Question: I am so glad you just discussed fireplaces because maybe you'll have some ideas for my question - which is basically the exact opposite: How do you decorate a living room without the fireplace as the focal point? I need some sort of focal point, but I don't want it to be the television. How have you handled this for clients?
Phoebe's Answer: Rooms don't necessarily need a focal point, but will benefit from one - A view out a large window, a profound piece of furniture or artwork. What room needs is spatial harmony and rhythm. Rooms are an opportunity to create something. While an extraordinary mantle or a great window can be stunning points of interest, there are far more rooms with no features at all. In those cases we try to arrange furniture in interesting ways to draw the eye in and help you in overlooking those missing features. Rooms are rarely bi-axial which is a symmetrical arrangement that can be quite lovely. A decorator usually immediately sees the obvious solutions, but a little cerebral effort can help re-imagine the way a room might feel. If the sofa has always been on the big wall, try floating it in the middle of the room or perhaps angling it in a corner. If the room has always been a living room, maybe it can be multi-functional by adding a few etageres loaded with books which add enormous visual interest, etc. Here are some of our living rooms with various focal points:
an antique secretary is the focal point in this room
The windows at the end of this room are the focal point, as well as the bookcases on the opposite wall (below)
This credenza has a lovely piece of art above it.
An armoire is the focal point in this living room.
Here, a collection of prints above the settee.
The artwork above the sofa is large but calming and simple - just the way the homeowners wanted this room to feel.
Art on an easel behind the sofa makes a corner something to really look at.
The big, beautiful window in this living room was an obvious choice.