How To Divide a Room to Create Functional Spaces

Over the past year, we’ve heard one overwhelming message from our clients: “We need more space!!” With more people working from home, children doing distance learning, accommodating additional family members, etc., the home may start to feel more cramped as more people spend time at home and want their own individual space. It may be even more difficult for homes with an open floor plan to feel like everyone can have their own area to hang out or work. On that note, I’d like to make suggestions on how to create more functional spaces by dividing a room into different zones. 

The first thing we need to do is to assess what functional spaces we truly need. Do the kids need their own spot to play quietly and read a book? Do the adults need an office space to work? How about an exercise area? Once you have figure out what type of zones you need, then you can take a look at the current layout of your home and decide where you can fit these functional zones. 

Now that you have a room where you’d like to serve an additional purpose, it’s time to look at different ways that we can visually divide that room to create an additional functional space.

Furniture Arrangement

One easy way to create separate functional spaces in a room is through furniture arrangement. You can use different pieces of furniture that serve as anchors for different zones and arrange smaller pieces around them. Arrange furniture in such a way that creates different focal points in the room. You can also arrange larger furniture to create a physical cut off to a space. For example, you can place your couch in the center of the room and use the back of the couch as a visual cut off point for your family gathering/seating area. Then you are free to create an additional zone behind that couch that can serve a different purpose. 

Furniture in the room are arranged strategically to create separate functional spaces
Here, the open living area is divided into 3 unique zones. A family gathering area, a separate seating area, and a dining area.


Different flooring is often used to visually divide a large space. For example, in an open concept living area, you may choose to use tile in the kitchen vs carpet or hardwood in the living or dining room. You can also use rugs as anchors for separate zones. 

Wood and tile flooring in a open room is used to create separate functional spaces
Hardwood floors and tile separates the living area from dining and kitchen area in this open concept room.


Use individual lighting as focal points to create different zones. A beautiful lighting fixture can center a dining space in an open floor plan. On a smaller scale, add a free-standing lamp or even a small table and lamp next to a chair to create a reading area. In your children’s bedrooms, use some string lights in one corner of the room to create a small play/reading nook. 

Different lighting are used as focal points in different functional spaces in an open room
Each area in this open concept room has unique lighting that acts as focal points for each zone

Ceiling Treatments

Large ceiling beams separate different functional spaces in a room

Besides lighting, you can also use different ceiling treatments to visually divide a space. Add tray ceilings in your family room to designate the seating area. If you have higher ceilings, you can add beams to visually divide a room. You can also paint the ceiling with a design to designate a special zone in a room. 

In these examples, large wood beams are used to visually separate the seating from the dining area.

Large ceiling beams separate different functional spaces in a room

Paint/Wall Treatments

Painting a wall in two different colors can visually divide a space. You can also choose different wall treatments such as wall paneling, wallpaper, etc. Just make sure that the two different colors/elements work well together but have enough contrast to divide the space visually. 

Separate wall treatment used to separate different functional spaces in a room
Wall paper is used in this space to separate the sleep area from play space.

Physical dividers

You can physically and visually divide a space using flexible dividers such as curtains, opening shelving units, foldable wall dividers, etc.

In our recent listing, a “half wall” is created with an open shelf to separate living from reading space and provide storage.

For a more substantial separation, you can add built-in wall partitions, sliding panels, or sliding doors. These are more permanent but may also help insulate sound. 

As your family grows, there is an increasing need for separate functional spaces. While finding a bigger home that is better suited to your needs is a great option (and we are happy to help you with that), you can also reconfigure your home to create some unique spaces that each member of the family can retreat to. It may surprise you how little physical space you need to create a new area that functions well.

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