DIYdiy projectsUpholstery Basics

upholstery basics: room divider bulletin board

by Amanda Brown

For the first time in several years, I’ve been spending more time at my desk. And although I love the change of pace, the change of space needed a few upgrades. My desk sits against a wall in an open living room, so I built a room divider to create a cozy little nook for my workspace. Not only does it add a ton of personality to my “office,” but the back side also serves as an inspiration/bulletin board where I can pin up my to do list or a photo of the beach to perk me up when I get weary. You won’t believe how easy it is!  — Amanda

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .


  • plywood
  • sandpaper
  • sander (optional)
  • 6 hinges and screws
  • measuring tape
  • chalk
  • electric drill/screwdriver
  • scissors
  • Dacron
  • goggles
  • stapler
  • 3/8″ staples
  • air compressor
  • regulator
  • fabric
  • pliers
  • staple remover
  • roll of 1/4″ thick cork
  • utility knife
  • spray adhesive
  • decorative tacks (optional)
  • tack hammer with nylon tip
  • 6 nylon nail-in glides


Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.


We’ll be constructing a three-panel divider, but feel free to add additional panels if you’d like a larger one. My panels are 20″ wide by 66″ tall, which requires 4 yards of fabric, depending on your pattern repeat. If you don’t have a saw to cut your plywood, have your hardware store helpers cut it to size for you. Even though I have a table saw, I still have Home Depot cut large pieces of wood for me. It’s easier, cleaner, and fits in my car better when it’s precut.

1. Once your panels are cut to the desired size, sand the edges to remove sharp edges and splinters.

2. We’ll start with the first two panels only to make it easier to move around as we upholster. Divide the total length of your panels by three and make a mark at 1/3 and 2/3 down the board. For the left panel, only mark the right side. Mark both sides on the middle panel.

3. Center your hinges on these marks, pre-drill pilot holes, and screw them into the plywood. As you’re attaching the hinges, check that you’re attaching them so they’ll close completely and to the correct side of the plywood. I want my right and left sides to fold back toward the middle panel, so I’m attaching all the hinges to the back side of the plywood.

4. Cut out three pieces of Dacron big enough to wrap around the front and sides of each panel. Use the split and staple method to attach the Dacron to the sides of the first panel (see step 8 from Boxed Ottoman). Trim off the excess Dacron even with the back side and flip over your panels.

5. Center your fabric on the first panel and sub-staple the top and bottom to the back side (see step 10 from Dining Chair Do-Over).

6. Make release cuts around the hinges and push the fabric in between the panels with a regulator (see step 4 from Constructing Coil Seats — Part 2).

7. Flip over the two panels and continue sub-stapling all around the back side. Once you’re happy with the tightness and straightness of the fabric, replace the sub-staples with permanent ones.

8. Smooth out the fabric in the corners with a pleat (see step 11 from Dining Chair Do-Over).

9. Repeat steps 4–8 for the second panel. Then attach the hinges to the third panel.

10. Repeat steps 4–8 to upholster the third panel.

11. After all the panels are upholstered, measure and cut out three pieces of cork with a utility knife big enough to cover the back side of each panel.

12. Staple the top corners of the cork to the plywood, then use spray adhesive to stick the cork to the panel. Staple the bottom two corners when you reach the other end.

13. The cork should be stuck to the back side of each panel and anchored with a staple at all four corners. Since it’s difficult to get the cork to stick to the fabric around the edges, we’ll need to either staple down the edge or attach with decorative tacks. I don’t like seeing exposed staples, so I’ll use decorative tacks.

14. For spaced tacks, use a ruler to measure where the tacks will go. Mine are spaced 1″ apart.

15. Use the tack hammer with a nylon tip to nail in the decorative tacks all the way around each panel. Skip over hinges since tacks won’t go through metal.

16. To protect the fabric on the bottom of your panels, attach two nylon nail-in glides or felt pads to the bottom of each panel.

The Sprucettes were really excited about this one (TL: me, BL: Meredith, TR: Katherine, BR: Clar)!

Room Divider Tips

1. When purchasing plywood, do your best to buy a piece that’s not warped and is free of missing chunks.

2. If you’re being careful to match your pattern across all three boards like me, number your panels and fabric pieces to help remember which panel goes where.

3. If you want your panels to swing in either direction, use double-hinges. The only reason I didn’t use them is because they were $25 each, and I needed 6!

This energetic pattern is called Color Field in Leaf by Robert Allen available at Spruce. Cork available through School Outfitters. Thanks for joining me again. See you next month on Upholstery Basics!

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  • This is the perfect solution for apartment dwellers like myself who don’t have room for a seperate office space! Thank you so much for this wonderfully helpful idea and tutorial. :)

  • I have two folding screens in my apartment..they’re very handy for hiding stuff for a myriad of things – mostly for when impromptu visitors drop by and you don’t have a moment to clean. That’s whey you prop your folding screen in front of the junk and throw more behind it…and get the bathroom really clean…or at least smelling clean. Same difference. People just notice the clean scent more than actual cleanliness. :)

  • This is such a great idea…very easy to do and affordable prices. Way better than buying something similar elsewhere. Where can i find fabric like yours in Canada?

  • super great, love it! Might make something like this (sans cork back) to simply spruce up my dining room. Great instructions!

  • How neat. Wished I’d seen this years ago! Once made a room divider from a large lab chalk board. Covered it with padding and sewed a very large slip cover to pull over it, leaving only the exposed legs. Worked great, but this would be so portable. One could have so much fun here with the fabric! Great post.

  • Looooove the project. I’d also love to see more pictures of your office (especially your campaign desk)!

  • Love this, if I made one, then I could surround my desk in it and my kids couldn’t actually see me when they open the door to my office and begin talking immediately. They might actually give pause to let me finish a thought or idea before they dive headlong into whatever it is they need at that exact moment.

  • gorgeous! thank you. this seems silly – but can you tell us a little bit more about the tacks? how long should the spike on the tacks be?

  • Hi all!
    The fabric information is at the bottom of the post. It’s available through any company that carries Robert Allen fabrics, including Spruce.
    JM, standard upholstery nailhead has about 1/2″ of nail behind the head. These tacks are made for upholstery type projects and are strong enough to be hammered into wood.

  • Thanks for this! Looks amazing. I plan to do the same, but not cork board on all 3 pieces. On one I plan to paint with magnetic paint, then with blackboard paint and I’m not yet sure what I want to do with the other. I’m also going to run elastic all over the other side so I can put pictures up.

  • this is a great idea, I like that you can customize it with your choice of fabric. How long did it take to complete the divider?

  • You know, I have this old Ikea folding couch frame. (The remainder of the couch was broken during some celebration when Obama was elected…) We use it now as a room divider/clothes drying rack/photo set up for Etsy right now, and I’m trying to justify keeping it when we move… This project is PERFECT!

  • Yesterday my friend & I did one! We followed all the instructions but we used three different fabric patterns for the three panels, and it turned out lovely! Thank you Amanda for sharing this great DIY Proyect!

  • I have one of those typical Asian style room dividers with rice paper and it’s getting pretty worn out. This would work GREAT for reusing it! And I’m going to do it! :-)

    I will do similar to Anna’s ideas; cardboard paint on one, cork on another, and the third I’ll attach 3 cookie sheets I bought specifically with magnets in mind. And maybe I’ll use some fabric covered elastic on the cloth covered side for pics, too.

    Thanks for the great idea and how-to!

  • veramente brava, e fornisce entusiasmo. Bello, buono , e vero ciò che fa,. Brava brava e brava.

  • Love the finished product..2 questions
    I did not see a response as to price and time
    also the items on which you rested the plywood, what are they please?