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Creating a Focal Point

December 31 2009

Like a fine painting, every room has a focal point. It’s the element that draws your eye first, and invites you for a closer look.

The focal point defines the room’s ambiance and underscores the room’s purpose. It makes you want to enter, and enjoy the room to sit and relax, study, watch videos, sleep, make conversation, play or whatever the room is designed to do.

By establishing what your focal point is going to be, you have an easier time decorating the rest of your room, because the other furnishings will fit around it.

For example, if you are creating a focal point with a fireplace and seating area, you can embellish the mantel with a small group of candles or collectibles. Your seating can be arranged to enjoy the fire in the winter, or you can replace the grate with fresh or dried flowers for the summer. 

If you want a warm, relaxing ambiance, add bookshelves and a luxurious lap throw draped on the arm of a chair or couch.  Use neutral paints and tones, small patterns or solids on furnishings, and decorate with prints of pastoral scenes or still life. Finish with a thick pile area rug, and you’ve completed a cozy den or study. 

What makes a good focal point?

A good focal point attracts attention.

Focal points are either created for you by the room’s architecture, or you have to create one yourself, but the idea is to make the room enjoyable to use. 

The room may have an organic feature that you can enhance, such as a bay window with a beautiful view.  A picture window can be enhanced with window seats with colors like blue or green to bring the indoors inside the room.

How to create a focal point

Some rooms simply don’t have an outstanding architectural feature, so you have to create your own focal point.

There are several tricks of the trade to create a focal point – size, color, light, and curiosity. 

Size: Large items attract interest. Start by putting the largest piece of furniture against the largest wall to help traffic flow.

A bed is a natural focal point for a bedroom, and a sofa is great focal point for a living room or den. Rugs also command attention and anchor the décor, so they make great focal points, too.

Color: You can influence mood and behavior with color. A contrasting wall color behind your sofa or bed is an excellent way to create a focal point. You can also use small intense colors on accessories such as pillows to direct the eye to a seating area and focal point. But a little goes a long way – color that is too intense can repel as well as attract.

Light: Your eye travels easily to where it can see the best. Lighting is essential to giving attention to the main area of the room, such as a chandelier over a dining area. You can also arrange lights to dim or brighten depending on whether you want the ambiance to be lively or intimate.

Curiosity: Curiosity makes you want to want to learn. A collection, a great piece of art, a humorous slogan on a pillow, or an unusual piece of furniture all invite conversation, which is a wonderful way to use a focal point. 

Is it possible to have more than one focal point in a room? Yes, if your room is designed for more than one purpose, such as a living-dining combination room, or a bedroom with a sitting area, you will need a focal point for each area to distinguish it from the rest of the room and to define its purpose.

Just make sure the focal points agree that both sides of the room are equally formal or informal, and in the same decorative theme as the rest of the room.