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I caught screen fever at an early age. I was just a little kid, playing at my friend’s house, when I happened into her dining room and spotted the most amazing floor screen standing behind the buffet. The large screen was beautiful, stretching almost to the ceiling, and it sucked me in with a force stronger than gravity. Years later, when I was furnishing my own home, I knew I had to use a few screens in my decor, not only because they are stylish but also because they can be used to solve a host of decorating dilemmas.

Screens are truly amazing decorating tools. They can singlehandedly ground a room without eating up much space or making the area feel cluttered. No matter what style you like, you’ll find a screen that will make your heart flutter and bring your room alive. How about a simple wooden screen featuring louvered shutters? A regal screen in an Oriental motif? One that sports rustic leather veneer or tarnished mirrors? Once you find a screen you adore – or two, or three or maybe even four, like I have – you’ll discover a million ways to use it in your home. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Create a Beautiful Backdrop

Like the dramatic curtains in a majestic old theater, screens make perfect backdrops against which you can stage a fabulous room. In your dining room, put a screen behind a buffet, like my friend’s mom did. In a living room, stand one behind a furniture grouping to pull all the pieces together, like we did in the photo above.  Or you can use two matching screens to flank a sofa, placing an end table or side chair in front of each one. I also like to put shorter screens that measure just 4 or 5 feet tall on top of buffets, fireplace mantels or bookcases to serve as oversized pieces of artwork.

Divide and Conquer

Screens are masters at separating different spaces in your home. If your home has large rooms, like a loft condo, or rooms that flow into one another with no natural break, use a screen or two to define and separate spaces. In the photo above, the Nell Hill’s team had the challenge of decorating this large room, using half for a bedroom and half for a dining room. The screen, which you’ll see in the background, saved the day. Screens are also great tools in bathrooms that have a floor plan that’s more open than you’d like. You can use a screen to partition off the bathtub or stool, or to create a private dressing area.

You can also use a screen to conceal less attractive features in your home. For example, a friend of mine placed a screen in front of her washer and dryer so her laundry room looked more inviting, less utilitarian when it wasn’t in use. Then, on wash day, she just folded back the screen and got to work.

Add Dazzle to a Dull Spot

Do you have a stagnant spot in your home that just needs something to spice it up? Maybe it’s a dark corner or a blank wall that is longing for some kind of spark. In my home, it was an awkward corner in my living room, a spot sandwiched between two windows. Nothing seemed to look right there, until I tried a hand-painted screen. The instant I put the screen in that do-nothing corner, the seating arrangement felt more intimate and cozy. Check it out in the photo above.

Another spot that bothered me was the oversized landing on my staircase. The spot was too small to hold a piece of furniture but too big to stand empty. When I placed a screen on the landing to see how it looked, I was thrilled – it made the spot look cozy, filled with character and charm.

Frame a Window

You can also use screens as window treatments. Put a pair of tall, matching screens on either side of a window, unfolding them just a bit so they cover a few inches on each side of the window, just like drapery panels. They do a great job of framing the window without blocking out the light. Or, put a screen between a piece of furniture and a particularly sunny window to help filter out some light and protect your textiles from fading.

Next Week … Is your bathroom as beautiful as it can be? I’ll have some tips for turning it into an oasis.

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16 Responses to “A Case of Screen Fever”

  1. Lisa Fernandez Says:

    Love that. It’s a great idea. Everything looks lovely.

  2. vicki Says:

    Love, love, love the various ideas for screens. We purchased a beautiful black screen last fall at the Briarcliff store and we have thoroughly enjoyed placing it in various rooms to get different effects.

    Would love to have Mary Carol publish another wonderful book.

  3. Linda Says:

    Yes, please write another decorating book!

  4. mimi tafour Says:

    a new decorating book to include the philosophical side of MC as suggested in reply to all the words of wisdom offered in your anniversary message :)

  5. FLLinda Says:

    LOVE your screens! We used two of the dark wood Indonesian shutters as the headboard for our king bed–stunning!!!!

  6. Alice Says:

    Have 2 screens and have been thinking about specific uses for them. They have been in the boxes from Pakistan for a long time. Ideas are terrific.

  7. Chandra@the plaid and paisley kitchen Says:

    I love, adore, am obbessed with, can’t get enough of your store!!! Thank you for all your wonderful ideas and great products!

  8. Diane Says:

    What a great and inspiring post!!!
    I just wish the photographs were larger…

  9. Kathi Says:

    I’m assuming that you have several styles of screens for sale? I’ll be up if so! We have been wanting a screen for quite some time now and I would love to browse.

  10. Mary Carol Says:

    Hey Diane—-If you will just double click on the picture it will blow it up larger–enjoy!

  11. Gail Bailey Says:

    Love screens I have used mine all over the house, so good to hear your ideas. Look forward to seeing you in April, can’t wait for spring ideas.I would also welcome another book. The Oklahoma girls…

  12. Karen Says:

    In your house with the black hand painted screen, what color is the wall and trim paint?

  13. Mary Carol Says:

    The light doesn’t actually portray the color exactly Karen—but that room is painted ‘Sugar Cookie’ from the MC Artisan Paint line and ‘Garrity Cream’ on the trim.

  14. Marilyn Taylor Says:

    I bought a Coromandel screen years ago and just love it. First, I placed it next to my stairs and put a bachelor’s chest with a Chippendale chair on either side in front of the screen. When I moved to an apartment, I placed it in the corner at the end of my sofa and put my round Chippendale table in front of it. Then when I moved to my current home, I placed it behind my camelback sofa. No matter where I put it, it adds elegance.

  15. Sandi Preuss Says:

    The screen I have holds 8×10 photos and we have it in our lake home with photos of the family having fun at the lake. Our grand children love to see the photos of themselves, especially when they are low to the ground and not off limits like photos usually are. They talk about what they were doing and remember how much fun they were having that day, often. It also helps to cover a spot where someone pulled a chunk of wall covering off the wall in the corner! I agree, a screen can be used in many, many ways! Thanks for sharing with us again, Mary Carol.

  16. Nancy Says:

    I, too have wished the photos were larger, Mary Carol. Mine are only a little larger when I double-click them. Half a screen or full screen would be excellent and I could just about “be” in the room in my imagination.

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