Every room needs a focal point.
Designers have been saying that since forever. Why? Because it’s true. Here’s how I explain the importance of focal points in my decorating course, Style Your Home:
“A focal point is one of the most essential decorating components in a room, because it is the center of attention around which everything revolves. It’s the first thing that catches your eye when you walk into a room and gives the space its “wow” factor. The focal point not only helps set the tone and mood for a space, but it’s also the natural starting point of a room’s design.”
It’s simple to decide on a focal point when you just have one, such as a beautiful view or a large entertainment center. If you don’t have a focal point at all, I’ve shared some tips on how to create one. But what do you do if you have multiple options for a focal point in a room?
It can be challenging when you have more than one potential focal point such as a fireplace, a TV, and a view all battling for your attention. How do you know which one to focus on?
It’s actually not uncommon or a decorating faux pas to have more than one focal point in a room. In that situation, you make one the primary focal point and the others secondary. If two or more focal points are vying for your equal attention in a room, it doesn’t give your eyes a chance to rest. This can make the room seem disorganized and out of balance, and even make you feel anxious. That’s probably not the mood you’re going for. However, if you make one stand out more than the rest, things will feel more balanced overall.
To help you out, I have some tips that will make it easier for you to identify which one should take center stage when you have multiple focal points in a room.
MULTIPLE FOCAL POINTS
Choosing Your Primary Focal Point
As with any decorating project, the first thing you need to do is decide the room’s function. This will help you determine which of the focal points is the most important. For example:
- Do you mainly use the room to watch TV or movies? If yes, you may want the TV or screen to be your main focal point.
- Is the room a place where you relax and read a book or listen to music? In this case, you may want the the focus to be on the beautiful view or the fireplace.
ASK: What is the main thing you use the room for?
Once you’ve determined your primary focal point, it’s time to think about your secondary focal points. As an example, I mentioned a room with a TV, a fireplace, and a view. All of these could be considered primary focal points. If the TV became the main focal point, the view and fireplace would be secondary.
ASK: What other features could be considered secondary focal points in the room?
Arranging Your Furniture Around Your Primary Focal Point
Focal points play an important role when planning a room’s furniture layout. The main pieces of furniture should be arranged around one primary focal point. For example:
- Is your main focal point the TV? Arrange the furniture so that the main seating pieces face the television.
- Is your main focal point the fireplace? Arrange the furniture so that the attention is directed toward the fireplace.
NOTE: Even if you have a TV in the room, it may not be your main focal point. Think about how often you watch it compared to how often you enjoy the view, fireplace, or any other element in the space.
What to do with Secondary Focal Points
Okay, so you’ve decided on the room’s primary focus and have an idea on how you’re going to arrange your furniture around it. Let’s move on to the the secondary focal points. Again, think about how you’re using the space and decide if each focal point needs furniture around it. You may only want to emphasize the primary focal point and play down the others or have them “disappear” altogether.
Furniture arrangement is one way to draw attention to your primary focal point. Other ways are through color, texture, and pattern. You can use the same things to de-emphasize a focal point. Here are some examples.
To make a fireplace stand out:
- Place an over-sized piece of art over the mantel
- Cover it in a beautiful stone or paint it a bold color
To downplay a fireplace:
- Keep the decorations on the mantel to a minimum
- Paint it to blend in with the walls
To highlight a view:
- Use drapery in a contrasting color
- Frame it with molding in a contrasting color
To downplay a view:
- Use drapery that blends in with the wall color
- Use sheers to block the view, but still allow in light
One More Thing…
Of course, there are exceptions. After all, these are only guidelines. Remember, in decorating, there are no rules.
Some rooms are large enough to support two or more primary focal points. If so, arranging your furniture can actually create the feeling of two or more spaces. For example, let’s take the TV/fireplace/view scenario. If these focal points were all in a very large room, each one could be a primary focal point. You could arrange the furniture around the TV in one area. Then, create a separate conversation area in front of the fireplace. Finally, the third focal point could be a sitting area with the focus on the gorgeous view.
Working with multiple focal points doesn’t have to be a decorating dilemma. The key is to figure out how you want to use the space. As soon as you’ve done that, you’ll be able to decide which focal point will make the room work best for you.
I hope these tips on working with multiple focal points have helped inspire you. If you’re excited to learn more about decorating your home, check out my course Style Your Home. It’s my step-by-step process to creating a home you love.