Yanic Simard, Houzz
Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish.
If you live in a one-room or open-concept space such as a studio apartment or bachelor condo unit, you may feel as though you live in the bedroom and sleep in the living room — or worse, in the kitchen. But there are many ways to create a sense of visual and physical division between the different zones in your home to give the appearance of having distinct spaces without having to put up any walls.
Orient your furniture
One of the simplest ways to make two areas of a small home feel divided is by orienting the furniture in each zone away from the other. We often assume that large pieces like a sofa must sit against a wall facing toward the center. But facing these pieces out toward the wall can help create mental and functional divisions of space.
This sofa doubles as a room divider by being placed in the center of the room facing away from the bed, thus defining a “living room” and “bedroom” without shrinking the look of the space.
In a very small space, especially a home for one person, it’s worth considering placing the bed in different orientations as well, rather than just the standard placement with the headboard against the wall.
Hide the office away
If you really can’t get your mind off work, it may be best to place your desk in a closet or cabinet so it can be completely shut away when not in use. You won’t have to feel like you’re living in your home office if the office itself is closed for business when the workday is done.
Layer your furniture
You may have heard of the layered look, but did you know you can even layer your furniture? This space uses a fold-down bed to great effect by letting it actually fold down over a modern sofa to literally cover up the living room area when the bed is out.
In case you haven’t noticed, this is actually the same space as the previous photo. It looks completely different between day mode and night mode, giving the effect of the “bedroom” being its own distinct space.
Create functional divisions
Sometimes all you need to make two zones feel separate is just a small obstacle between them. This room uses a compact breakfast bar to add a little dining space, but also to create a separation between the bed area and the living area, essentially extending the wall out a bit so the zones feel that much more divided.
You can also use an open bookshelf or TV stand to create a similar separation.
Use screens and dividers
For a more compact approach to dividing space, a standing divider or built-in screen will break up a room without totally blocking sight lines to the point that the room appears half the size.
You can also use a dreamy hanging curtain to literally enclose the bed at night. It’s a traditional technique, but in a simple material it can look entirely modern as well.
If you prefer a more total separation, try enclosing just the bed with a more opaque screen like this one made of beachy wood strips.
The bed will become a cozy little niche, and nobody will be able to tell if you start your day without straightening up your sheets. On the other side of the division, you can also hang some art or place a console table with lamps to complete the look. Just be sure the screen is anchored securely so it won’t come crashing down when you roll over in your sleep.
Use a natural separation point
If the layout of your room includes a door or closet in the middle, use this as a natural breaking point between rooms to define each half of the room as its own space. Consider arranging the room so the sleeping area and living area are on opposite sides of the door. Beams in the ceiling and other fundamental architectural features will help as well, so look at the bare shell of the room to guide you as to where natural divisions occur.
Define areas with rugs
It’s right in the name: Area rugs are great for defining specific areas and making them feel separate from their surroundings. By placing an area rug under a seating area, you tie that furniture together visually into a single group. Plus, creating some divisions on the ground will signal your brain that the remaining bare floor is its own space too, drawing a line between different zones.
You can even use an area rug to create a zone out of a single furniture piece. This sofa becomes the sole occupant of a defined “living room” zone within this small space when placed on a demure, creamy rug. The material doesn’t shout for attention or shrink the space, but it subtly creates a division between living and dining so the eye can see them each as their own little “room.”
Define areas with platforms
Want an even more dramatic separation than you can achieve with a rug? Raising certain areas to a different level makes them even more distinct, like how this space uses a platform base to elevate the bed into a defined mini-bedroom. Using functional storage furniture, an upcycled shipping palette or another low base will give your sleeping area a bit of a bump. Just be sure not to place any furniture on it that may shift and slide off. And no raised dining areas, please!
Divide spaces with a swing-arm sconce
A swing-arm sconce can be beautiful and very multifunctional already, but in an open concept space it can also serve double duty as a movable light and an additional space-separator. Having a slight visual obstacle around eye height will subtly define a division between the spaces, but it can easily swing out of the way when needed so it doesn’t become a physical obstacle.
Create organic breaks with plants
Like the previous tip, a potted plant or indoor tree can also be a great way to break up eye lines a bit to separate two spaces without truly getting in the way. Plus, if a small space feels stifling, a touch of plant life will make it feel all the more fresh and lively.
Paint an accent wall
An accent wall can add a beautiful feature when you don’t want to use a dark color or busy pattern in a whole space, but much like an area rug, it also can trigger the brain to see the furniture in that area as a distinct group. In fact, it can be even more effective than a rug, as we tend to pay more visual attention to vertical surfaces such as walls rather than floors. Use a rich color to back a seating area or your bed to make that area pop.
It’s often assumed to be a rule that when you paint a wall, you should paint the whole thing or none at all. However, in a small space especially, painting just a fun accent in a corner or partial wall can go a long way toward defining a small zone like a desk nook or entryway, and add a small splash of color in a livable dose. Repeat that same hue in some of the furnishings to make the area feel even more defined as a complete vignette with its own personality.
Hang curtains between zones
Hanging curtains aren’t only for windows or around a bed; they can be used elsewhere in the space to create walls that move as desired. Another big advantage in a small space is the fact that curtains will naturally absorb some sound, creating a lot less echoing than a hard divider. You can hang a track from the ceiling or anchor it between two walls, and use a simple grommeted curtain for a no-fuss treatment that is easy to pull and works with any decor.