Accentuate the positive

Popular wisdom and grandmothers the world over will tell you that you can do your eyes or your lips, but not both; better yet, that you should choose your best feature and accentuate that. For the uninitiated, we’re talking makeup here. Finishing school adages aside, this is advice that you can take home with you.

Emphasis in interior design entails strategically drawing attention to certain elements for a functional or aesthetic purpose. It requires that you make decisions about what’s important. If you’re blessed with great architecture, you’ll want the furniture, lighting and decorative elements in your space to draw attention
to that. Likewise a stunning view. On the other hand, your motives could be purpose- based: in a cozy family room or den, you’ll want every visual element reinforcing that cushy L-shaped sofa as the place to be.

Emphasis is sometimes used interchangeably with the idea of a focal point, which is a related concept but with a slight distinction. Every space needs a focal point or two: something visually compelling to draw your attention. In the living room by Cendrine Dominguez, that something is the pair of emerald green armchairs. Contrast almost always makes for a clear focal point. If you look a bit further, however, you’ll notice that everything in this shot is framing the black velvet sofa. In addition to the armchairs, a reticulated floor lamp points like a giant arrow, asymmetrically balanced by an etagere on the other side. Even the art is long and low, close to the sofa itself for a cozy feel.

Although there’s a lot more going on in the living room by Brendan Wong, the star of the space is clearly the architecture and view to the outside. A limited color palette of black, white, and emerald green makes the space an indoor extension of the terrace. And although the magnolia patterned rug is bold to say the least, its large scale actually mimics that of the steel mullioned French doors, allowing it to complement rather than compete. An oversized antique mirror is the metaphorical cherry on top, dwarfing the sofa below and accentuating the soaring ceilings above.

Applying the principle of emphasis to your own home can be a broader task than some of the previous principles, simply because it relates to larger concepts of priority and purpose. The first step is discerning what is good or important in each space. Is there anything unique or inherently beautiful that you’d like to draw attention to? What about an eyesore that would be better unnoticed? Where do you want your attention to rest while you’re in the space? The principles and elements of design covered in previous columns tell you how to draw and direct attention, so we won’t rehash that here. The bottom line is creating enough visual impact to keep things interesting, and to use that impact in a smart way.

*As an interior and furniture designer for Austin Home Interiors (www.austinhomeinteriors.com), McNeill Shiner is always looking for new ways to mix styles and influences to create spaces that are uplifting, comfortable and very personal.