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Divide and Conquer

Telecommuting, home delivery, home offices, home entertainment... today's technologies make it possible to do more from the comfort of the ole homestead. At the same time, these new lifestyles are putting more pressure on your existing space. But it may not be time to drop big bucks on a home remodel or expansion. That's why you should consider installing room dividers.

Room dividers offer a unique solution to conflicting demands on space. For example, a den may have to serve as a home office and family room. Or a dining area may need to be better defined from a living area. With a divider, you can separate uses and reduce conflicts, noise, and clutter. They're both practical and pleasing-dividers are available now in many styles and materials that complement your décor. And they can be installed easily and quickly with basic tools.

Panelized dividers are practical and easy to customize. Decorative panels may consist of squares of wood framing covered with finished plywood, glass or other materials in vertical supports. Place glass or wood panels according to your whim-glass allows light while wood provides more privacy. Or leave the panel off and create a cubicle for storage or shelving space. In order to provide a secure, stable fit, wall modules are anchored at top and bottom by adjustable pads that apply pressure to the ceiling and floor. You can easily provide power for appliances, computers, and electronics by stringing extension cords through the divider or installing conduits.

If you want to go traditional, choose a solid-looking divider made from wood cabinetry. You can add tons of storage and shelving space this way. See- through glass cabinets provide more light and display space for your china, photographs or other heirlooms. Of course, this solution is less pre-fab and more labor intensive than our panelized divider. Another solution is to get twin French doors that fit the dimensions of your "wannabe" wall, and to install vertical posts and framing around the doors.

The minimal approach is to purchase stand-alone, folding screens. It may sound tacky until you actually see the quality and finish of screens on the market--everything from highly attractive, louvered wood screens to solid screens finished with Oriental art. These panels can be folded and taken away when the wall is not needed.

Sources used to create this article include writers William Nolan and Joseph Boehm and Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.