Principles of Design: Emphasis

By Cassy Young, 2015 recipient of International “Dream Room Award”

I love creating emphasis in any design plan. To me, emphasis is truly adding the excitement factor to the creation of a new room. The basic idea behind emphasis in decorating is that every room should have a focal point, or a center of interest that immediately attracts the attention of anyone entering the room.

Walking into a room with design emphasis is bound to give you a better impression of the room’s overall design, than walking into one that lacks any features impressive enough to attract notice. When there’s no focal point in a room, your eye tends to slide around from one part of the room to another, and boredom rapidly sets in. If nothing attracts your visual interest, it natural for you to become restless, and actually feel the need to move on.

Just think of how much more inviting it would to be have a colorful and comfortable looking grouping of furniture around a fireplace, with a few unusual accessories and personal touches giving a clue to your individual style and personality. Lacking a fireplace, the sofa is usually the dominant feature in a living room. If so, consider playing it up and giving it more importance by selecting a color or pattern that helps center your grouping. Then by adding tables, lamps, artwork and other accessories to this grouping, you surround it with many visually interesting design objects. Remember that color is a big drawing card when it comes to claiming attention. A striking painting or piece of art will make any grouping or area more interesting.

Almost every room includes some feature or furnishing that makes a natural focal point. A beautiful dining table; a king bed in a bedroom; a desk in a library – all are logical candidates for being emphasized. But something “different” in the way of decorating is one of today’s status symbols and the result is an “anything goes” attitude towards emphasis. Huge paintings, super graphics of all sorts and sizable pieces of sculpture are high on the “most wanted” list at the moment. These objects can be used as focal points themselves, or to add to the excitement of an emphasized area. You can even use unusual fabrics, either vividly colored or strikingly patterned can be used for emphasis, and a dramatic area rug is another way of setting of or highlighting a specific part of your new room.

Just remember that generally one center of interest is usually enough. Only a very large room is improved by more. If too many areas compete for attention, none will succeed in claiming it. One of my professors in design school called this the “Elizabeth Taylor” effect; you can only have one star in the room!

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