This year, we’ve all been spending a lot more time at home than we’re used to. Even for homebodies like me, it’s often a lot more time than we’d like – to say nothing of people who usually don’t spend much time at home at all. Worse still, if you have a big, normally-busy family, chances are you’ve all spent the last few months at home, together, at the same time more than you ever would ordinarily. And with weather cooling down and flu season ramping up, many opportunities to get out of the house by going outside are going to start going away. The big question is, what’s the best way to stave off cabin fever – and keep the peace in the family – with a long, close-quarters winter ahead of us? My vote is, do your very best to give everyone a little bit of extra privacy.
Divide Up Too-Open Spaces
Even back at the start of this year, homeowners were starting to feel the pitfalls of a too-open floorplan. When you combine your home’s common areas into one big room, your family will inevitably spend more time together, sure. But that also means you’ll be whole lot less able to spend time apart. Adding room dividers back into greatrooms was already getting popular back when people’s day-to-day routines were still relatively normal. Now, it’s an even better (and more necessary) feature to invest in. Simple folding screens can block line of sight, but more permanent dividers are getting easier to find, too.
Use A Bookshelf As A Privacy Screen
One of my favorite makeshift room dividers, though, are double-sided bookshelves. They come in lots of different sizes and styles, so it’s easy to find one to fit your space. More importantly, they’re made for storage; the more you use them as shelves, the better room dividers they make. A totally empty shelf is mostly a token divider, but one fully laden with books and trinkets not only visually divides your space, but can help insulate against sound and light as well, providing for even more privacy. One note: be sure to choose a shelf that’s meant to be freestanding and doesn’t need to be anchored to a wall. Self-supporting shelves are a little pricier, but a must for safety if you’ll be using one as a room divider.
Domed Chairs = Privacy For One
Not all new privacy features need to involve large-scale changes to the layout of your home. In fact, sometimes all you need is one small, quiet place to go to get away. Egg chairs, balloon chairs, and dome chairs aren’t the most common choice for an accent piece, but they are designed to help maximize privacy for the person sitting in them. Ones with well-upholstered interiors are particularly good for dampening sound. If you have someone (say, a teen) who gets particularly upset about people looking over their shoulder, any type of domed chair will instantly make the problem go away – as long as the dome isn’t made of clear plastic!
Make A (Literal) Boundary Between Your Work And Home Life
Home office space has been another big point of contention in families lately. But choosing the right furniture to maximize privacy while you work can go a long way toward keeping the peace. Finding a quiet, private place where you can focus, work, and take calls is a topic all on its own. But with the right desk you can makeshift your own corner office. Nesting or folding desks are intended for small spaces, but can also be used to help cordon off a corner – giving you the space you need to spread out while signaling to your family that you are at work rather than just on the computer. When you’re off the clock? Just fold the arm in and tuck the desk against the wall.
Cancel Out Competing Sounds With White Noise
One of the biggest problems with having too many people in a too-open space, though, isn’t line of sight, but noise levels. When you have someone watching the TV in the living room, on a work call in the dining room, and listening to music in the kitchen, noise can get a little out of hand if there aren’t any barriers between those spaces. One solution is to simply buy a bunch of noise-cancelling headphones. A couple for the TV, a few for the music lovers, and so on. If you still find yourself distracted by noise from elsewhere in the house, consider investing in a white noise machine. There are plenty of gadgets designed to help mute chatter, but fountains work just as well or better. They’re pretty darn soothing, too. Better still, they range in size from desktop models to – you guessed it – full sized room dividers.
Find Ways To Keep Warm Outdoors
Still pretty sure your family is going to go stir crazy if they can’t get outside this winter? Be proactive. Find ways to extend your outdoor season by making your outdoor spaces as accessible as possible in cold weather. Outdoor heaters, fire pits, and even outdoor fireplaces are great for keeping toasty in mild to moderate cold weather. In colder climates, you could also look into investing in an outdoor hot tub. To be fair, these are always going to be a big investment (ranging from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars), but will give your family a therapeutic, private, quiet place to enjoy a little quiet time in all but the worst weather.
A few small changes won’t totally make up for a home that feels over capacity, but they can certainly help ease the tensions for the time being. More long-term investments like converting a garage, basement, or attic, or adding a half bathroom can make a bigger difference, but if you just need a little extra privacy to get you through to spring, a little redecorating can go a long way.