Monday, October 29, 2012

Creating A Focal Point

Note the repetition of color...
In interior design, the focal point of a room is the center of interest, activity or attention. It can be an unintended negative element, like a massive projection television that overwhelms a small room, or it can be the planned emphasis on something attractive that has been chosen to play this special role. A room should have only one focal point, but a room can, and should in the case of larger rooms, have centers of interest or activity, such as ones designed for conversation, dining, reading, working, watching television or movies, etc.

Finding A Room's Focal Point

Sometimes determining a room's focal point is easy because the architecture speaks to you, as in the case of a beautiful mantle or a large window that frames a panoramic view. In other cases, there is nothing special in the room that creates a focal point, giving you great latitude to decide what you want, and to create it. A natural place to locate your focal point is the wall opposite where you enter the room, but don't limit your thinking! You could make the ceiling the focal point, as was done in this example that uses paint and a glorious chandelier. Just be sure you have appropriate lighting.

A ceiling as the focal point.

Conflicting or Confusing Focal Points

Design issues can occur when one focal point, a fireplace for example, has to co-exist with another, often a  television. For the room to be harmonious, one of them should dominate. If it's more important to you to be able to sit around the fireplace and talk, yet the room also has to accommodate a television, relative size is one way to solve the problem. Use a smaller television, or hide the televison behind cabinet doors or a sliding panel when not in use, and let the more attractive fireplace be the vision "winner", especially when the only functional solution is to place the television on the same wall.

If the room is large enough, the best approach is to create separate living areas for conversation, viewing, etc.. For maximum flexibility, especially in smaller spaces, use "L" shaped sectional furniture, or multi-directional furniture such as a backless bench or large ottoman, so that one or more people can sit down and face the same, or different, living areas.

When you don't resolve the problem of conflicting focal points, the viewer's eye is distracted and doesn't flow through the room in a naturally harmonious way, and that can be confusing and disturbing because so much is happening that your eye doesn't know where it should go. This article by a staging colleague illustrates what happens to the "eye track" when you inadvertently create these conflicts.

Focal Point - How the Eye Works

Some Roles A Focal Point Can Play

Let's say that you have a room without a natural focal point, or you want to enhance what you have. Consider some of the roles that your focal point could play, and decide what you want to accomplish. Your focal point could meet more than one of these objectives:

  • starting point for the design of the room
  • make a statement, set a mood or create an emotional impact
  • make the room inviting
  • impress visitors
  • act as the cohesive element that ties everything together
  • divert attention from something unattractive
  • add visual weight to balance something elsewhere in the room
  • establish traffic flow

Traffic Flow

The issue of traffic flow is often overlooked, but it's a crucial consideration, especially in older homes that have to work for the way we live now. This article shows you how to weigh the options when you decide what your focal point is going to be.

Creating A Focal Point For A Blank Canvas

If you're starting from scratch, and especially when your budget is tight, there are many non-structural solutions based on using size, color, intrigue, arrangement of elements, and more. This is the time to express yourself and be creative. Here are some possibilities:
  • Define a focal wall with paint in an accent color.
  • Use paint in an accent color to define a focal area on a larger wall. Look at the yellow fireplace wall in the picture above. Repetition of color helps tie the elements of a room together.
  • Hang a large piece of art or other statement piece, such as a textile or sculpture, or even a beautiful large branch from your garden.
  • Place the largest piece of furniture or a furniture group on the focal wall, and build around it.
  • If the focal point is the view, use drapes with side panels, or emphasize it by placement of large plants, or with furniture or accessories.
  • Use an electric fireplace.
  • Install shelving and display your favorite collections.

Schedule a Redesign Consultation

Sometimes getting help is the best idea. Schedule a redesign consultation by calling me at 828-692-4355. 

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