The phrase “You have to start somewhere” can refer to a lot of different things, but when you are talking about good room design, it can only mean one thing – the focal point.
A focal point is the main point of interest in a room – the place where your eye is drawn first. The flow of a room starts at the focal point and travels around, taking in the scale, balance, textures, patterns, and proportions of all the other objects in the room. The flow is affected not only by what you put in the room but by where you place it.
Some rooms have architectural focal points such as fireplaces; others have natural focal points such as a wonderful view. If you have a room without an existing focal point, it is easy to create one.
One simple way to create a focal point is to paint a wall in a contrasting color to the others, then arrange a collection of photographs, pictures, decorative plates, or even clocks in an interesting fashion. In general, artwork should be hung so that the center of the picture or grouping is around eye level. Pick one piece that you want at the center, preferably a larger print to serve as an anchor for the eye. Then pull together items that have something in common. Using all gold frames or all black-and-white images would tie unlike subject matter together. To help create flow in the room, consider that horizontal lines tend to widen, while vertical lines add to the illusion of height.
If your home wasn’t built with its own fireplace, you can easily add the same warmth and ambiance. Many furniture retailers carry electric fireplaces, which can provide a cozy atmosphere as well as a point of visual interest. Their flickering flames look just like real fire, and as heaters they’re environmentally friendly. Unlike gas or wood fireplaces, electric heaters release no toxins into your home or the outdoors. Using your fireplace as a zone heater can help you save money, as you won’t be wasting energy heating rooms that are less frequently used. Turn off the heat option, and enjoy the flame effect year-round.
Rooms with HDTVs create a natural focal point. Combining an electric fireplace with a media console will double the impact in your room. Like regular media consoles, these units are designed for use with flat screen TVs and include shelves for media components. Turn up the flames, put on your favorite movie, and sit back to enjoy your new focal point.
A large piece of furniture also makes an effective focal point. An entertainment wall gives the look of built-in cabinetry while providing storage for your electronics, books and more. Multiple pieces can be mixed and matched to suit your needs and your space. Start with a console for your center piece and a platform for the TV, add storage cabinets or piers on either side and top with a light bridge to create the look of a built-in wall. Since the family gathers around it to watch television, it serves a practical use as the anchor for the room’s seating arrangements.
Once you have established a focal point for your room you will have a clear direction for the placement of the other furnishings. The largest seating group will usually be placed opposite the focal point. Smaller seating arrangements, like an accent chair or two, are often arranged for easy conversation with the larger seating group as well as viewing of the focal point.