The History Of Portable Room Dividers

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Where and when did the folding room divider originate?

The History of portable room dividers dates back many centuries. Folding room dividers first originated in China around the 4th century BC. These early Chinese folding screens functioned both as a furnishing as well as a decoration. They were heavy, ornate works of art, which made them expensive. Because of their size and weight, these room dividers were not easy to move and thus were meant to remain in place.

Toward the 2nd century BCpast and present sign, room dividers were adopted and improved upon by the Japanese. There were many variations of the Japanese folding screen. The earliest was the ‘byobu’ folding screen, and later the ‘shoji’, hinged folding screen. The shoji was created to be a more portable divider, which used lighter weight translucent paper for panel material, thus making the screens easier to move. The screens were used during their tea ceremonies (small two-fold screens), public performances, religious events, and outdoor processions (up to eight folds).

The difference was in how the screens were constructed, but allowed them to be both lightweight and flexible. A lightweight but strong core was covered with many layers of paper were created and brought together using strong paper hinges. These hinges brought the panels closer together and removed any gaps between panels.

Europeans and later Americans traveling to the Pacific Rim in the early 15th – 17th centuries returned home with these screens. They began importing the Asian screens, but soon, their local craftsmen were making their own reproductions of Asian folding screen dividers. The Europeans used many materials such as wood, painted leather, silk, mirrors, tapestry, embroidery and découpage on their elaborately decorated room divider panels. Not only were they beautiful, but they were an efficient and inexpensive way of preventing drafts in a large open room.

In this century, use of folding room dividers is no longer meant solely for residential use. Room dividers are now used in health care settings, schools, churches, restaurants, airports, lobbies, museums, corporate offices, and convention centers. And their purpose has changed as well. Their purpose has gone beyond dividing a room or creating privacy. Not only have users realized the benefits of creating smaller more functional rooms within one larger room, but now use dividers for myriad applications.

National Folding Screen Museum in Tokyo, Japan.

Screenflex portable room dividers are an excellent example of the modern-day freestanding portable room dividers. These folding temporary walls are on wheels which allow them to move easy so you can place your dividers anywhere you need them. Use them to create temporary classrooms, private areas, barriers, or meeting spaces.

Some Screenflex product highlights are:

  • Ships fully assembled with no installation required
  • Flows on Self-leveling, locking casters
  • Panels are sound absorbing
  • Fabric covered panels accept push pins, tacks or staples
  • Locking hinges keep panels in place
  • Durable and stable
  • Stores compactly