Home Decorating For Dummies
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Understanding how to deal with multiple focal points in a room can be challenging. Where do you look first in a room with focal points like a fireplace and a bay window and a large entertainment center? For a room to feel balanced and well designed, you need one focal point.

The focal point is the central design element that draws the eyes attention. Strong architectural elements, such as fireplaces, large windows, and built-in bookcases, naturally attract the eye, but so do large furniture pieces, such as entertainment centers and large sofas. The problem comes when you have two or more of these strong elements in the same space.

Too many focal points means that the eye has no place to rest, which leaves the viewer feeling anxious and uncomfortable.

The first step to dealing with multiple focal points is to choose the element that you want to draw attention. Consider the following:

  • How are you going to use the space? Do you spend every evening watching television or movies? Do you prefer quiet conversation? Do you like to host pool parties?

    • You'll want to center the furnishings primarily around the focal point, so if you know that you’re going to spend four hours every day watching TV you probably don't want to have your couch facing away from the television, just so that the fireplace can be your focal point.

  • Which elements are the most interesting to look at? Do you have a lovely bay window with a view of your neighbor's trash cans? Is your entertainment center made from hand-carved antique mission doors?

    • The focal point will attract the attention of your guests, so be sure that you choose a focal point that you want everyone to look at closely.

The second step — after you've decided on a focal point — is to tone down all the other objects and furnishings in the room. Just repositioning your furniture toward the new focal point will go a long way toward this goal. Here are a few other techniques to try:

  • Tone down secondary focal points by softening them with paler colors and patterns.

  • Use fabric to soften strong pieces. For example, use a window treatment that is soft and in a similar color as the wall to detract attention from a large picture window.

  • To draw attention away from a fireplace, keep mantel decorations minimal.

About This Article

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About the book authors:

Katharine Kaye McMillan, former senior editor of a New York City-based national magazine, is a writer whose work appears regularly in magazines and newspapers. She is a contributing writer to internationally circulated Florida Design Magazine. She is the co-author of several books on decorating and design, including Sun Country Style, which is the basis for licensed signature collections of furniture and accessories by three leading American manufacturers and importers. A graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, she holds a masters degree in psychology and is a doctoral student in psychology at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida.

Patricia Hart McMillan is a nationally known interior designer, whose interior design work for private clients, designer showcases, and corporations has appeared in publications worldwide, including the New York Times and USA Today. Known as a trend spotter and for clearly articulated views on design, she is quoted frequently and extensively in both trade and consumer publications. She a ppears on TV and talk radio. A prolific writer, she is coauthor and author of seven books on interior design and decoration, with Sun Country Style signature collections of furniture based on two books. She has taught decorating courses at several colleges and conducted numerous seminars across the U.S. She is decorating editor for Christian Woman Magazine and reports on design trends for The Sun-Sentinel, a Tribune newspaper based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She has been editor-in-chief of two publications and was head of a New York City-based public relations firm representing some of the most prestigious names in home furnishing and building products. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a minor in art history (with an emphasis in architecture), from the State University of New York (New Paltz). She was awarded a certificate from The New York School of Interior Design.

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