Got a Room That Doesn't Feel Right? It's Probably Missing This

Got a Room That Doesn't Feel Right? It's Probably Missing This

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Adrienne Breaux
Jul 14, 2015

If you've got a room you've picked the furniture for, hung the art in, arranged the vignettes just so, but feel like it's still not quite right — like it's lacking in something or just isn't working — you might be missing this key element that's a powerful design tool you can incorporate in your rooms.

→ A focal point.

What it is

Though there are plenty of ways you can describe what a focal point in a room is, the easiest way to think about it is a focal point is the place in the room where one's eyes and attention focus on first and most strongly. It's not the only bold element in a room, but it's the one that, if all your objects could make noise, would be singing the loudest. It can be a powerful tool in creating rooms that feel cohesive and sophisticated, and it can set the whole tone for an entire space.

Why your room might need one

Not every room needs a focal point. Plenty of homes exist quite beautifully as balanced spaces without a need for incorporating this design principle. But you might need a focal point if your room is looking too busy and cluttered. If a room is feeling like there's no real place for the eye to rest or that there's no cohesive vibe in the space. You might need one if a room is really boring. And you might need one if you have a room with an architectural element that you've ignored but that's fighting the rest of your decor for attention.

How to find yours

There are several ways to attempt to locate a focal point in a room. One is to walk out of the room in question, walk back in and see where your eyes go to first. You can follow the natural lines and planes of a room, looking at it from the doorway, and see where those lines meet. You can take a photo and see what jumps out the most. You can gravitate to any architectural elements that are naturally attention-grabbing (or have potential to be). Or you can start from scratch and decide yourself what the focal point of a room will be.

Why things sometimes go wrong (And how to make yours better

Because a focal point can pretty much be anything — from a fireplace to a couch to a piano to a piece of art — and can happen in any room — from bedrooms, to living rooms, kitchens and more — it can be easy to not quite get a room's focal point to a point that works with, and not against, your room's decor. There are three main things you can do with your focal points to guarantee their success, though:

1. Employ the idea of taking a design idea all.the.way.
What we mean is, if you're going to try something — a bold color, an odd art arrangement — you want to really try it. Don't sort of dip your toes into an idea — really go all the way. With focal points, it's the same idea. If you're going to decide to create a focal point in a room, actually make it the focal point by creating a bold statement that grabs attention.

2. Move the eye along the space by spreading focal point-inspired elements through out the room.
While the whole point of having a focal point is grabbing attention and setting a room's tone, it doesn't need be a decor island. In fact it shouldn't. Spread the style wealth of a well-crafted focal point and create rhythm in your rooms. Move the eye throughout a space by echoing design elements found in the focal point throughout the rest of the room (often done with color but can also be done with things like shape and texture, too).

3. Maintain your focal point's power in a room by letting it continually evolve.
As the boldest feature in a room, keeping your focal point exactly as it is for the duration of your stay in a space can mean living in a static room that can grow to feel boring. By allowing your focal point to evolve — experimenting with different colors, arrangements and elements — you can be sure that your rooms continue to evolve, too, since a focal point is often the most powerful element in a space. What you do to a focal point can have a ripple effect throughout your entire home.

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