May 5th, 2011

I’ve been helping out Shelly Leer – aka ModHomeEc – with the design of her brand new upholstery workshop in Indianapolis. Shelly is a fantastic upholster and hosts classes to teach folks the ins and outs of fixing up and reupholstering their old forlorn stuff (a skill I can really appreciate).

With this open warehouse space, one big design issue Shelly needed help with was figuring out how to layout and define areas for various work and private “zones”. She needed areas for tools, areas for storage, an area for a personal office, a waiting area, an area to teach and work with students and so on and so forth. Functionally, this one big room had to be used for many many purposes and still be open, accessible and of course look awesome.

Since cost is always an issue (and this space is a rental), it wasn’t prudent to dump a bunch of cash into building traditional solid walls that would split up the space and make it feel smaller and darker. My solution was to build these vertical jute rope division walls that allowed for defined “zones” but still retained light and visibility throughout the entire space. A plus when using this type of jute rope is the added benefit of bringing in a chunky / graphic / warm texture to an otherwise cold and hard industrial room.

The construction process is pretty simple. Wood boxes were custom built with evenly spaced rope sized holes drilled through the top and bottom. Precut sections of rope were strung through the top and tied off at the bottom, allowing for the interior knot to hold the rope in place and taut. Just screw close the open side of the box and all those ugly knots are hidden away.

With this design the overall costs are kept pretty low for such a big impact. Rope is cheap, especially when bought in bulk, and wood boxes are very low cost to build. The true cost is going to be labor and time – it’s just a tedious and super repetitive process.

Come on. Hotness.

I think the outcome is pretty spectacular. Not that I’m bias or anything.

This roped off area is actually Shelly’s office!

I’m completely thrilled with how these rope walls came together and so happy I didn’t have to lift a finger and do any of the actual labor. There is another wall in the works that I’m pretty excited to see completed as well as other awesome ideas that came from designing Shelly’s new workspace to be affordable, functional and downright ‘effing stylish.

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  1. mikr on 05/05/2011:

    awesome. hope nobody falls through, might stretch the rope out of shape.

  2. helloshiella on 05/05/2011:

    i love it when you do this!!

  3. nichole on 05/05/2011:

    this rocks my socks! bravo morgan!

  4. nichole on 05/05/2011:

    this is solid! lurve it!

  5. Tara on 05/05/2011:

    This is absolute genius work! Maximum impact with minimal material. Sending you a virtual high five.

  6. Sarah on 05/05/2011:

    Woah woah woah woah woah YES.

  7. Salvagedhomesla on 05/05/2011:

    Love the creativity and end result. How much did the project actually cost ?

  8. Darren on 05/05/2011:

    That’s a fabulous solution for so many spaces. Love it.

  9. katielou on 05/05/2011:

    this is amazing! where did you find the rope? i don’t think i’ve ever seen it at the home improvement store. then again, i’ve never looked.

  10. THE BRICK HOUSE on 05/05/2011:

    Shelly bought it on ebay I believe. It’s pretty standard stuff, probably best ordered online and in bulk.

  11. Keir on 05/05/2011:

    Okay, that is damn clever.

  12. Gennia on 05/05/2011:

    This is really freakin’ awesome. Great job! Such a creative way to define a space. It looks like installation art but is functional at the same time. How long did it take to execute?

  13. jennifer_in_sf on 05/05/2011:

    Ok. I was pretty sure before, but this clinches it. You are a genius. Those rope walls look AMAZING and make so much sense for a workshop like that.

  14. Emily on 05/05/2011:

    So brilliant. I love this. You are a clever idea machine.

  15. ModFruGal on 05/05/2011:

    Perfect…way to go!

  16. Lydia on 05/05/2011:

    I love it! Don’t know how you come up with these amazing ideas.

  17. Ryan on 05/05/2011:

    This might even work outside (on a patio or breeze way). Depending on the type of rope you use and the climent. Super cool idea.

  18. Helen on 05/05/2011:

    I think the beauty of this particular idea is its versatility. I could see it working in so many different interiors and exteriors and motifs. Modern, contemporary, country, shabby chic, etc. I would’ve never came up with this on my own, and I can’t wait to try it out. Awesome and gorgeous, as usual.

  19. Cassie on 05/05/2011:

    Looks great.

  20. Lunaluna on 05/05/2011:

    You have real talent woman, this is really beautiful. Who was it said something like […true design fits a need…] or something along those lines. You do know this will be copied a thousandfold and will be popping up all over design blogs.

  21. Clare Pirie on 05/05/2011:

    This is a really great idea especially for certain spaces. Loving your work as usual!

  22. Lucy on 05/05/2011:

    WOW! this is flippin’ the BEST. Ropey ropey magnificence.

  23. Dez on 05/05/2011:

    That is INSANE. INSANE I tell yer!!!

  24. jenny | aubrey road on 05/05/2011:

    holy amazeballs

  25. Nathan J on 05/05/2011:

    Impressed and inspired, I tip my hat to you.

    P.S. thanks Jenny for teaching me new words like amazeballs. Had no idea it even existed.

  26. Shelly on 05/05/2011:

    As Morgan said, there’s more to come. The rope walls knock people out! My studio has become the “model home” for all the unfinished spaces. My landlord brings people over to show them what one big open space can look like. I’m so proud to show it off. I couldn’t have come up with this on my own. thanksthanksthanksthanksthanksthanksthanksthanksthanks

  27. Michael Colter on 05/05/2011:

    You can get rolls of real hemp rope from mauikink, it’s raw and unprocessed for a variety of uses.

  28. L on 05/05/2011:

    Bravo, Morgan — it rocks!

    Question, though: how are the boxes attached to the ceiling? (Not that I’d steal this fabulous idea, or anything . . . )

  29. maya on 05/05/2011:

    mika, (my dog) will go nuts!

  30. Nette @ This Dusty House on 05/05/2011:

    Oh, my goodness, I absolutely adore this idea! Now I’m trying to sort through all my spaces and figure out just one spot I could incorporate something like this… unfortunately, coming up blank.

    So beautiful!

  31. Suzy8track on 05/05/2011:

    I’m blown away!

  32. Sarah on 05/05/2011:

    Commenting a second time because HOLY SHIT WOMAN.

  33. Sarah on 05/05/2011:

    Okay, third time because I just noticed how this was such a clever solution for letting that one pipe travel through the “wall.”

  34. erin@designcrisis on 05/05/2011:

    This is about to go viral in 3 2 1…

  35. I’m clearly repeating what you arleady know based on the comments above, but this is brilliant! It makes me wish I needed room dividers.

  36. susan on 05/05/2011:

    and it beats Les Nessman’s tape!

  37. mvalen on 05/05/2011:

    Really….? It don’t think it’s that good…

  38. Shelly on 05/05/2011:

    1″x4″s are attached to the ceiling on joists and nailed into the concrete floors with masonry nails. Paddle bit used to drill the rope holes. I painted everything first, then drilled holes, then touched up the paint. Some caulk was needed up top.

  39. Dan @ Manhattan Nest on 05/05/2011:

    This is fucking brizilliant! Like, for serious realz.

  40. Jason Hudson Dot Com on 05/05/2011:


  41. carey on 05/05/2011:

    ok, now you’re just being ridiculous. ridiculously awesome, that is! i’m with heather, i wish i needed room dividers!

  42. Tara on 05/05/2011:

    The ‘outcome’ IS BLOODY INCREDIBLE!!!!

  43. Samma on 05/05/2011:

    This is going to start showing up everywhere. WOW!

  44. LZ on 05/05/2011:

    I love the overall visual impact of the walls in that room, georgous. I actually like the knots, I think they add texture and interest, like a gigantic modern fiber art installation!! Great work.

  45. Laura on 05/05/2011:


  46. my little apartment on 05/05/2011:

    WELL SHIT. this looks spectacular. seriously. (ps: patent it)

  47. Melissa on 05/05/2011:

    Have seen this idea before. LOVE IT! Looks great.

  48. Becky on 05/05/2011:

    Love this! It looks amazing and works PERFECTLY with that space! Kudos to you!

  49. Kat Randall on 05/05/2011:

    Genius! i love it, can’t wait to see the finished space

  50. jennifer on 05/05/2011:

    if you haven’t been yet, make a reservation to see the hortense miller house in laguna.
    she built her own sliding macramé walls for the outside of her house. the place is overall rad. and this idea is genius i must say. looks fantastic.

  51. Heather on 05/05/2011:

    AMAZING. Loving rope these days, and this application is genius. So simple.

  52. Mark on 05/05/2011:

    I’m to sure about this design. It is clever, I’d never come up with the idea.

  53. Kathy on 05/05/2011:

    DAMN! Looks awesome!

  54. Arin on 05/05/2011:


  55. donaville on 05/05/2011:

    loving the space. all too clever and cool.

  56. Ed on 05/05/2011:

    It looks great! I’m also wondering about stretching, though…i’d love to see a follow up in a year and see how it’s holding up.

  57. E on 05/05/2011:

    I would imagine that if it stretches out, you just unscrew the box and tighten up the rope. Depends on what kind of knot I guess. You could spot replace ropes.

  58. Jules on 05/05/2011:

    I predict this will be on AT in 3…2…1

    (It’s amazing.)

  59. Jaime from Design Milk on 05/05/2011:

    SO smart. Really great idea.

  60. 25th Fabulous Street on 05/05/2011:

    This is fabulous!!!!!

  61. modernhaus on 05/05/2011:

    Brilliant Morgan! I love the organic materials in that space, and the sense of separation without actually taking up visual space. I want to be you when I grow young 😉

  62. April on 05/05/2011:

    This could work outdoors, too. Neat idea.

  63. nina / ash and anchor on 05/05/2011:

    Amazing! Oh my goodness– so very very awesome!

  64. Lauren on 05/05/2011:

    This looks so great! I live in Indianapolis and didn’t know about this. I need to take a class!

  65. Kate {domestikatedlife} on 05/05/2011:

    Love how that turned out! Damn, now I need a loft so I can make one!

  66. whorange on 05/05/2011:


  67. Sarah on 05/05/2011:

    I want to use one of these! I love the texture it adds to the space.

  68. Ross Bennett Brown on 05/05/2011:

    Short version: some people are simply so freakin’ talented and so full of great ideas.

  69. Grace on 05/05/2011:

    fabulous! I think it’d work well for partitioning small spaces too to make them look bigger. grand idea!

  70. bianca of terri planty on 05/05/2011:

    R A D> now all i can think of his what spaces can i rope off? designated cat play room?

  71. Brilliant. SO smart and totally original.

  72. Lunaluna on 05/05/2011:

    someone above said they’d seen the idea before; after more than 15 years of trolling through just about every deco magazine (stateside and overseas) published, I have never seen this idea anywhere.

  73. amanda on 05/05/2011:

    WOW! So Cool! Perfect idea for that space! You’re Awesome!

  74. Chaucea on 05/05/2011:

    Very clever! 🙂

    The TEXTURE of the ropes adds a whole other dimension. Love it!

  75. Shelly on 05/05/2011:

    Lauren-Yes you do. 54th and The Monon!!!

  76. Lauren @ chezerbey on 05/05/2011:

    Morgan, you’re my hero. It’s not easy to pull off “cheap and brilliant”, but you seem to do it again and again…

  77. Ana on 05/05/2011:

    I’m so stealing your idea when I get to the kitchen/den remodel.

  78. nelly on 05/05/2011:

    Y-E-S !!

    is amazing, want it.

  79. Dylan on 05/05/2011:

    Looks sooo great. The first thing I thought of was a great big loom – I want to weave a whole bunch of colored fabric into the walls, something like that could be cool for rooms that require more privacy.

  80. Nikki Kelly on 05/05/2011:

    I saw something similar a few months ago at a model home. They used the rope as a divider between two desks in an office. Check that out here:

    I love how yours turned out!

  81. Sue on 05/05/2011:

    totally cool, love it

  82. pawling print studio on 05/05/2011:

    hell yeah! fantastic idea and great execution!!

  83. fine little home on 05/05/2011:

    this is so fab! i also couldn’t help thinking loom (like dylan above), i think it would be neat to weave different fabrics through it as a ever changing work of art. but it could take away from the clean look of it, if done wrong. it really is PERFECTION on it’s own ; )
    i think we’ve all seen this done before with heavy gauge wire but i haven’t seen anything like this since the 70’s and it wasn’t this fab or with this kind of rope, more macrame & crafty, this is so modern and well put together, not the same at ALL.

  84. jeannette on 05/05/2011:

    these rock so hard i’m wondering if there’s a nobel prize for interior design. hurray, you made my day.

  85. annie on 05/05/2011:

    awesome. reminded me of this:
    but kind of the low-tech version
    if you get tired of the rope, you can start weaving fabric or paper, as someone said above

  86. MichelleP on 05/05/2011:

    Are you kidding with this awesomeness??? WOW!!!

  87. seriously on 05/05/2011:

    What? where do you get these ideas? perfection. function + color, texture, shape + minimal form.

    like how the box on the ground creates a discrete outline. don’t like how my little guy would certainly mangle it in 10 min or less.

  88. Erika on 05/06/2011:
  89. J&J on 05/06/2011:

    You are out of control. Amazing.

  90. Chad @ First Born Vintage on 05/06/2011:

    I think my head just exploded. So Much Awesome.

  91. THE BRICK HOUSE on 05/06/2011:

    Thanks all, my heart is filled with glee and my ego is bolstered.

  92. Kylie on 05/06/2011:

    Freakin’ genius if you ask me! Fantastic I. LOVE. IT!

  93. Shelly on 05/06/2011:

    Morgan-you’ve got a fan base out here in The heavenly Midwest. Thanks again. A showplace I tell you!

  94. Melissa Arnold on 05/06/2011:

    OMG!!! Beyond love and fascination, I am overwhelmed.

  95. Home Lighting on 05/06/2011:

    Spectacular indeed! This is a brilliant idea 🙂 Neatly done!

  96. Allison on 05/06/2011:

    Genius. You should be SO proud of yourself – this is the perfect solution for the space and hot damn to boot.

  97. omsh on 05/06/2011:

    Okay, so I’ve never commented before, but I had to say that as much as I have loved several things you have blogged about, this might very well be my favorite yet.


  98. Süsk on 05/06/2011:

    Can you leave a little awesome for the rest of us? Redundant post, since everyone has already said how splendid this is- but whoa! So lovely!

  99. Curator on 05/06/2011:

    Twine…How deliciously appropriate for an upholsterer, sans persiflage!

  100. Liz on 05/06/2011:

    Phenomenal!!! Versatile for so many spaces. Can’t wait to see where this pops up next!!!!

  101. Lesley @ The Design File on 05/06/2011:

    As a person taking one of Shelly’s upholstery classes, I can tell you that these rope walls in the studio are truly fantastic. They accomplish exactly what she was after. Great job!

  102. minga mars on 05/06/2011:

    fucking awesome!

  103. KILLER idea.

  104. seriously on 05/06/2011:

    interesting to see the other variations of the rope wall. but i have to say that TBH version is my fav and is different. i like how the rope is evenly spaced, taut, and disappears into the ceiling and the floor. it’s like designer furniture. lots of versions, but the little details are what make a piece feel right and another feel off. bravo!

  105. julia wheeler on 05/06/2011:

    this looks super rad, morgan!! amazing job!!!

  106. Carol on 05/06/2011:

    Super great. I don’t know if I could drill into concrete floors, that’s a bold move. Shelly, congratulations on the execution. Looks awesome.

  107. Mila on 05/06/2011:

    when I was about 10 years old, I took apart a cassette tape and scotch taped the 6′-8″ long pieces to the frame of my bedroom door about 1/2″ apart from each other across the entire doorway. i give you this true confession only because your project is the coolest possible rendition of that idea 30 years later. nice.

  108. xgirl on 05/06/2011:

    It’s not natural how much I love this.

  109. susie q on 05/07/2011:

    Genius. Totally + completely brilliant.

  110. sara on 05/07/2011:

    this is pretty sweet. i kinda want to weave something into it…

  111. Lisette on 05/07/2011:

    Wow, great result! Fabulous, and inspiring!!

  112. Kristin on 05/07/2011:

    What a smart touch!!

  113. Tami on 05/07/2011:

    True genius! But it would never work around my cats of destruction.

    Small world, too. If this is the Shelly I remember meeting at an Atomic Crash Party in Indy, then your collaboration must throw sparks – she seemed like a terrific person. Have fun!

  114. Shelly on 05/07/2011:

    Tami-It’s me!

  115. The Vintage Cabin on 05/07/2011:

    Awesome idea, love this!

  116. Ben on 05/08/2011:

    I’ve had this idea in my head for a couple of months now, though I was thinking of doing it with thicker rope. I’m glad to see an example before doing it myself.

  117. Tonia on 05/08/2011:

    Cool as a fan! Love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  118. Miriam@Fjällhem on 05/08/2011:

    WOW!!! Looks amazing 🙂
    Just found ur blog…and I´m definitely coming back!

  119. Scott on 05/10/2011:

    I keep looking at that, thinking about how great a planter box with a philodendron would look. The brown shaggy effect would look even better with some green leaves interspersed.

  120. MJ on 05/10/2011:

    I would add a couple simple knots at various spots, just to add a little more texture to the wall.

  121. curryqueen on 05/11/2011:


  122. Marisa Del Nero on 05/11/2011:

    Adorei a idéia, vou fazer aqui em casa.

  123. Chad on 05/12/2011:

    I’m wondering about the smell from the rope. Any time I have bought natural rope there has been a smell with it. I haven’t bought hemp rope that I know of. Was the rope soaked or cleaned before setup….or does hemp rope just not have a strong smell? I’m really interested in the idea.

  124. malshag on 05/12/2011:

    Did you see the rope ceiling?

  125. Shelly on 05/13/2011:

    Chad-No smell after about one day of hanging.

  126. Noahs crew on 05/20/2011:

    This is just too neat!

  127. Catherine on 05/24/2011:

    I love what you’ve done here. We’d love to post this on our blog this week (web site included). What a creative solution for adding visual interest to a space.

  128. Jason Franklin on 05/26/2011:

    Love this. Also thinking how much fun it would be for a patio “wall” outside and you could run any runner plant along part of it as a trellis…very cool

  129. Chet on 08/11/2011:

    This is awesome, I want to do it but with lights underneath shining up! Maybe…

    I was wondering how thick the rope is? And how far apart are your holes spaced?


  130. Corinne on 02/03/2012:

    What an amazing idea!!! Love love love! Want to do In my loft.. How thick Is the rope?

  131. dominique on 02/25/2012:

    I love this!! It’s such a creative idea – I want to try this out…

  132. beth on 03/24/2012:

    Wonderful idea. Why aren’t you posting any longer? We need ideas from people like you.

  133. Bina John Tharakan on 04/09/2012:

    I must say,this is such a great idea and looks awesome.We are in the process of building a house and I am going to make use of this piece of art.Its such a creative idea.Thanks for sharing it.Looking forward to seeing more such work from you..

  134. Pamela on 04/18/2012:

    Hi. I am looking for a way to partition a space in our condo for my daughter, and this is by far the most appealing idea I have seen. Can you give me an idea of how closely the ropes can be spaced? I was thinking of going to 1/2 inch spaces for a little more privacy, but still some visibility …

  135. “Brick House” was in fact a delightful blog, can’t help but wait to browse even more of your articles.
    Time to waste a bit of time on-line haha. Thanks -Lamar

  136. Elizabeth Dalton on 02/04/2013:

    Love ur room divider. How do u tie the knots & tighten the rope inside the box?

  137. Jay Phoenix on 06/30/2013:

    Very cool idea! We have the perfect rope for this!

  138. Katie B on 08/28/2013:

    Very interested in creating something similar – are the bottom boxes screwed into the floor? How do you keep them from floating around?

  139. Loren on 10/22/2013:

    wonderful idea! so is the top( ceiling) box screwed into the ceiling some how?

  140. Mark on 12/07/2014:

    Why not just leave the rope one length, go up over, down, over, up over, etc? This would make building that box a lot easier!

  141. diane on 01/03/2015:

    Hey, great work!!!

    I am busy doing one for our space, only thing i would like to know is how did you get the rope so tight?
    Went to a boat company to get bulk rope….

  142. Keishia on 02/08/2015:

    I love this! I am currently looking at making one in a smaller scale for our office. I just love the fact that you can weave in more rope side ways and use it to pin notes and photos with clothing pins! 🙂

    Beautiful work!

  143. sandy on 09/14/2015:

    I have saw these done with mardi gras beads & necklaces. looked great

  144. shelly on 10/15/2015:

    We attached the ropes with knots at the top first, then pulled them down snugly at the bottom, tying as we went. Then, nailed on the front side of the box so that the knots don’t show.

  145. Dean on 01/16/2016:

    Really great idea. Could author or other DIYers comment on how to cheaply and simply add stability and portability to something like this if I wanted to make it a mobile / movable structure? Much appreciated!

  146. Martine on 01/22/2016:

    This is looking great! How did you attach the wood to the ceiling?

  147. LIZY on 04/11/2016:

    Im sorry if someone already asked this! but how was the top part secured to the ceiling? you nailed it? this looks bomb.

  148. Sean on 10/18/2016:

    It looks rustic and classy! I’d probably do this in my studio but I’m also quite concerning about the maintenance, it probably catches dust easily and take quite some effort to clean…

  149. instagram online on 09/15/2017:

    I love this idea!! Thank you for sharing! Bookmark it and try someday!

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