For some time now, we’ve been mulling the idea of pop-up, temporary “rooms” that we could put in place easily in a smallish apartment. The idea started with wanting to provide out-of-town friends camping in our living room with privacy, and evolved when we were trying to figure out a way to separate our sleeping area off from our office, which shares one big room. Lately, as we’ve thought about the things we could do with one huge loft-like room, we thought it would be great to be able to devise a separate office, without building anything in.

Although this could be done with imaginative use of room screens, we imagine an impermanent structure that would define a space: a moveable, temporary room within an apartment…We found quite a range of possibilities from the seriously-designed and expensive MultiScreen Shangrila, above, with screens that move up and down to Display Hut’s 8’x8′ Canopy Tent. It has a pop-up frame adjustable to a variety of heights, and side walls you can add to suit your space…

The frame itself has huge potential: we’d see if we could get rid of that vertical bar sticking up and just use it to hang canvas or linen on the frame…

We found some interesting inflatable enclosures and pods at BedouinTents and Inflate

Molo’s Softwall, which expands like an accordian from a few inches to 20 feet makes for instant spaces with no hard edges:

And then there’s the idea of a kid-like encampment, a hide-out to dream in, no matter what age…We love this lovely tent-like structure posted by somethingshidinginhere on Flickr:


Back to Basics Toys makes a white canvas tipi in various sizes up to 12 1/2’…and we really like this one from Etsy...

…maybe what we really need is a blanket fort…


….What’s your idea?

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10 replies on “‘pop-up’ rooms within rooms

  1. We purchased an economical tract home that suffered from design. The walls of the master bedroom traced the walls of the two car garage below. We wanted to partition off a sewing room and found the solution at a flea market…two enormous bookshelves that, when placed end to end, measured something like ten feet wide by seven feet tall. They were beautiful on one side and we covered the plywood backs with brightly color fabric. I know that is merely a screen but the fabric wall for the sewing room, the functional side for the bedroom, and the sheer size of the structure made it seem the room was built that way. Best of all we got them for $75 a piece.

  2. Presuming you had the right corner space and no impediments to making (what would amount to a temporary) alterations to the space–I’m thinking of renters not violating their lease–what about this:

    Using one corner of your room, erect a sturdy post diagonally opposite the corner where the two walls meet. Complete the square by affixing a couple of shower curtain rods between walls and post from which to hang curtains of your own design. (Two pairs of rods hung closely together would afford you the ability to hang a valance above.) This scheme could easily be adapted to a rectangle with the inclusion of a second sturdy post.

    Hope this reads as clearly as I see it in my brain.

  3. Sally, your post reminds me of the endless hours my sisters (and our neighbors) spent “fort-making” — for the purpose of creating a separate space to play. As I grew up on a farm in Minnesota, space was not an issue. As a contrast to the expansive yards we were lucky enough to have at our disposal, my playmates and I wanted something intimate and human (child) scaled. So my mother loaded up a laundry basket with old bed sheets, towels and wooden clothespins and off we went to the huge clothes line. The metal posts and the lines themselves were the structure we needed to hang the fabric in every possible manner, and in the end, we had a maze of small rooms with and without ceilings, depending on our daily preferences. The constructing of the rooms was my favorite part — a design challenge. Once that was accomplished, we played there for hours with our Barbie Dolls or made up some imaginary scenario that involved architecture (a fantasy office or hospital or whatever). These temporary structures (in all manner of colors and patterns) were how we spent so many summer afternoons. I can remember so well how it felt to be “inside” while the cotton walls (and maybe polyester, as this was the 70s) moved with the wind or felt warm from the sun’s heat. Magical.

  4. What memories! Thank you so much for writing them. I think that I am secretly chasing after an adult version of that feeling. I wish I could fabricate some simple pop-together structure that could be configured in many ways, for all of us that need hideouts, instant guest rooms, offices, or just a clear space…

  5. What you created is not merely a screen; you managed to create a SPACE that had it’s own feeling and vibe. No mean feat!

  6. I think I get the room idea and it’s a good one. Wouldn’t it be great if we could post visual images of our imaginings, take them right out of our heads?

  7. This reminded me of an interview with architect Shigeru Ban just after the earthquke in Japan:

    In terms of helping the hundreds of thousands of people in emergency shelters, what do you plan to do?

    I’m preparing to make very simple partitions to divide families in evacuation facilities. Typical of these disasters, people are evacuated to locations under a big roof, such as gymnasiums. For the first few days, it’s O.K., but then people suffer because there’s no privacy between families. It normally takes a few months before they can move into temporary government housing.

    By “partitions,” do you mean walls?

    No, it’s just a frame made of paper tubes with white canvas curtains in between. People open the curtains in the daytime and close them when they sleep. Or sometimes, when there are families with babies, the mother needs privacy. It’s very easy to assemble and dismantle.

    Does privacy have particular importance in Japanese culture?

    Actually, Japanese people need less privacy than Western people, but I’m not talking about what Japanese people need. It’s a personal thing: people need the flexibility to decide for themselves.

  8. THANK YOU SO MUCH for your comment, the quotes and the link. I actually clipped a link from You Have Been Here Sometime about Shigeru Ban, with some images of his simple partitions. I originally thought to include it in this post and thought it best saved. But I see now that it would have been a great addition. He is an amazingly thoughtful designer.

  9. Your post reminded me that as kids we would rake autumn leaves into “rooms,” more labyrinth-like floor plans, no walls, no ceilings, with a big central leaf pile that we’d bury ourselves in. I can still conjure the smell of the fallen leaves, the hours spent playing, constructing, destroying, reconstructing our little villages.

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