3 Steps to using a focal point for great design

Good design is mostly about telling people what to do. How do I open that door? Ah, I use the knob. Good design! How do I adjust the volume on my new phone? I can't find it. I'm frustrated. I want my old phone back. Bad design. 

Don't confuse people. Show them exactly what they need to do. How? Why, by creating focal points, of course.


Luckily, this is not difficult.  

  1. Identify the most important action in the room
  2. If there are 2 actions, choose the one you do the most frequently
  3. That's it, that's your focal point!

Look at these before and after pics of a house we remodeled. The "before" focal point is actually the old aluminum bay window. It stands out way too much. The true focus of a facade should be the front door - because that's where all the action is.


If you can't find the focal point of a room, follow the people and that's where it will be. 

Tweet: If you can't find the focal point of a room, follow the people and that's where it will be.

People go in the front door. That's where the focus should be, and that's what we did when we remodeled. The old door was too dark and hidden beneath a big overhang. We lightened it up by changing the door for one in a lively shade of blue, and adding side lites. 

The white porch and column with house numbers is really a big arrow pointing to the front door. The landscaping we added along the path is another arrow. Everything is designed to bring you back to that gorgeous blue door.


Once you have identified the correct focal point for a space, you must tell people about it. This is easy too. The truly hard part is keeping everything ELSE neutral. 

  • Use a greater level of detail
  • Use contrasting color
  • Frame it

Let's talk for a minute about what a focal point is and what it is not. A fancy chandelier is not a focal point. The activity of dining is the focal point and the chandelier acts as a marker, highlighting and pointing to that activity. That is how you know where to place the chandelier.

Likewise, a gorgeous big window is not what a focal point is. The view is the focal point and the window frames and defines the view. Why? Because people love looking at a good view. And of course the light coming in from good windows helps to define the seating area in a living room that is the focal point.  

Fireplaces used to be a focal point of the home because they provided warmth, light, and a place to cook, making them a natural place to gather and relax. Now they are mainly a focal point because of the TV that is so often hung above them, but they are also great for showing off a family portrait or piece of art and for centering a coffee table and some comfy seating. 

Now, get the Focal Point Planner and start using the power of focus in your own home!