Creating and Defining a Focal Point

  • 01 of 11

    The Focal Point of a Room

    The lines of a well-designed room flow toward its focal point. Photo © stef thomas/flickr

    When you walk into a room, the first thing you notice is the room’s focal point. It may an attractive feature, such as a fireplace or view, or it may be a not-so-fabulous television or blank wall.

    The focal point of a room influences the arrangement of furniture. Decorating the room to emphasize the focal point is a great way to re-energize the space. It also takes the focus off the less attractive features of the room.

    Look at these interior design images, which show various focal point options, to see if any of these ideas can work for you.

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  • 02 of 11

    Identify an Existing Focal Point

    You don't need a million-dollar view to use a window as a focal point in a room. Photo © Paul Burns/Getty

    Your room may already have a focal point that you can accentuate into an existing, strong element in the room.

    • A window or group of windows draws all eyes to the natural light and the movement in the landscape, a skyline or other outdoor element. If you have a decent view or a good source of natural light, a window can be the focal point of the room.
    • A fireplace makes an excellent focal point.
    • A strong architectural detail, like an exposed brick wall, can serve as the focal point.

    Don’t forget to look up. A high ceiling or amazing light fixture can serve as a room's focal point.

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  • 03 of 11

    Create a Focal Point

    This dining room lacked luster until the homeowners wallpapered the large wall and added vintage-style built-ins. Photo © Tom Kelley/Getty

    Your room may not have an existing focal point. Creating a focal point for a room is not hard to do. Here are some tips for creating a focal point.

    • Look at the room's largest wall. Adding a feature wall can be an excellent way to create a focal point in the space.
    • Cover unsightly windows with a wall of boldly printed curtains that act as a feature in the room.
    • Position a brightly colored piece of furniture in the room.
    • Organized, built-in shelving can serve as a focal point.
    • A large mirror can be the focal point. An artistic grouping of small art, objects such as baskets or other collectibles, or mirrors on a large wall form a lovely focal point.
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  • 04 of 11

    Dare to Go Bold

    Using the ceiling as a focal point transforms this room from bland to bold. Photo © KellyB/flickr

    Bold color can add focus to a room that lacks it. In this case, painting the ceiling with a bold red color and framing it with dark molding adds an instant focal point to an otherwise unremarkable room.

    If you choose to make the ceiling the focal point in the space, make sure the lighting can handle the challenge. A strong chandelier further establishes the ceiling as a focal point.

    Keep other colors and patterns in the room at a minimum so they don’t compete with the ceiling. You don’t want to walk into the room and feel overwhelmed.

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  • 05 of 11

    Accent a Wall

    A custom feature wall looks luxurious but can be easily installed on a budget. Photo © Jupiter Images

    The feature or accent wall is a great way to add a strong focal point in a room.

    Furniture is typically grouped around a focal point, facing the focal point or with its lines leading toward a focal point, but in this room, you can see an exception to these rules. However, notice how the line of the back of the sofa perfectly complements the lines on the feature wall.

    The decorator balanced the horizontal elements in the room with a round side table, lamp and decorative elements, giving the eye a place to rest.

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  • 06 of 11

    Too Much of a Good Thing

    This homeowner allows the fabulous view to take center stage by keeping the fireplace simple and unadorned. Photo © Ivan Hunter/Getty

    A room should not have two main focal points. That sets up an unhealthy competition and makes the room feel uncomfortable. Remember the focal point is where your eyes rest first in a room. You simply can’t have two “firsts.”

    If you are lucky enough to have a great view and a fabulous fireplace, let one take precedence and use the secondary focal point for balance.

    Here are some tips for choosing the better or two focal points.

    • Which element is the most interesting? Remember that people are usually attracted to the great outdoors more than they are to anything inside. If the room has a view and a fireplace, draw attention away from the fireplace by keeping the mantel decoration minimal.
    • Which potential focal point receives the most attention naturally? If you live in a cold climate and many hours are spent in front of the fireplace, use it as the main focal point and treat the view as a backdrop.
    • Where is the main hub of activity in the room? If you have a pool table in the room that you constantly use, choose to feature it rather than the large built-in bookshelf that runs along one wall.
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  • 07 of 11

    Artwork as a Focal Point

    Sometimes, all a room needs is one large, eye-catching piece of art to serve as a focal point. Mount the artwork where it is visible from the entry to the room and install dramatic lighting to emphasize it. The eye can't help but be drawn to this arrangement. Whether the art is a separate piece mounted on a wall, a graphic painted on the wall surface or a wall-size room decal, size, color and position are the most important tactics to make it the room's focal point. 

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  • 08 of 11

    Play Up Architectural Details

    Fireplaces and large windows aren't the only architectural details that can serve as a focal point in a room. Look for special features, such as an unusual shape to the room or arches, high ceilings, interesting ceiling details such as exposed wood beams, angled walls, a winding staircase, built-in bookcases and entertainment centers. Any of these features can be the focal point of a room with the right lighting and paint color.

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  • 09 of 11

    Give Oversized Furniture Its Due

    A large armoire or large cabinet can serve as a room's focal point. The sheer size of the piece guarantees the eye is drawn to it. Accent the top of the large furniture piece—if there is room between the furniture and the ceiling—with a collection of colorful pottery. You'll need to add some balance to the bulk of the focal piece on the opposite side of the room. An armoire or cabinet with doors can be customized inside to serve as an entertainment center when the doors are open. It can also be fitted with shelves and used to display a collection of art or glassware. 

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  • 10 of 11

    Think Botanical

    A single huge plant or a collection of smaller plants can draw the eye. You have to take lighting into consideration when choosing plants; pick from those that flourish in the available light of the room or be prepared to provide auxiliary lighting. Aftercare is important. You don't want your focal point to wilt, display damaged leaves or show other neglect.

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  • 11 of 11

    Play Up Your Assets

    This beautiful fireplace is further highlighted as a focal point by the large artwork balanced upon its mantel. Photo © Gatsby's List/flickr

    When you decide on the focal point, don’t forget to dress it. Top the fireplace with a bold mirror or piece of art. Add molding to frame and accentuate a feature wall. Choose sheer or neutral curtains to maximize natural light and emphasize the view. Paint that oversized wardrobe a bright, bold color. Install or add lighting to illuminate your feature.

    A focal point in a room is the highlight of the space. Treat it appropriately, and you’ll be sure to elicit many positive remarks.