A hinged door is a wonderful device for separating one room from another, but it's by no means the only one. By including sliding doors and panels into our set of spatial connecting devices, a number of common visual problems can be solved.

Sliding Doors

Unlike a standard swing-out door, a sliding door takes up no floor space, disappearing into the wall when not in use. But when there is the need for acoustical separation, the doors can be pulled closed, and the desired quiet is obtained. Sliding doors have a bad rap because they've often been installed with cheap hardware that makes them awkward to open and close after a few years' use. With the proper hardware, a sliding door will last just as long as a regular door and can be just as easy to maneuver.

Shoji Screens

Sliding screens, such as Japanese shojis, are usually less substantial than sliding doors. They obscure the view between spaces when closed, yet still allow light to enter. They are often hung from a top track and stacked one over another along an adjacent wall surface. This can add a beautiful look to the room, though it does take up a small amount of floor space. Although traditionally shoji screens were made of paper, today they are frequently made of more durable fiberglass. If acoustical privacy is a concern, sliding screens aren't a good choice because they do little to reduce sound transmission.

Movable Window Walls

In warmer climates it's possible to design a house with a wall of windows that can be moved out of the way so that the inside space becomes outside space when they're open. Although this is not an inexpensive option, it can create a truly wonderful experience, transforming enclosed interior rooms into covered porches.

Adapted with permission from Home by Design by Sarah Susanka, published by The Taunton Press (2004).