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Must Focus!

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Does your room have a focal point?

Is there something that’s the main attraction? Where does your eye go? Is there anything that draws your attention in, before walking it around the room? If you feel a little unsettled when entering your living room, there’s a good chance you feel this way due to the lack of a focal point.

We’ve all been in someone’s home where there are piles of “stuff” everywhere. For example, think of your Aunt Lily’s antique spoon collection, scattered across her wall. Or a room with family photos crammed everywhere—in between, on, and around every piece of furniture. Or you might be reminded of Mom’s three favorite chairs that she left you, three unmatched pieces from three different eras, placed among an odd grouping of occasional tables. I’m getting nervous just talking about this. Imagine how you would end up feeling, spending time in a space like this.

Having a focal point in a room shows your guests where to rest their eyes, and gives the room some sense of direction and order. A good place to begin, when looking for a room’s main feature, is to look at its existing architectural features. Is there a fireplace with an impressive mantel? Are there heavy beams across the ceiling? Is there a bank of bay windows with an amazing view?

If none of these central features exist, we can create one. For instance, if we group together those unmatched chairs we mentioned on a striking rug that contains all three of the chair colors, we can tie everything together and make it appear as though your purpose in grouping these chairs together was to form a collection. What we just created is an arrangement that we designers refer to as “sociopetal,” a term referring to the juxtaposition of space and objects in a placement encouraging conversation and interaction. That sounds almost scientific, eh? You can use it to impress your friends! 

Now, a good general rule is to place seats no more than eight feet apart. Any greater distance than will result in people shouting to each other from across the room, if they wish to carry on any sort of conversation. You should group chairs, and perhaps a sofa, in such a way that they are facing each other, permitting good eye contact and direct communication. Think “sociopetal”! Your new arrangement can now become the focal point of the room. 

I have other tricks in my design bag for creating a focal point. How about painting one of the walls an intense color, while painting the remaining walls a more subtle color? Or you can find and hang an exciting piece of artwork over a console table.

After finding or creating your focal point, you can also use lighting to enhance it. For example, a picture light, track light, or wall washer fixture, focused on a painting or wall drawing, adds even more “drama” to a newly created focal point.

Good luck finding your focus and making your point! And remember to be sociopetal!


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