We use color in our clothing and makeup to highlight our strong points and camouflage our flaws. If you think about it, paint for our homes works the same way. By highlighting a room’s strong point, not only do you create a place of visual interest—a focal point—but you also can help hide anything unsightly in the room. It’s all about where you want to draw the eye.
If you’ve read enough HOME magazine, watched enough HGTV, or browsed Pinterest a little longer than you intended (Who, me? No, never!), you are familiar with the concept of creating a focal point in a room. It’s that first sight you see upon entering; it’s that place that highlights the area where the lines of a room meet. While many people arrange artwork and furniture groupings to make a point of focus, using paint is another easy, economical and customizable way to create a focal point in a room.
This can be as simple as priming, rolling and edging a new splash of color, or it might involve the tedious but worthwhile process of stenciling. From ceilings to floors to bathtubs (yes, bathtubs!), using paint to form a focal point allows you to bring a unique, personalized design to a room.
Determining the Focal Point
Usually, focal points exist naturally in the home; elements like chimney breasts, fireplaces, staircases, and bay windows help drawn the eye up and in. Review your rooms and identify organic focal points by clearing out clutter and seeing where the room’s lines meet or where your eyes tend to settle. If nothing pops out at you, it’s time to create a new focal point. To that end, consider the largest wall in the room, the one that mimics a blank canvas. On the other hand, you might like to create a subtle point of interest. In that case, look for a nook, an inset wall, or a bump-out.
And keep in mind, a focal point doesn’t have to be a wall—it could be your floor. If refinishing tired wood floors is beyond your budget, painting a pattern on worn pine or oak completely refreshes the look. And while big expanses are obvious choices, they aren’t the only ways to accomplish your goal of bringing flair to a room. If you love your white walls but also want to have a pop of color, paint the molding—this will help echo the colors that already exist in the room. This look is especially effective on the window trim in bedrooms and bathrooms—really any confined space that makes it easy to determine where to stop and start bold color on trim.
Speaking of the bathroom, you can dress up that space by painting a cast-iron tub for a one-of-a-kind focal piece. Actually, you can use paint to totally change the look of any room that has built-in furniture—shelving, cabinets and cubbies included. Since these built-in pieces often essentially function as part of a wall, painting them establishes an accent wall in an unconventional way. And the most universal, built-in piece of all is often the most overlooked when it comes to color: the doors. Sure, you paint the outside of your front door so your home appears welcoming, but why not paint the interior side of the front door to extend the invitation? Doing so allows you to have two focal points in one, depending on whether the door is open or closed.
Daring or Demure?
Now that you have decided where you want your focal point, determine what kind of feeling you want to evoke from the space: bold, dramatic or subtle? The easy and obvious answer for making a bold statement is to use a bright color or strong, thick pattern. To add a hint of drama, think eyeliner colors—chocolate-brown, navy, charcoal, amethyst, deep emerald, even black.
When it comes to choosing paint colors, keep in mind the colors of adjacent rooms. If you can see the accent wall or focal point from elsewhere in the home, you’ll want to harmonize your color selection. It’s one thing to develop visual interest and it’s another thing entirely to fashion a faux pas.
Dressing the Focal Point
Now comes the most fun: determining how you will apply this paint. Color is the dealmaker here, but the design does not have to end there. With paint as your medium, you can create lots of interest with patterns or stencils—classic stripes, latticework, medallions…stencils have come a long way over the years, with designs that can mimic the look of high-end wallpapers. If you do not want to tackle stenciling by yourself (or do not want to hire someone to do it), you may be able to achieve the same effect with a decal, believe it or not. Several high-end retailers carry wall decals that resemble stencils or hand-painted custom art designs.
The best thing about using paint? If you decide you don’t want to live with a certain color anymore, you’re just a new coat of primer and topcoat away from changing things to reflect your new style. It’s as easy as changing your outfit. Once you find a focal point, dress it in a way that reflects your personal taste while playing up your home’s assets.
Tips for Transforming with Paint
■ Dark hues make a strong visual impact, but they tend overwhelm a large space.
■ Try to make your focal point one blank, uninterrupted wall. The exception? If you have unusual windows, French doors, or some other beautiful architectural feature that you want to highlight, focal point paint will help draw even more attention to them.
■ Choosing to accent one wall with paint and grouping your furniture at that point will unify the space and create a cohesive appearance.
■ Use semi-gloss or high-gloss paint on moldings or window trim.