Decorative screens are the unsung heroes of interior design

Elizabeth Pash, designer and owner of Elizabeth Pash Interiors and Antiques, has a lot of experience in shopping for vintage treasures. In this column, she shares some of her top tips – this week, which is why a folding screen (vintage or new!) Is always a good idea.

Folding screens have been an elegant and artistic part of design for centuries – and there are good reasons for that. Their beauty and practicality have made them an enduring item to this day. The screens originated in China around the 2nd century AD and have been found in Europe dating back to the Middle Ages. Although they are now most often thought of as design elements, they were first developed to help block heat from fires or provide protection from the sun or cold. In today’s temperature-controlled world, screens no longer need to be used to regulate temperatures, but they still have many practical purposes: today they can be used as room dividers, to soften a sharp corner or to conceal a necessary corn. unsightly object.

This blend of form and function allows screens to be used in a wide variety of decor styles. In many homes, they add the perfect finishing touch to a room. Today’s screens are available in all different sizes and styles and in a wide range of materials: wood, glass, leather, mirror, rattan. The “canvas” of a room will dictate the need for a screen and the ideal one for the space.

coromandel screen
In addition to concealing an awkward corner, this screen adds beauty and architectural interest to an entrance hall that we have designed.

Karyn millet

But first, a bit of history: the most famous screens to be exported to Western countries were the Coromandel lacquered screens made in China. These are large screens made up of several wooden panels and covered with several layers of black lacquer (sometimes up to 30 layers!) And painted scenes representing mythology, nature or palace life using the kuan cai method (meaning “incised colors”).

A full length screen of a room by Matthew Bees.

Sarah winchester

Today, top designers use them in different ways: In a living room by designer Meg Braff (pictured above), a large-scale chinoiserie screen serves as a backing for the wallpaper, bringing texture to the room.

An antique screen in Corey Damen Jenkins’ bedroom at the Kips Bay Decorator showhouse serves as art when hung on the wall.

Corey Damen Jenkins

At Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse 2019, Matthew Bees’ bedroom featured a stunning lacquered screen running the length of the room. This piece of art framed the room and turned a tiny, indescribable space into a jewelry box! Placing a contemporary piece of art on the frame is an unexpected, but quite striking flash of inspiration, and a perfect blend of the old and the new.

Bees weren’t the only ones reaching a screen when tasked with designing a piece in the showhouse; Corey Damen Jenkins used a series of lacquer screens from our store to add color and depth to his room.

But screens are a handy tool even if you are not a professional designer. Need to divide a space into a living room and a dining room? Use a screen to avoid a forced open floor plan. Looking to hide a heater, improper storage or children’s toys? A screen keeps things out of sight without sacrificing access.

In conclusion, don’t forget about screens when designing a room. They have form and function and can often be the last piece that brings a piece together!

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