The pandemic has turned this antique homeware accessory into a modern home must-have

This timeless craze is as stylish as it is practical – and it's never felt so current

Folding screen room dividers by ROOME London X Matthew Williamson
(Image credit: ROOME London)

If you haven't already invested in a folding screen or room divider, then don't delay. Designers and interior experts at the top of the home decor industry are urging us to invest in this century-old furnishing, as recent search trends have seen demands for folding screen room dividers jump by 177 percent. 

These ornate pieces can be traced back over 2400 years but are currently enjoying a newfound surge in popularity. The last year has seen the slow demise of open-plan living as we've sought to carve out space in the home for ourselves. Room dividers have become an easy way to achieve this. 

Golden and black folding screen room dividers by OKA

(Image credit: OKA)

According to Esty, who has similarly observed a 134 percent increase in searches for room dividers, the trend reflects the current need for multi-functionality – as our homes continue to act as living and working spaces. 

'We all made our living spaces work for us last year, and many of our rooms served multiple purposes – we added workspaces to our living rooms, classrooms into our kitchens, and gyms to our bedrooms,' Etsy's trend expert, Dayna Isom Johnson shares. 

'This year, shoppers will be finding ways to reimagine their homes and incorporate pieces that help restore balance to our multi-functional spaces.'

Designer secrets for embracing folding screens

1. Create an artistic statement

Folding screen room dividers by ROOME London X Matthew Williamson

(Image credit: ROOME London)

Yes, room dividers are practical, but they can also act as an ultra-stylish statement, especially when it comes to pieces from ROOME London. Founders Laura and Caroline Allnatt have joined forces with the most esteemed artists and designers worldwide to create an ultra-stylish room divider that will leave a powerful impact on any room long after our WFH home days pass. 

'We think a statement screen can be used as a standalone piece of art or as a sophisticated room divider,' they share.

2. Use screens to create a stylish private zone 

Black and white folding screen room dividers by Wayfair

(Image credit: Wayfair)

While Danya suggests that our multi-functional homes are the reason for the room divider's success, Hannah Armstrong, Furniture Buyer at Heal's, further explains how to make these folding screens work in our contemporary homes. 

'After a year of homeschooling and remote working, zoning our spaces to create a more structured, multi-functional way of living has become increasingly important,' she begins. 

Large bookcase style folding screen room dividers by Heal's

(Image credit: Heal's)

She continues: 'While the popularity for open plan design shows no signs of abating, the demand for room dividers has grown. Dividers are a simple and flexible solution to quickly update the layout of a room while also offering a stylish storage solution. Dividers can create additional zones in compact homes without permanently blocking off a space or losing natural light.'

'Use the feature to design an intimate dining area which can be extended when entertaining larger parties, separating a quiet study space from busier parts of the living room,' she adds.

3. Break up with your open-plan

Folding screen room dividers by Cox&Cox

(Image credit: Cox&Cox)

According to Andrew Martin founder and designer Martin Waller, room dividers are also loved for their ability to break up an open-plan space. This not only allows you to create a private zone that now only offers respite from the rest of your home, but it also allows us to combine the airiness of an open-plan space with the privacy of a broken-plan layout. 

'Open-plan spaces are increasingly popular and are great for entertaining but can sometimes feel sparse or empty. Open furniture, such as cabinets, bookcases, or shelving, can be used to create different zones without making the space feel closed in. A folding screen can provide privacy, something that is often lacking in open plan living,' Martin suggests. 

With so much to love about folding screens and room dividers, we're not surprised they're having a moment. In fact, we'd be more surprised if they weren't. 

Megan Slack

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team.

Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US whilst studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site.

Megan currently lives in London, where she relocated from her hometown in Yorkshire. In her home, she experiments with interior design trends and draws inspiration from the home decor ideas she observes in her everyday work life. Her favorite pieces include her antique typewriter and her expansive collection of houseplants. When she isn’t writing, she is browsing London’s coffee shops and bookstores to add to her ever-growing library, taking over the open shelving in her apartment.