Room dividers were a common interior element in mid-century design. Screens and dividers of all sorts of invention became a part of separating spaces whether indoors or outdoors. Depending on the style and construction, room dividers provided a way to delineate different areas without enclosing spaces with walls while preserving an open concept.
The following are 5 different, easy to make room dividers with instructions on how to make them. Since some of the complexity of hardwood dividers with doors and drawers have been excluded, these basic designs can be expanded or changed to add more sophisticated features or simply to vary their look.
1st Room Divider
This room divider is very simple. Each folding section is made from one piece of plywood. Three different sized circle cutouts make the interesting patterns in the plywood sheet. Cut your shapes out of paper or cardboard and place as you like making sure to keep a sense of balance. By having cutouts cross the sections, a flow and continuity are given to the divider. You may use other materials besides plywood but you will need to keep in mind the weight of this piece.
At this point, after the sheet of plywood has been divided into the individual sections, the pieces can be sanded, painted, or stained.
The sections are attached with hinges that can bend in both directions making them suitable for screens. If you use hinges that are meant to mount on the surface and only bend in a certain direction, take this into account when adding hinges. Swing hinges are a good choice to use for screens.
This is all for Room Divider 1, except that this design is meant for use with more than one. Two would be fine to span around 6 feet and three for about 8 to 9 feet. Also, if your ceiling will not accommodate a partition this tall, it is a simple matter to cut the sheet material to the desired measurement.
2nd Room Divider
This second room divider utilizes 1-1/2 sheets of plywood cut into three sections. The 8′ length of plywood is reduced to 6-2/3′ or 80″ and will stand a little over 5′ wide while folded a bit in order to stand. Adding more sections will permit a wider divider.
Construction of this divider begins by cutting away 12″ x 16″ rectangles from the corners and the center of the panel. The translucent fiberglass (or other material such as polycarbonate) is cut to the same dimensions and attached by industrial strength resin glue such as epoxy. If you desire a stronger hold, encasing the edges of the fiberglass with metal or wood molding will give extra strength. Use swing hinges or any suitable hinge to connect the sections. Sanding, painting, or staining the wood before adding the translucent panels will be easier but you will need to be careful to mask off or protect the wood finish when installing the fiberglass.
3rd Room Divider
The third room divider looks rather complicated to make but actually is very simple. Just a lot of measurement, fastening and gluing.
This divider is around 6′ wide and can be expanded by increasing the length of the vertical support piece. 2″ from the bottom of the support piece is fixed an equivalent length of 1 x 2 (3/4″ x 1-1/2″) material on both sides. The vertical support piece is standard shelving at 1 x 12 (3/4″ x 11-1/2″) at 72″ or 6′. The 1 x 2s spanning the length of the support piece can be secured with glue and 1″ to 1-1/4″ finishing nails or screws.
The uprights rest on the two horizontal 1 x 2s on each side of the support piece and are of the same length.
The uprights alternate between front and back by the width of an upright. You can use one of the uprights as a way to measure the distance between placement of each piece, screwing or nailing them to the vertical support with glue and 1″ to 1-1/4″ finishing nails or screws.
The end support pieces are attached to each end of the vertical support piece with wood screws through pre-drilled holes. The end supports are simply square pieces cut out of the remaining portion of an 8′ 1 x 12 shelf and then rounded on two corners. You can use a coffee can or any rounded flat object to mark off the line to cut.
One of the problems with free-standing dividers is the possibility of tipping over. For further stability, you can add legs to either side by attaching to the bottom of the end supports by wood screws and glue a section of 1 x 4 in the dimensions shown in the above graphic. You can also attach one end of the divider to a wall at one of the end support pieces by drilling holes, using screws or drywall anchors into the wall.
To make this project, you will need at least 8′ of 1 x 12 shelving, at least 43 pieces of 1 x 2 material, 4′ of 1 x 4 material for the stability feet, sandpaper, paint or stain, and 1″ to 1-1/4″ finishing nails and screws, and a good quality interior/exterior glue.
4th Room Divider
This modern room divider is in the tradition of mid-century styles that also provided storage and display space. One of the important things to remember when making such a piece is the strength of the materials used. Since a large part of the shelves overhang with no support on one end, the material must be able to hold items without slumping over time. A good furniture grade plywood fits this bill but so does a hardwood or a solid pine.
This project only utilizes ten 1 x 12 x 6′ shelving. So the side piece is simply one 6′ or 72″ shelf. Begin by measuring where the horizontal shelves will attach and pre-drill holes for wood screws which will be inserted into one end of each shelf. At least 3 screws for each shelf end will make for a strong connection.
The bottom shelf is 6″ from the bottom.
One upright support piece is notched by cutting 3/4″ wide slots to the center of the board. Each shelf will be notched on the opposite side so the horizontal and vertical pieces interlock. Before assembly, notch all the boards first. However, start by attaching the bottom shelf to the side upright support. You will probably need to lay the construction on its side in order to make assembly less awkward. At this point, ignore the diagonal in the graphic.
The notches are separated by 11″.
The notches on the shelves are 24″ from the end of the shelves. The graphic shows 24-3/4″ but that is because it includes the width of the notch.
The diagonal support is easily positioned by aligning a 1 x 12 with the top corner of the upright with the top corner of the diagonal and the bottom corner of the 1 x 12 with the bottom shelf as shown in the graphic. Draw a cutting line where the diagonal meets the upright and the shelf. The same may be done for the other side but before the diagonals can be affixed to the bottom shelf and upright, all the shelves must be in place.
With all the shelves in place, the diagonals can be screwed or nailed to the upright and the bottom shelf with 1-1/2″ nails or screws and glue. In fact, by connecting the diagonals where they touch the shelves, the unit will be given greater strength.
To provide greater stability, the upright can be attached to a wall with screws or drywall anchors. Of course, as previously mentioned, sandpaper, paint, or stain will be necessary for finishing. To reiterate, you will need 10 six feet 1 x 12s and 1-1/2″ to 2″ screws and finishing nails and wood glue.
5th Room Divider
The 5th room divider takes on a familiar mid-century modern look. The design has been simplified. Yet many elaborations could be added such as adding shelving, drawers, and doors.
To make this version, start with the hanging four compartment box.
The central walls of the compartment are centered on 18″ beginning at 18″ on each end. The walls are 18″ squares, while the top and bottom are two 6′ x 18″ sections of furniture grade plywood. The walls are attached to the top and bottom with pocket joint screws.
The position of the cross pieces used to hold the shelves can be changed if you want a different number of shelves. The compartment box will stand 8-1/2″ from the floor on two of the cross beams of the upright support sections. The cross beams are 18-1/4″ to allow for easy movement and placement of the 18″ compartment box and the 18″ shelves. The two upright sections, made from 2 x 2 (1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″) material, should be fully constructed according to the graphic before continuing.
Pocket hole joints with glue securely hold the upright sections together. The pocket holes should face the inside of this piece of furniture.
Center the inner wall of the outside compartments on the upright section posts and connect them with pocket joint screws as seen in the graphic. Obviously, the pocket holes are drilled before attempting placement. This is 3/8″ from the edge of the upright.
To give further strength, connect the bottom cross beams by three 2″ wood screws on both sides.
Screws can secure the shelves through the bottom of the cross beams.
For this project, you will need 3 sheets of 4′ x 8′ plywood or suitable sheet material, 6 lengths of 2 x 2 (1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″) at 8′, glue, 2″ wood or construction screws and, of course, all that is necessary to finish the surface of your project. This particular project probably would look best with a mahogany stain and a glossy top coat.