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The American ideal of the cozy living room with a roaring fireplace is often easier said than done. Less traditional spaces, climate and home size might sway you away from planning your space around a large fireplace. Still, even if you don’t miss a fireplace for warmth, it does make design a no-brainer. Fireplaces almost always become the focal point of a room, making it easier to anchor the rest of the room’s decor. If you’re fireplace-free, how do you make a room stand out?
There are plenty of ways to anchor rooms without the upfront expense and ongoing cost of a fireplace. Whether you’re just renting or you’re opting out of a traditional space, check out some of these focal points to draw the eye and simplify the rest of your interior design.
It’s true: fireplaces are a handy spot to break up large expanses of boring walls. But you can pull the same look off with textured or patterned wallpaper. Choose the wall with the most visual impact as you walk into the room. Then, use a bold, graphic paper to draw the eye and anchor other elements like furniture, lighting and artwork. This is especially useful if you’re a renter since today’s wallpapers are easy to install and remove.
Stop thinking of windows as room accents and, instead, think of them as room features. Cool casings and gorgeous grids look great on display, so try grouping your furniture around a couple of windows. You’ll create a cozy nook with the best view in the house.
Fireplaces are a natural place to hang art or prop up your favorite mementos, but you don’t need a mantel to show off your stuff. Create a gallery wall using similar size parameters as a fireplace. Mix up the mediums by hanging art, things you’ve picked up on vacation, wood signs and even framed tickets or maps. Grouped together, your stuff makes a bigger visual impact and can act as an anchor point for your furniture.
More of a minimalist? One large, impactful piece of artwork can give you all the character you need in a fireplace-free home. Look for oversized works that pull in colors from the rest of your place. Use art as a tie-in to other rooms and decor in your home. Or, mix it up by playing with opposites. Try a large, graphic print in a home with bohemian flair or a colorful, delicate piece in an otherwise neutral palette.
If you’re on a tight budget, you might be left scratching your head. But lighting is often overlooked as a main focal point, simply because most people think of lighting as an accent only. Lighting can be an inexpensive way to direct focus in a room. Choosing a large, overhanging lamp can center a room, while an antique lamp on a table creates a cozy focal spot. For under $100, your room can take on an entirely new look based on where you direct the light.
Built-ins and storage
If you’re lucky enough to have a wall of built-ins, you can use that as a stand-in for a large fireplace. Books and wood offer a great alternative to the warmth and texture of a fireplace. Still, even if you’re working with a bare wall, you can mimic the look of built-in shelving using storage units of the same color. Configure taller units at the end and a low, long unit in between to fill the space and give it a custom look.
Mirrors are a simple way to draw focus and make a room look much bigger than it is. The trick to choosing a mirror for your focal point is to be intentional. Instead of a builder grade mirror from the hardware store, look for mirrors with interesting frames from estate sales and antique stores. And remember that mirrors always look smaller when you put them in a space, so go larger than you think you need.
If you love an organic look, use plants as your room’s main focal feature. It’s a great way to pull in color and texture without permanence. Try pulling focus by grouping plants of different heights together. Use pots and pedestals to change up the heights until you get it just right and can ensure each plant gets the sun it prefers.
Not sure where to create a focal point? Look up! Your ceiling can become the main focus of your room with a cool ceiling treatment. Simply painting the ceiling an unexpected color like navy blue pulls the eye like a magnet. This is especially helpful if the room is otherwise kind of architecturally awkward. You could also install paneling or slide in some faux beams to recenter the room and give it more interest.
If you really miss the idea of a fireplace but can’t have one for whatever reason, try going for a faux fireplace. You can check thrift stores for mantels and surrounds that simply prop up against bare walls. Then, stack the interior of the “fireplace” with pillar candles, driftwood or even firewood remnants. You won’t get the crackle of a traditional fireplace, but you’ll still get every bit of the warmth.
There are plenty of reasons a homeowner might opt out of a traditional fireplace setup. There’s something to be said, however, for creating a cozy focal point in the main room of your home. Think beyond the traditional layout and you’ll be able to draw guests in without lighting a fire.