Design Help

Home /  Design Help /  Focal Fundamentals

Focal Point

Making Art the Focal Point of Your Space

how to use art as a focal point

Pictured above: Butterflies 60 - Art Deco

When designing a room it’s always helpful to have a starting point, such as a piece of artwork. Artwork is a wonderful source of inspiration for an interior. The colors present in the artwork, the artistic style, and the overall mood of the piece can inform many of the decisions you’ll make for your interior.

Aside from offering color and style direction for a room, the right artwork can serve as the focal point of your space. Consider the focal point to be the center of interest or activity in a room. Where do you want the eye to be drawn? The focal point may or may not be the actual center of the space, but it is always the most important part.

Because a focal point engages users and draws attention to the space, it’s placement in a room must be thoughtful. A stunning piece of art above a fireplace will call users to the living room to sit and gather; a bold piece of art placed at the end of a hallway entices users to progress through the space; and a unique piece can serve to anchor a seating grouping or activity zone.

art as a focal point above a mantel

Pictured above, from left to right: Judy Paul, Circus Pony I and Jaime Packard, Impression I & III

When selecting a piece of art to use as a focal point, consider these design elements.

Size and Scale

The larger the scale of the artwork the more attention that will be drawn to the focal point. There must be a balance between the size of the artwork, the size of the room, and the scale of the room’s furnishings. Also consider scale when selecting a frame or mounting method. A thick, ornate frame will increase the overall size of the art and increase its visual presence, while an unframed canvas will let the art itself feel more expansive and light.

Pictured:Fatmir Gjevukaj, Eyes II



Artwork with bold, bright colors will appear larger in scale and will feel more prominent in a space. Pieces with more subdued colors tend to recede, decreasing their visual weight. Selecting fabrics and finishes in similar tones to the artwork will create a harmonious color palette in your room whereas contrasting color selections will make the artwork pop.

Pictured: David Dauncey, Realming I



Contrasting the style of art with its surroundings is an excellent way to highlight an art piece. Consider using an abstract piece in a traditional interior or a soft impressionist piece in a modern space. Art with relief and texture will stand out among slick finishes where as a two-dimensional photograph will accommodate more texture within the space. The eye will be drawn to the difference in look and feel, creating a natural focal point.


Here is an example of how Divulge II by Sylvia Angeli could be made a focal point in an interior space.

mood board for living room

Divulge II is an abstract piece with a bold color palette that would lend itself well to a large scale format. With the piece’s strong colors I would create contrast by placing this canvas against a stark white painted backdrop. Navy upholstery fabric would play up the artwork’s various blues; a tailored, tufted sofa frame would provide contrast to the free-spirited feel of this piece. Black accents such as an iron coffee table will ground the space while accessories in pinks and reds will tie the room’s color palette together.

About Desi:

Desi Creswell, ASID, CID, LEED AP, got her start designing multi-million dollar commercial projects ranging from a National U.S. luxury hotel brand to a prestigious, international university in Saudi Arabia. The one thing these projects all had in common was the need to deliver a consistent luxury brand image across a variety of spaces, often requiring a look and feel that bridged cultures and continents--all while supporting the equally important human and practical needs of functionality and durability. Today, Desi applies that same perspective to the homes of distinguished executives and professionals whose lives are driven by their careers and whose public-facing images are as important as their lifestyle needs at home. Through the interior design experience, Desi helps her clients have a home that tells the story of the lifestyle they’ve always imagined: a story that projects both the image they’ve worked so hard to build and the identity that gives them all they want out of life. Learn more about Desi at