creative, non-invasive solutions for turning a space into a wall?
December 10, 2014 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Architects, craftspeople, interior designers, anyone me with ideas for closing off my open bedroom in a heavily eaved, converted attic! Cross-section of the entryway space here. More after the fold.

I want privacy! How can I close this off?

The image is a cross-section of where a normal bedroom would have, well, a wall and a door. Beyond what you see in the cross-section is a staircase down and then a door that leads to a normal bedroom, occupied by someone else. Currently I have the space vaguely blocked off by a half-heartedly nailed-up fabric and a bookcase that rests against the short interior wall. I want something that really closes the room off.

Any ideas? I'm open to anything. First and foremost in importance is visually closing the room off, but dampening sound would be a huge plus as well. Note that the area cross-hatched in the image is the area that has to allow entry and exit, given my height and the angle of the ceiling.

It doesn't have to look pretty. Function is much more important than form here. Honestly, if there's a way to plyboard the space up like a condemned shack and put a door into that...that would be perfect.

I can hammer into the walls, but the wood is quite soft and a basic nail really can't hold something up on the angled portion.

The top of the interior wall is a bit deeper than the rest of the wall itself, so it's not possible to set anything up perfectly flush against that interior wall.

The floor is carpeted, if it matters.

I'm willing to put a couple hundred bucks into this, if it's relatively foolproof (i.e. I can't mess it up severely and waste all the money I put in). Also fine with investing time and labor as long as it's, again, not something I can put hours and hours into and then by mistake screw the whole thing up.

I am not handy at all so please assume no knowledge beyond basic intelligence.

I'm excited to hear your creative solutions! Thanks!
posted by threeants to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oh gosh, that IS a challenging space. Hmm. I stared at it for 15 minutes trying to imagine what to do. Here's the only thing I could come up with that doesn't involve nails: stacked wooden crates on the low wall (stacked as high and wide as space allows). Fill them with towels, sheets, clothing and such and that would give somewhat of a sound barrier. Stuff remaining space on top with other junk. For the awkward angled space to the right of the low wall, how about 2 angled screens set up in such a way that you kind of have to walk through a small 'maze' to get into the room (you know, like the entrance to some public washrooms that don't have a door, but a u-turn or s-curve so that you can't see inside?)

Sorry, that's what came to mind without resorting to a sheet or a tarp and nails/lashing.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 8:33 PM on December 10, 2014

Well, huh, I just noticed how narrow the short wall is (I read it as 1'5", not 5"). Could you fatten the width with another item/s of furniture placed up against it to convert it to a stackable surface?
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 8:44 PM on December 10, 2014

Response by poster: Hmm, really interesting ideas, thanks.

I like the idea of the stacking thing, but I'd be very nervous to stack free-standing stuff on the wall...on the visible side, it's only 2'11" to the ground, but on its other side it drops directly down onto a deep, narrow attic staircase.

I love the idea of an s-curve in the entryway, and I hadn't thought of that at all, but how could I find/make screens that can work with the angle involved?
posted by threeants at 9:02 PM on December 10, 2014

The really obvious thing to do is a sheeted stud wall with door in it. I could scrounge bits for that from various places and knock it up in half a day. It sounds like you couldn't, but do you know anyone like me that you can bribe with beer/food/favours? Even simpler to do if you can demolish the little interior wall.

As far as nailing to the walls/ceiling, I'm not surprised a randomly placed nail won't hold, if you can find the studs behind whatever it's clad with (it's clad with timber?) you can probably extract a reasonable load bearing capacity from them though. You could then hang heavy theatre-type drapes from a batten fixed to the ceiling/angled ceiling. That would give you privacy and a little sound screening.

Not much is going to give excellent sound screening other than a real, properly fitted wall.
posted by deadwax at 9:03 PM on December 10, 2014

I'd demo the interior wall or build around it. On a budget, I'd buy a pre-hung door (Masonite for $50) and then frame up a wall attached to a joist/rafter at the ceiling (less than $100 total with studs and track if you go for metal studs – that's just what I normally work with) and sheath it with drywall (5/8" if you want better sound insulation; you'd need five or six 8'x'4 sheets for both faces, at $12 each = ~$70). I own the tools and appropriate fasteners and drywall tape etc. to do this and it would be an inexpensive project, but buying all that might be way over your budget. Do you have any friends in the construction trades?
posted by halogen at 9:18 PM on December 10, 2014

Response by poster: Sorry, I realize I wasn't as clear as I could have been on this point-- I'm a renter and can't demolish the interior wall or do any heavy-duty, non-DIY-type construction stuff.
posted by threeants at 9:20 PM on December 10, 2014

Google corrected my original search terms (freestanding wall soundproof) to free standing sound wall, and I got a load of links to solutions for corporate and industrial spaces, like this and this. I'd think those might be out of your price range, but maybe you could contact a supplier, directly, and shoot for some kind of deal? Or maybe see what a place that sells used office furniture has to offer?

(I'd just ignore that the short wall is short and put some kind of full-length panel in front of it. Maybe put hanging plants on the stair side so it's not completely horrible coming up to the room, if they could be safely secured.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:46 PM on December 10, 2014

Hm, ok, do you have enough floor space in the room to stack from the floor up in front of the short wall? Or could you put a cheap wall unit there? If you stacked crates you could rig them so they're pretty sturdy by nailing/lashing them together.

For the screen idea - is there a landing on the exterior of your room entryway? If so, one screen could go outside and the other inside, maybe? Could you wrangle them so they're not abutting the slope? The whole attic area is yours, correct?
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 9:49 PM on December 10, 2014

Cotton dress sock is onto something with the modular cubicle wall idea, how clever!
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 9:53 PM on December 10, 2014

I (architect) built a room divider of a type that might work for you. It's constructed like a stud-frame wall, but it's free-standing, and covered in cheap foam carpet underlay, with a fluorescent light fixture inside. It's about half an inch shorter than the gap to the ceiling, with cardboard wedged above it to hold it in place - here's a picture of it right now (yes, the cat I've inherited since building it has enjoyed tearing it up). It also has holes to stick a one-inch metal tube to hang a curtain, for when I need to close this room off. It was pretty cheap and easy to build - 50 bucks maybe, including the light fixture. If you know what sizes of 2x6 or 2x4 you want when you go to the lumber store you can get them cut to size for a small fee, and then it's just a matter of screwing it together - and you can wrap it in whatever you want. Carpet e.g. would be good for sound-proofing.
posted by Flashman at 10:20 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you also need storage, (and really, who doesnt), the IVAR system from ikea could probably be hacked together into a decent wall with door space. Nail some plywood on the back (no need for the metal braces if it's good plywood), and you've got a decent divider. This one would fit the space on the left quite well. The right bit/door would be more tricky, and you probably need someone who's handy with a saw and a hammer, though not much more, if you can get the plywood cut to size and you don't mind it being ugly.
posted by kjs4 at 4:04 AM on December 11, 2014

In fact, you might not even need plywood for the left hand bit, you could use some of the shelves to line the back above the internal wall, then put in a rod and use it as hanging space.
posted by kjs4 at 4:30 AM on December 11, 2014

I can't really get my head around your description of the space, but on IKEA Hackers there are several projects for dividing rooms:

using sliding wardrobe doors to turn a studio into a 1-bedroom

how to turn PAX rails into sliding doors

furniture as room divider

privacy wall

sliding door for sleeping alcove
posted by tel3path at 5:29 AM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

How about something made out of Lego?
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:31 PM on December 11, 2014

I would hang cheap custom curtains that can be easily pulled aside. I think it can be done for under $200 (probably even under $100) and would provide some sound dampening effect, but not sound proofing.

You can pick up, for example, flat sheets from a clearance wrack or other steeply discounted source, and use copper piping for the rod (secure with hooks from the ceiling and/or the sort of hardware that they use for old fashioned curtained rods). You would likely need to employ a professional seamstress to sew a curtain to exactly fill the angled area. I think two king sized flat sheets would do it, one for the part that is "square" and one for the awkward angled area. You would need to find some means to make sure the angled curtain adhered in place, maybe some kind of Velcro solution would work. You don't want to put up a pipe in that area because the curtain would just slide down it and not close the area off.

So the two curtains would meet at the point where the ceiling goes from level to angled and you can just pull it open to walk in and let it go to close it.
posted by Michele in California at 3:47 PM on December 11, 2014

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