A focal point is one of the fundamental components of interior design, the first thing viewers see when they enter a room. While it’s not necessarily the centre of a room, it is often a feature that’s immediately noticed based on the arrangement of a space.
Design elements can be used to emphasise a focal point in interior design. This helps the focal point dominate the space and pull the design together. Whatever the focal point is, it should be better at drawing the eye than other areas of the room.
Almost any interior space will have a focal point, whether that’s a natural gathering place or a design feature. Those often found in residential settings may include bay windows, kitchen islands, fireplaces, beds and dining tables. In commercial interior design, it may be a stage, conference table, projector screen or the seating in a lobby.
The principle of emphasis highlights and draws attention to a specific area of the room, creating visual impact and a foundation upon which to build the rest of the design. There are countless ways to establish emphasis; such as through the use of colour, statement furniture, artwork or architectural features.
In this guide from Minotti London, we’ll take a closer look at what focal points are, why they’re important and how to use one to its full potential to transform a space.
Five Ways to Emphasise Focal Points in Interior Design
Focal points are not a complicated concept, but there are a few key considerations to help one determine how to emphasise focal points in interior design. One may need to differentiate between multiple types of focal points or create an entirely new one.
To create a focal point in an interior space there are various design elements one can use to create emphasis, which we will explore below.
Some furniture is designed to stand out, but the actual placement of a statement piece has a big part in ensuring it’s truly seen | Designed by Rodolfo for © Minotti London
A statement piece of furniture, such as a sofa, bed or dining table can serve as a focal point in its own right.
Furniture placement can also be used to influence a focal point. For example, placing sofas, chairs and tables around a fireplace will encourage people to gather around it, and draw traffic to this space.
Furniture in contrasting colours and textures will make the viewer stop and think while drawing their eye. Distinct forms can also foster emphasis, such as highlighting a sculpture within a space of clean lines.
Even when a focal point is clearly noticeable, one can use accents to enhance the visual appeal and elevate the feel of the space. This might include window furnishings, molding, artwork or bookshelves. For example, statement furniture can be emphasised by accents such as cushions and throws.
There are also some features that can either be a focal point or work to emphasise one. For example, a work of art can serve as a focal point or can be hung above a fireplace to emphasise the existing focal point. Meanwhile, built-in shelving can frame a fireplace or accent a feature window, thus expanding the original point of focus.
It’s not only the light emitted from a fixture that can help emphasise the focal point but the fixture itself, as exemplified by these pendant lights | Designed by Christophe Delcourt for © Minotti London
Strategically placed lighting is a subtle but powerful way to create emphasis. The eye is drawn to areas of contrast, such as where light meets dark and lighting can be used to illuminate design features of the room, such as alcoves or archways.
If a piece of art is the focal point, picture and track lights, or wall fixtures, will set it apart and help draw the eye to the artwork. Of course, some light fixtures, such as chandeliers, can be focal points themselves – whereas others can be part of one, like when pendant lights hover over a dining table.
Notice here how the contrast between the dark walls and the light sofa leads the eye instantly to the sofa itself, and how this effect is emphasised by the more neutral accent tones | Designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for © Minotti London
One of the easiest ways to emphasise a focal point is through the colour palette. Accent walls are a favourite method of emphasis through colour, without committing to a full overhaul of a space. If there are no built-in features to work with, an accent wall on the furthest wall from the entry can serve as a focal point.
Even with neutral shades, a point of contrast can become the focal point – such as grey against warm white. A more playful effect can be achieved with a splash of bright colour, whether that be on a wall, rug or piece of furniture – this works especially well as part of a monochrome scheme.
Colour accents can also be used to draw attention to an existing focal point. For example, curtains in a bright and inviting colour can frame a window with an impressive view. At the other end of the spectrum, dark paint surrounding a fireplace will emphasise the contrast and make for an even more dramatic point of focus.
5. Texture, Shape & Pattern
Much like the use of colour, different textures and patterns can energise a space. An exposed brick wall, vibrant patterned wallpaper, or intricately carved furniture can anchor the eye and become a focal point.
A heavily textured rug on a bare floor will stand out, and even interior plants such as ferns will add texture. Shapes and patterns can introduce a contrast that will emphasise a focal point. A square table amongst a group of circular stools will stand out, as will an irregular shape amongst square tiles, square cushions and a square rug.
Lines can be used to determine the flow of a space. By altering the flow, the point at which it is broken can become the focal point. For example, if horizontal lines are used in the design, and vertical lines break the pattern, this will stand out where the attention is desired.
Conclusion: Successfully Emphasising A Focal Point
Choosing or creating a focal point and designing a space around that point will make the design appear more cohesive and considered. In this guide we’ve discussed five elements of design that can be used to emphasise a focal point:
- Texture, Shape and Pattern
By using these techniques to emphasise a focal point in interior design, one will bring together the elements in the space, and show off individual personality.