Dear Gail: I’m always in awe when I walk into model homes. Each room seems to grab my attention. I read a lot about focal points, but I’m not sure what they would be in my home. I would love some advice. — Vita
Dear Vita: It’s one of the top questions I’m asked as it can be confusing. By definition, in design terms, a focal point is a central point of interest or attention. So basically, the first thing that catches your eye when you walk into a room.
To help direct you on a room’s focal point is to empty a room of everything, yes, everything. But why? So that you can look at the room’s bones and best features. You want to identify if there are any architectural features already built into the room, those things that are permanent. If you’re starting with your family or living room, a fireplace, a window with a pretty view or a built-in wall unit can serve as a focal point.
If you don’t have any of these elements, then you will need to create one with a piece of furniture or artwork. Some furniture examples are a piano, TV entertainment unit or maybe an antique that was passed down in the family.
My brother has our great-uncle’s grandfather clock. The piece doesn’t have to be a statement piece but something that will draw your attention. In a family room, the focal point will be your TV unit. I know many designers don’t agree with this, but it is what you will notice first if there are no architectural features.
To start, you will place that piece of furniture or artwork in the room first. Next, you will place your largest piece of furniture addressing your focal point, which is normally your sofa in a family or living room. It doesn’t have to be directly across from it, but you must be able to see it without turning your head straight over either one of your shoulders. If you can easily see it when sitting, you’re addressing the focal point.
Now look at some of the other rooms in your home. In your master bedroom, the bed is your main focal point. Why? It is the largest piece of furniture in the room, and your eyes are drawn to it first with the bed dressed.
You might have a fireplace, a beautiful view or a large armoire, but the bed is still normally the first thing we see. If you have these other focal points, you would want to make sure that you can see them from your bed.
You probably wouldn’t think you have a focal point in your master bath, but you do. It could be a fabulous sunken or freestanding tub, beautiful tile work in your shower, a fireplace or a stunning countertop — all which reflect in your mirror, which then doubles the view.
If you feel you don’t have such items, focus on placing something colorful on your counter. When doing models, I always place either a large colorful floral or statement accessory on the counter, again doubling the effect.
How about your kitchen? Do you have a large island, impressive range and hood or a great view to the outside? If it’s your island, then dress it up with a grouping of large accessories, while still giving you plenty of workspace room. Buy nice bar stools and upholster in an attention-getting fabric. If it’s your range and hood, add a great tile design over the range. If you have a fantastic view, bring more attention to it with a window treatment.
In your dining room, the table is your focal point. I have many clients that like to set the table with their china versus only seeing it once a year. Depending upon the room’s size and natural light, place a mirror so that it reflects your table.
Your entry, no matter how small, also has a focal point. Most likely, you will be creating one unless you have niches, unique architectural features or the shape itself stands on its own. You also want to take special notice to what you see first when standing in your entry. Wherever your eye goes first, make into a focal point.
Most times, unless you have something straight ahead, you will look to the opposite direction that your door opens. So, if your door swings to the left, you look to the right. If it opens to the right, you will look to the left.
Now, with your rooms set, step out of the rooms, turn around and walk back in. The first thing you see will be your focal point. If it’s not to your liking, move things around until it grabs your attention, like how you feel when you walk into a model home.
Every room has a focal point, whether built-in or created. So, if you’re still unsure, take notice where you look the next time you’re in someone’s home. It’s amazing what you’ll notice without realizing it.
Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to GMJinteriors@gmail.com. Or, mail to 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her web address is www.GMJinteriors.com.