RE: dining room design (Flexible partitioning examples)
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2000 18:03:54 -0700 (MST)
While I have not seen any cohousing groups do this yet, I visited a Yoga
Retreat Center Community once which had its large dining hall  divided into
I think 6 spaces, using those movable cubicle barrier things ( 5 feet high,
4 feet long, self standing cloth covered foam boards, available from office
supply catalogs and even larger office furniture stores. The  corners have
little attachers so you can create right angles that hold firm to anchor it)

The dividers were covered in attractive cloth, and also had planters, which
may have helped hold them up. Each of the dividers had a large poster pinned
to it of some decorative inspirational writing, each cubicle had a different
writing on each of the "walls". It turned a large room into a half dozen
intimate eating cubicles each with 3-4 small round tables and a side  table
against  one of the dividers which was used for trays of food at serving
time. They had colorful cloth swags which looped over the ceiling beams and
were arranged in a very decorative way which served to extend the visual
effect of the cubicle all the way to the ceiling. It was really attractive
and the color scheme and layout of the place obviously had serious interior
designer expertise.

 They used candles as centerpieces on the tables, which I assume were lit at
meal time. I was  told that the whole setup could be cleared by 3 people in
about half an hour if they wanted to use the whole space for something, and
there was some plan to the way the dividers were arranged which allowed
spaces to be opened to each other by removing a couple of the dividers, so
you could arrange it into 3 spaces of  six-eight tables.

I did  not eat a meal there but imagine it must be much like a restaurant.
Oh yeah, the cubicles were  defined by rugs , really nice looking ones. I
would have been paranoid eating there to spill anything on such nice looking
rugs. I did not see any children at that place either.

I saw a similar, but much more plain design at a Christian community center
which had a custom built movable wall system. They used parts from IKEA
furniture to lock the walls together both in segments and at right angles.
These walls were 8X8, and 4X8 panels, made of 2X2 wood with foam insulation
board in the middle that was covered with  burlap like cloth. It was a post
and beam room and all the beams had these recessed metal inserts which the
wall board male parts snapped into. The floor also had the same treatment.
The wallboards connected to the  floors and beams using a  screwdriver, just
like assembling an IKEA bookcase. They had cabinet making expertise to get
the connectors all lined up perfectly. The whole thing fit together like a
fine piece of furniture.

They used the wallboards mostly to divide the large space into classrooms.
There was also a strapping sort of piece  that went on the top to hold it
together as well. They built the entire thing out of stuff they scrounged
for free! The walls, being insulation board inside basically were  giant
bulletin boards and there was tons of stuff pinned on them. They seldom
changed the arrangement of the walls as it took a few hours to do so but
whenever they wanted to create a new room or expand an existing one it was
not a big deal, they could just use a router to install more connectors in
the floor.

Rob Sandelin
Community Works! Http://

-----Original Message-----
From: cohousing-l [at]
[mailto:cohousing-l [at]]On Behalf Of Ed_Stauff [at]
Sent: Monday, December 11, 2000 6:56 AM
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: dining room design (was Re: no to dinner music)

It's been interesting to read the varied responses to the issue of
music during common meals.  Ultimately, this will be something we'll
have to work out for ourselves in our own community -- and probably
change our minds once or twice along the way.  :-)

I got to thinking about Michael Donovan's remark about background
music in restaurants, many of which seat many more people than many
coho dining rooms.  What's different about the restaurants?  For one
thing, and I think this may be the most important difference, most
larger restaurants don't consist of one big room full of tables.
Most of them (including, IMHO, the better ones) have a variety of
rooms and spaces divided by walls and other architectural elements.
This produces both the feeling of more intimate spaces, and cuts
down on noise transmission between areas.

Have any coho dining areas been designed along these lines; that is,
separated into smaller adjoining spaces to control noise and increase
intimacy?  I'd think it could be done effectively without losing the
sense of being part of a larger community, perhaps through partial
walls, varied ceiling heights, long, narrow, waist-high planters,
etc., etc.

Yours in Community,

-- Ed, Northern Vermont Cohousing

| Ed Stauff, principal software eng.  | I don't speak | "Specialization  |
| Avid Technology, Tewksbury MA, USA  | for Avid, nor | is for insects." |
| "" (remove #'s) | vice versa.   | -- Lazarus Long  |

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