There’s a reassuring solidity about a conventional house with its ordinary walls and doors. We can choose to be enclosed within a room with the door shut, keeping out extraneous noise and people. Or we may leave internal doors open, letting in light and the babble divisórias industriais of family life. Yet these fixed boundaries are changing. With our predilection for altering living spaces – from creating open-plan and double-height areas to en-suite bathrooms – privacy at home is often compromised. The Oxford English Dictionary defines partition as ‘division into parts; structure separating two such parts’ and it is these structures that can make the difference between a frustrating lack of peace at home and a happy mix of privacy and sociability.
Of course, partitions aren’t new; they have been eternally popular, from traditional Japanese sliding doors, employed to divide sleeping and living spaces, to the decorative freestanding screens used throughout Europe across the centuries. In more recent times, fixed partitions gained a disreputable image, conjuring up visions of flimsy wall-divisions in cheap housing. Today’s architects and designers have revived partitioning as a vital way of screening and cutting down noise in open plan spaces. Even better, partitions can be used to make a strong decorative statement in an enticing array of new materials. Depending on the style you choose – stationary or moveable – you can use them to support ever-changing configurations of space and privacy.
First, it’s vital to decide why you need partitioning. Are you looking to divide ‘public’ and private areas at home – between a hall and bedrooms, for example? Or is it needed to screen off a section of a large knocked through room or to enclose a room-within-a-room? Because partitions are architectural structures, these are questions that are best answered early on in the building process. Solid, fixed partitions will affect space-planning everywhere else, as well as dictating the style and even the colour of a space. Moveable partitions, from a sliding door to a screen on wheels, are easier to add later, but every form of partitioning requires a well-considered financial outlay. Even if you are not using an architect while doing building work, it can be well worth hiring a professional for a one-off consultation. Architects are trained to think in 3-D, so will be able to suggest partitioning ideas that seamlessly integrate into the ‘skin’ of the room.
As for possible materials and types of partitioning, do your market research early as it makes the decision-making process easier. As a starting point, amass tear-sheets from interiors magazines that depict unusual ideas. Cast the net wide and look at potential industrial materials, which can look striking in a domestic setting. Investigate office partitioning, which may be adapted (it is often specifically designed to shut out unwanted noise). Look at modern bind catalogues – many offer sliding well panels – in addition to DIY stores, which will stock a host of doors and panels. There are also the options of going direct to a specialist manufacturer – for bespoke glass doors, say – or finding a good carpenter, who will assist in designing timber partitions.