. Integral blinds are available as pleated or slatted and are operable electronically or manually.

Bi folding doors are available from a number of manufacturers and fall into three main categories: timber, metal and plastic. As room dividers, plastic or PVC is unsuitable, leaving a choice of wooden or aluminium frames. The ‘sleek and chic’ alternative available with integral blinds would be slide and pivot glass doors, particularly if the theme of your home is contemporary, with an ultra slim side frame of less than an inch wide.

It should be noted that integral blinds must be ordered with the doors as they are factory sealed inside the cavity.

If integral blinds are not a requirement, frameless glass slide and pivot doors have the wow factor. With no visible side frames to the doors, maximum visibility and light flow are achieved. Alternatively, the doors can be supplied with tinted glass.

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