The Illusion of Privacy

Del Friscos

The illusion of separation is often enough to make a space seem more private and cozy. Open floor plans make your space look larger, airy and more expansive – maximizing the feeling of a spacious interior. But whether your space is a loft or open space created by taking down the walls to combine small rooms into one grander space, you still need to create zones for various activities.

In the Victorian era, drapery tie-backs in doorways separated the front room from the rest of the house. The hippy era gave us beaded curtains as the solution to privacy. Open bookcases were popularized when loft living became fashionable. Up until recently, not much new in room separators has come along. Hats off to the leather solution at the Michael Jordan’s Steak House cordoned off from the lobby of the Intercontinental Chicago Magnificent Mile by a knee wall and belts to screen the view.

Michael Jordan's Steakhouse

Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse

There are some wonderful new divider concepts that can define your space without closing it off. Check out these modular interlocking blocks that are 24” wide and 32” high (and about 6” thick) made with a cast rock exterior and foam interior so they are strong but lightweight. It’s Legos for your home. You can stack them to your desired height. Stack two for a 64” high floating partition, stack three for a floor to ceiling screen if you have a standard 8’ ceiling (or stack three if you are lucky enough to have the ceiling height). You can make your screen wall any width you want as long as it is in two-foot increments. Blocks come in many different patterns and can be left their natural white or painted to coordinate with your interior.

No wall for your sofa? Create one like they did at the A. Rudin showroom in the Merchandise Mart.  They used the blocks to anchor drywall the length of their sofa. A small light soffit in front of the modular blocks is a smart idea for a floating space with no convenient electrical outlets.

Carved MDF board made from re-cycled wood chips is another new screening material. It is sold in 4’ x 8’ sheets the same size as drywall. This lightweight paintable laser cut material is available in many different designs. Oak Street’s elegant Del Frisco’s Steak House used this to separate their dining spaces. These panels would be great for creating an intimate dining experience or lounging area in your home.

A Rudin showroom

A Rudin showroom

At the recent Boutique Hotel New York Show, LuxeLiving furnishings showed a circles design panels backed with colored Lucite to match their orchid velvet chairs further enhancing the look and creating a vibrant focal point.

Today’s industrial designers are giving us new vertical surface materials that have exponentially increased our options for new age design.  3-D printing is changing everything.  But if you find a good set of beaded curtains in your grandmother’s attic, don’t throw them out. Everything always comes back in style eventually.

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About Merilee Elliott

Merilee Elliott is a nationally recognized award winning hospitality designer for hotels, resorts, senior housing and luxury residences. Based in the Merchandise Mart for the last two decades, trend spotting is her passion; she's a trade show junkie, sourcing innovative products in every category of interiors. Ms. Elliott's blog, "Design Cops," is a different kind of advice column that critiques the designs of our local hot places and spaces to explain what elements make it work – or not.