In this post: In order for a room to feel calm and comfortable, there should be only one focal point. But often spaces have more than one. Here’s how to deal with multiple focal points in a room.
Every time you walk into a room, your eye is automatically drawn to the room’s focal point. But some spaces have multiple focal points, which is what we’re going to talk about here. Specifically what to do when there is more than one focal point in a living room or family room (because those are most often where you’ll need to deal with this issue).
First, What is a Focal Point?
“A focal point is one of the most essential decorating components in a room because it is the center of attention around which everything revolves. It’s the first thing that catches your eye when you walk into a room and gives the space its “wow” factor. The focal point not only helps set the tone and mood for a space, but it’s also the natural starting point of a room’s design.” [The Casa Collective]
The focal point can be a:
- fireplace and mantel
- view/picture window
- built-in cabinets or shelves
- entertainment unit
In many rooms, it’s easy to tell what a focal point is as there is only one.
In some spaces, however, there are two or more focal points.
How many focal points should there be in one room?
Each room should only have one focal point. The only exception to this is if a room is quite large, in which case the decor can be arranged for multiple main focal points.
More than one focal point is a problem because too many focal points in a room mean that the eye has nowhere to “rest.” This can make a room feel unbalanced and disorganized and even leave one feeling anxious. Which is probably not the feeling you’re going for with your decor.
So, how do we deal with a few focal points in a room?
01. See if you can combine focal points
If you have focal points that could potentially work together, can you pair them?
For example, if you have a fireplace mantel and a large TV, consider mounting the TV above the fireplace.
Yes, this “breaks” the height and distance rules for TVs, but it is sometimes the only option in a space like our open concept living room (shown below).
02. Choose the element you most want to draw attention to
As with anything decor and design-related, one of the first things you need to do in a room is to decide its function. This will help to determine what the focal point should be.
Do you mainly watch TV in the room? If so, you will likely want a large-screen TV to be front and center. Do you read or listen to music in the space most of the time? Then perhaps you’d want a lovely fireplace or the view outside to be the focus of all the attention.
Also, consider what you most want to look at. If you have a large picture window, but it looks at the neighbor’s trash bins, you may want to consider another focal point.
Once you’ve decided on the major focal point, the others then automatically become secondary.
03. Draw the eye to the chosen focal point
After you’ve chosen where you want to focus, strategically draw attention to it.
This can be done with:
- furniture arrangement
- fabrics, patterns, and textures
Is your main focal point the TV? Then arrange the furniture so that each seat has a good straight view of the screen. Is your primary focal point the fireplace? Make sure the seating is arranged, so it draws the eye toward the fireplace.
If you’re using accessories, fabrics, or paint to draw the eye toward your focal point, use brighter, bolder versions.
04. De-emphasize the secondary focal points
To create a calm and well-designed space, you want to tone down or play down those secondary focuses.
You can use paler colors, art, and accents to do this. You can also keep decor and accessories to a minimum in those areas of the room.
For example, if your fireplace is not the main visual focus, don’t put too many things on it. If you have a large window you don’t want to draw attention to, hang curtains that blend into the walls.
05. Create multiple groups of furniture (if the space is large enough)
If your room is large enough, you could create multiple seating areas or groups of furniture.
There could be a seating area around a fireplace and a separate arrangement facing a TV.
So let’s talk about a couple of examples.
To emphasize a fireplace:
To make a fireplace stand out, you could:
- use a large framed, statement piece of art
- cover the fireplace in beautiful stone, that’s large and bold and bright
- paint the fireplace mantle in a bright, bold color
To deemphasize a fireplace:
To downplay a fireplace you want to:
- keep the wall paint colors and the decorations really neutral and plain, so as not to draw your eye to it
- paint the fireplace itself to blend in more with the walls
To highlight the view outside a picture window:
Another example would be if you wanted to highlight the view outside a window. You could:
- use drapery in a contrasting color to the walls or the window space around it, to really draw your eye to it
- frame the window in contrasting colored molding or trim, again, to draw your eye to the view outside the window
To downplay a large window with an unpleasant view:
On the contrary, if you live somewhere, say, where the view outside your window is another house or another apartment building or something like that, you could downplay and not draw the eye to that window by:
- putting up drapery that blends in with the walls and the space around it, so that you’re not drawn to looking at that space or that window
- using good old-fashioned sheers to downplay that view, while still allowing light to shine in
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