Home Living: Rental Series #5 Focal Points

9:24:00 PM

decorating with TV, TV and paintings

A focal point in each room not only helps the design factor, but also helps your room feel more comfortable and "homey."

" L O O K   A T   M E ! "

One of the best things I learned in my design classes in college was about how the eye moves. Before, I had never noticed what my eyes did when I looked around a room unless it landed on something that didn't quite seem right.

One way the eye moves around the room is through repetition. We've talked a bit about the importance of repetition (through color, size, and texture). A room can feel disjointed without repetition. This is an important concept to understand when decorating each room.

Another thing the eye needs is a place to land. A focal point. A resting spot. If there is no focal point, the room will feel unfinished, not a comfy, cozy spot to be. If the room has too many "look at me" areas, it will feel cluttered and busy.

H O W  C A N  I  K N O W

W H E R E   T H E   F O CA L   

P O I N T   S H O U L D   B E ?

  • Architectural Features- Do you have a fireplace? A very large window (or group of windows)? Built in bookshelves? Exposed brick wall? These are architectural features that are usually meant to be the focal point of a room. They are easy to dress up and/or sometimes even leave alone!
    • Note about large windows: in most rentals, you'd be hard pressed to find giant window installations. A "large window" may be 7 feet wide and 5 feet tall. These windows may or may not be used as a focal point.
  • Large Blank Walls- If you don't have anything particularly interesting to work with, you can dress up large blank walls to make a statement.


We lived in a condo with a living room that had a "large window," a bay window, a closet that jutted out, a staircase, and it was partially open (enter awkward columns) to the dining room. It had A LOT going on. After sitting in the room for a while, I tried to imagine where and what the best focal point would be. I came to the conclusion that the large window was the best option for our circumstances. We put our couch in front of it, added bright pillows and dressed the window with curtains and sheers. This solution was simple and didn't add to the busyness of the room.

H O W   C A N   I   C R E A T E   A   

F O C A L   P O I N T ?

  • A large piece of art (or two pieces paired together)- You can use canvases, framed art, tapestry, or woven wall hangings.
  • Gallery wall- These are great ways to display lots of different items and make a statement. However, beware of putting a gallery wall in every room. It's too much.
  • Dress up existing feature- Windows need drapes and/or good view, fireplace could use a mantel display, bookshelves need books and/or other items of interest.
  • Collection- You can use plants, books, items from foreign countries, items of personal interest, really there are a lot of neat collections you can use!
  • Large Mirror- This is especially effective when placed opposite of natural light.
  • Light Fixture/ceiling- Modern, elegant, or rustic, light fixtures can totally be the focal point in a room. Just be sure to go large (bigger than you think). You may want to dress the ceiling up as well- chandelier medallions, beams, ceiling painted a different color.

T H E   T V

We need to talk about the elephant in the room before deciding on what and where your focal point will be. The TV. TV's are tricky because they aren't the most beautiful thing to look at, yet, TVs are big, and furniture placement is decided based on TV location. They can't help but be a focal point.

So, you need to make a decision. Do you even put a TV in a living room? Too many focal points are going to make the room busy. Is there a reasonable way to combine focal point features with a TV?

Each place we have lived has had a different answer. Sometimes the decisions were based on the space, and sometimes decisions were based more on lifestyle/desired lifestyle.

We have most often had our TV out in the living room with attempts to blend the TV with the focal point/focal wall. In the early years of renting, this included a cabinet to cover the even uglier and bulkier TV we owned. Another time, we have put the TV in an extra closet (what?!) in our bedroom. We've had a place where we've been lucky enough to have a family room/den to put the TV in. Currently, our TV is placed in front of two large pieces of art on a long bookshelf. This creates more of a focal WALL.

Now that TVs are slimmer, it's not quite such a hurdle to jump, but here are some ideas:
  • Create a focal wall with art, shelving and a TV included. It would be like a simplified gallery wall.
  • Place TV above fireplace so that seating is not only focused on the TV, but also the fireplace.
  • Mask it. There are really great inventions that make a TV look more like a mirror or a piece of art. You could also mask the TV by hanging sliding wooden panels or fabric. Just pull back when using the TV.
  • Use a projector instead. When not it use, a wall will look more blank, but it will allow for more attention to be given to a different focal point.
  • Consider keeping the TV in a different room.
  • Downplay the TV by placing it in a slightly more discreet spot and centralizing furniture around the intended focal point. This will not make for the best of seating options when TV watching is actually going on, but the TV can be temporarily moved if a big game/party is going on.
This may take some trial and error to get a good fit for your situation. Be patient, thoughtfully imagine options in your room, and keep your eyes peeled for ideas.

F I N A L  T H O U G H T S

Now that you have some basics on the importance of creating a focal point and some ideas on how to do it, hopefully this will spring-board you into making your space even better! And if renting is still in your future you will have more opportunities to problem-solve and figure out what you like!

Happy Decorating!


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