Interior Design Principles: Creating Emphasis in Your Rooms with a Focal Point

One of the common six principles of design is emphasis, which when it comes to decorating, is known as a focal point. Think of the focal point in your room like you would your makeup or jewelry. When you're putting on your makeup you can either go with a dramatic eye and neutral lip color or you can go with a dramatic lip color and a more neutral eye.

Or with your accessories, you might choose a statement necklace and go easier on the earrings and hair. It's all about balancing your look while still making a statement. If you go all out with the makeup and the jewelry and the hair, it can just be too much. Ya know what I mean?

via:   She Finds

Unless you're the famed interior designer and fashion icon, Iris Apfel, you more than likely won't be able to pull it off. (I think she looks kind of fabulous.)

via:   Elle Decor   Photo by Ryan Dixon for One King's Lane

via: Elle Decor Photo by Ryan Dixon for One King's Lane

The same goes with the rooms in our home. Some people can pull off some crazy things but most of us just need to simplify our focus while still making a statement. So, what is a focal point and how do you create one in each of your rooms?



[A]n area visually important enough to draw and hold attention. . . .[T]he object or area where the eye is drawn first.

Interiors: An Introduction

Basically, it's what your eye is going to go straight towards when you walk into a room and keep coming back to time and time again.

Why is it important?

We've talked a lot about grounding a room in this little series and a focal point is one of those things that grounds a room and gives your eyes a place to settle. It gives you that sense of balance and stability because your mind and eyes aren't trying to figure out what's going on and where to look.

Some of the most common focal points are a fireplace in a living room, the dining table and light fixture in a dining space and the bed and the space above it in a bedroom.  

Can you have more than one focal point in a room?

Yes! And many times you're going to want to, but they will not all carry the same visual weight or have the same importance. A dining room is a great example of this. The table and light fixture normally will be the primary focal point, but a sideboard set against a wall with some lamps or art above it or a pretty floral arrangement placed on it will be a secondary focal point. Gwen Hefner's dining room from The Makerista blog is a great example of this.

In your bedroom, the bed and the space above it might be your main focal point, but maybe the dresser or a little reading nook off to the side might be your secondary focal point. 

What if there is not obvious focal point in my room?

No worries, you can create one. Hang a huge piece of art on a wall and direct your furniture towards it. You can get engineer prints from places like Staples or Parabo Press and frame them as an extremely affordable art option. You can also install a row of bookcases from somewhere like Ikea, or build your own built ins or create a gallery wall. Pay attention to the area where your eye goes to first when you walk into a room and build on that for creating your focal point. 

A great focal point was created in the room below by centering the sofa between the windows and hanging a large mirror in the middle and dramatic drapes on either side. (Notice all the beautiful symmetry? You can see last week's post about that here.)

Tips for Creating a Focal Point in Any Room

  • Arrange your furniture so that it emphasizes or directs the eye to a natural focal point in a room like a fireplace. In the image below, the two sofas create what photographers call leading lines. They are lines that direct and draw your eye to the subject which in this case is the fireplace and art above it. The lamps also create a framing affect and the clear lucite coffee table doesn't obstruct the view but allows the eye to keep moving.
via:   Elle Decor
  • We already talked about some ways you can create a focal point when there isn't an obvious one, but apply the principles about arranging your furniture to direct your eye towards it. 
  • Start with creating one focal point area in your space and if you see a wall or corner that looks empty and could be a secondary focal point to help with the flow of the room, create one there. It can be a reading nook or desk area or a little side table with some art above it and maybe a lamp or some plants.
  • The larger the space the more focal points you will likely need. It may help to break the room into sections or separate seating areas. Just remember, you'll probably still have one or two main focal points and the rest will be smaller less demanding secondary focal points.

I hope this hasn't been to boring for you! I love this kind of stuff, and really want to make it fun for others. If you have any questions or advice to add, please leave them in the comments below. I love hearing from you!