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focal point

Every room needs a focal point. Image: Akin Design Studio

The focal point is one of the most fundamental elements in interior design. Put simply, it’s the star of the room. It’s the first place viewers’ eyes should land when they enter the room and it’s the emphasis point around which you build the rest of your design.

With that in mind, it’s important to make sure you’ve chosen the right spot for this showcase. This post can help; it includes everything you need to know about picking the perfect focal point for your design. Believe us when we say that mastering this step can make a huge difference in your home.

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existing feature

Use an existing feature whenever possible. Image: Rabaut Design Associates Inc.

Highlight the best feature

Ideally, the rooms of your home have a built-in focal point. In that case, all you have to do is construct your design in such a way that highlights this existing feature. This also makes it much easier to decide how to lay out the room.

Some of the most common types of built-in focal points are:

  • Windows and outdoor views: Views — especially eye-catching ones — are an easy choice for a focal point. Regardless of what else is in the room, eyes naturally travel there. If you’re lucky enough to have this type of view, all you need to do is allow the windows to be as big and unobscured as possible.
  • Fireplaces: Fireplaces can really ground the room. Be sure to arrange a seating area around the fire and, if possible, use a bold piece of art above the mantle.
  • Built-in shelving: Many times, built-in shelving and fireplaces go hand-in-hand. Even if that’s not the case, the process is still fairly similar. Start by creating a seating area around the shelving and be sure to purposely style your surfaces so they’re aesthetically pleasing.
  • Vaulted ceilings: While vaulted ceilings don’t seem like they require much in terms of design, it’s important to make sure they stay freshly painted and include a bold light fixture.
  • Interestingly angled walls: Consider making this wall a focal point by creating an accent wall or, if applicable, playing up a feature like a window seat.
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created focal point

Don’t be afraid to create your own focal point, if needed. Image: E. Interiors

Consider creating your own focal point

Other times, there aren’t any built-in features to emphasize and it’s necessary to create one of your own. While this does take a little bit more effort up front, it’s far from impossible. Again, there are plenty of options to choose from, so feel free to pick the one that works best for you.

  • Accent walls: Accent walls have always been a popular option for a focal point. Typically, if there are no built-in features to work with, an accent wall can be created on the furthest wall from the entry into the room. Be sure to use a bold paint color or patterned wallpaper to draw attention.
  • Artwork: A statement piece of artwork or mirror can carry a room by itself. In this case, you’ll want to make sure the piece you choose is big enough to suit the wall it’s placed on. It should be placed at eye-level and, whenever possible, you should add accent lighting to highlight the piece even further.
  • Backsplashes: Kitchens and bathrooms tend to have their own standards for focal points. Usually, a tile backsplash — either in the shower or behind the stove — is the best choice. Again, just make sure it includes a bold color or pattern.
  • Statement furniture: A large, statement piece of furniture can serve as a fine focal point. This is typically the case in dining rooms and bedrooms, where there is obviously a central piece of furniture in the room. Here, you’ll want to add accents like a centerpiece for the table or some throw pillows on the bed to help draw the eye.
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Never put more than one focal point in a room. Image: Artistic Designs for Living, Tineke Triggs

Avoid these mistakes

In addition to knowing how to create a focal point like a pro, it’s important to know what traps to avoid. We’ve outlined some of the most common mistakes that have a tendency to muddle up a cohesive room design.

  • Having more than one focal point: When a room has two separate usage areas — say, for example, a kitchen and eat-in dining area — it can be tempting to create two focal points. However, that can confuse the viewer. Usually, the room should have one central focus, with a secondary if necesary. In that case, the focal point should be part of the primary use.
  • Forgetting to frame the area: Even if your room has a built-in focal point, it’s your job to add extra details to ensure eyes always fall where they’re supposed to. Add extra design elements around your chosen point to draw attention.
  • Leaving out lighting: Every focal point should have its own lighting source to help it stand out.
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focal point

Use these tips to create focal points of your own. Image: Grandeur Design

Picking a focal point is one of the most fundamental parts of interior design — and for good reason. This spot is the first thing viewers see when they enter the room and it’s the center of your layout. A few small changes can help take your design to the next level.

Do you make a point of including focal points in your designs? If so, do you have any tips of your own to add? Share them with us in the comments.