Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - November 11, 2011

A fresh look

Folding screens are decorative and functional

by Kit Davey

What can camouflage an ugly view, serve as unique window treatment and create a dramatic focal point? It's the versatile and beautiful folding screen! Folding screens are making a comeback as a decorative and highly functional design tool.

A carefully selected and placed screen can be an inexpensive way to increase the impact of almost any room in your home.

Where can you use a screen?

Freestanding, folding screens have many uses in the home:

* Fill an empty corner. Angle your screen across the corner and sit a small can lamp on the floor behind it. The light behind the screen will shine up onto the ceiling.

* Conceal a workspace. Don't have time to clear off your desk before guests arrive? Unfold your screen and sit it in front of your work zone.

* Delineate an entry. Many small homes and apartments lack formal entries. Use your screen to create the illusion of a hallway.

* Dress up your couch. Instead of hanging a large-scale piece of art over your sofa, move your couch a few inches away from the wall and place a colorful screen behind it.

* Create a focal point in your bedroom. If you're worried about art crashing down on you during an earthquake, why not sit a lightweight screen behind your headboard instead?

* Substitute for traditional window treatment. Screens are an easy way to hide an ugly view. Sit a wrought-iron or shoji screen in front of your window. It will allow light to shine through and add to the room's decor.

* Hang it on the wall. Hand-painted Japanese or Chinese coromandel screens can be mounted on the wall in the dining room, or along a long boring wall in your living room to create a bold focal point.

* Add privacy to a sleeping or changing area. If you live in a studio apartment, a screen is a great way to create a room within a room.

Selecting your screen

In choosing the most appropriate screen for your home ask yourself:

* How often will you need to move it or store it? If moved frequently, make sure you purchase a lightweight screen that folds completely flat for convenient storing.

* How high are your ceilings and what is the scale of the room? A too-tall screen can look silly in a low-ceilinged room, and a short screen in a tall-ceilinged room looks sillier still. Wider panels work best in a room with large-scale pieces, and narrow panels work well in a room with a smaller scale.

* What is the expanse of space to be covered? You may need to purchase a four- or five-panel screen or perhaps put two screens together to extend across a large area. If the expanse is short, simply tighten your screen's zigzags.

* How will the screen be used? A solid-panel screen conceals well, but can look bulky. A translucent or cut-out type screen looks airy and decorative, but isn't as good at hiding clutter or providing privacy.

* What about stability? If you're worried about your kitten or toddler knocking it over, go for a screen with wide panels and no legs. Screens with four or more panels also tend to be sturdier.

Make your own screen

Save a little money by making your own room dividers:

Raised panel screen. Purchase two sets of bifold doors and attach the sets together with several double-acting hinges (designed for folding doors). Paint your screen in any color, apply wallpaper to the panels, or stencil on your own motif. Substitute louvered doors for a more tropical look.

Fabric screen. Create three or four open-framed shapes, in the dimensions you choose, using 1-inch by 4-inch or thick floor molding. (Attach the panels to each other as above.) Attach dowels at the top and bottom of each opening. Paint the frame. Using old sheets or leftover fabric, stitch a pocket at each end of the length of fabric for the dowels to slip through.

Lattice screen. Frame tall, narrow sections of garden lattice work. Paint in a color to match the room's decor.

Kit Davey, Allied Member, ASID, specializes in re-design, staging, design consulting and professional organizing. Email her at KitDavey@aol.com, call her at 650-367-7370, or visit her website at www.AFreshLook.net.

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