•Get tips on finding your kitchen's focal point.
•Learn how to create emphasis in the kitchen.
An undecorated room is to a homeowner what a blank canvas is to an artist: The "big picture" possibilities are so boundless that making the first brush stroke can present an intimidating challenge. But getting started on a room is as simple as determining the space's primary emphasis or focal point. "Every room has to have an emphasis that's going to pop out and arrest your attention when you first walk in," said interior designer Becky Berg of Becky Berg Design in Kansas City, MO. "Once you have your focal point, everything else tends to fall into place." A kitchen's focal point could be an island with some inviting barstools on one side, a stainless steel pot rack suspended overhead and a sparkling, stainless steel sink, like KOHLER's Verity™ apron-front undercounter model, in the center.
Interior designer M. Grace Sielaff of M. Grace Designs in Chicago says a room's focal point should be something that is functional to the space. In a bedroom, the obvious focal point is the bed. In a dining room, it's the table. In a family room, it might be a fireplace or a plasma television.
Your focal point will guide the selection and placement of fixtures, furnishings, paint, lighting and upholstery. Permanent fixtures, as well as the room's appliances, furniture and accessories, should be proportionate to the room's focal point and arranged around it in a way that looks and feels balanced. "You don't want a lopsided appearance, where one side of the room appears to be more weighted down than the other," Sielaff says. The focal point should visually anchor the room.
The focal point will also help determine the color palette and types of materials that will be used throughout the room. If you've chosen an island as your kitchen's focal point, for example, and the island has a gleaming stainless-steel sink, you'll want to make certain that shiny, silver-colored elements appear here and there throughout the kitchen—perhaps as cabinet handles, drawer pulls and appliances.
Contrast and variety are just as important as repetition when designing around a focal point, Berg says. If your island surface and other countertops are made of high-gloss granite, choose a matte finish for the floor and backsplash tiles. Solid wood cabinets (as opposed to sleek laminate ones) contrast nicely with granite and soften its cold, hard appearance.
The types and configuration of lighting in a room should be dictated at least in part by the focal point. You'll want lighting that not only accentuates the focal point's beauty but also maximizes its utility. Pendant light fixtures look pretty over a kitchen island. However, if you intend to use the island as a busy workspace, where you'll be reading cookbooks and mincing vegetables, a recessed downlight with a fluorescent bulb might be more appropriate.
Your focal point not only should capture your attention when you first walk in, it should also encourage you to take in and appreciate the rest of the room, Berg says. You'll know you've decorated effectively around your focal point if the furnishings, lighting and accessories surrounding it are varied yet balanced in such a way that your eyes rove around the room rhythmically (as opposed to erratically) and are eventually drawn back to the focal point.