Fabric makes a great room divider

June 20, 2005|by CHRISTINE BRUN /Copley News Service

One of the most effective ways to use fabric is in the creation of a little "space within a space." Textiles lend themselves to hanging and wrapping, and they move easily around other objects in a room. The inherent soft quality of fabric makes it a perfect medium for use in a bedroom as a room divider or a bed enclosure.

For many centuries, humans have known that it feels safe to sleep in a surrounded place. In 19th century Sweden, they built double bunk beds built into the wall and used fabric curtains to keep the warmth inside the cubicle. For one of my clients I designed a sleeping alcove in a mountain cabin with bunk beds and individual denim fabric enclosures. The result was a private and snug sleeping area, complete with individual reading lights near the head of each bunk.

A more heightened sense of security is especially important for children, and you can see a classic example of the use of fabric in the photo shown here. A curtain rod mounted from the ceiling can support a lightweight fabric that provides a cozy area within the room.


If your children share a larger room, this concept can provide you with a design-savvy way to separate the space into compartments fit for each little one. While there may not be total sound privacy, the psychological effect of being separated visually from others is profound.

Remember the sense of security you got when you made a blanket-covered hide-out right in the middle of the living room when you were a child? When you were inside, it felt like the rest of the world was far away.

The same idea could be used in a slightly different application. Instead of roping off each bed, fabric curtains might be used to divide a room in half for two kids. Your selection of fabric could enhance the theme or mood of the room, as well. Or choose a simple color scheme that will continue to be suitable as the child grows up.

For an older child, try beaded hangings, a retro look from the '70s that is popular again. There are many choices available, from metallic beaded curtains and disco metal beaded chain curtains to softer designs.

Check out for blue and green feathers and pink and purple feathers used in the same way that traditional beads are to create a long curtain. The colors can coordinate with a child's decor, and the texture is soft to the max.

Other possibilities are bamboo curtains that are available either plain, with a sunflower design, or with colorful animals such as a giraffe or a lion.

If you are into crafts, look at for a "fun fur" boucle lion fur yarn kit for making your own yarn and beaded curtain. This one is really different in character and would provide sophisticated color and softness to any area.

Of course, more traditional fabric choices are endless in color, texture and design motif. Whatever material you choose, the concept of sectioning off a bed from the rest of a room can provide a wonderful getaway in a crowded household.

Of course, the need for separation and coziness is not limited to children. All of the same ideas might be used in grown-up bedrooms and can add to the general ambience in a serious manner or in a much more whimsical fashion. There is something very mysterious about parting a curtain and climbing into bed behind a soft "wall." The space behind the curtain can be painted a darker shade of the same color of the main part of the bedroom to further emphasize the individual quality of the little place.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

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