I won't lie. It took me a few years to figure out how to determine and then stage around the focal point of every room.

The book definition of a focal point wasn't much help: "The center of interest or activity; the point at which all elements or aspects converge."

Eventually, I established a set of guidelines that helped me make the most of a room's focal point. Here's what I learned by trial and error, by observing rooms I liked, and by listening to professional designers.

Decor definition

For staging purposes, your focal point of any room is going to be what is most inviting about the space, what makes a prospective buyer want to live there. It helps if the focal point is also large, attractive, and obvious to anyone entering the room.

Here are some examples. 

A stunning view of outdoors.

The largest piece of furniture in the room, and it better not be an old recliner.

Beautiful or rare architectural features, like a staircase, vaulted ceilings, intricate millwork trim, or a fireplace.

Built-ins, like bookcases, bunk beds, breakfast benches, or window seats.

A feature or furnishing that clearly demonstrates at a glance the purpose of the room, such as a desk in the home office, a billiard table in the game room, or storage bench in the mudroom.
Most built-in features, like this loft bed, make
great focal points. Photo: Ash Street Interiors

Dual confusion

A room's focal point gives the viewer a point of reference, a place to rest the eye and let the brain know there is a sense of order and purpose to the space, that it's not just a room housing an assortment of furniture and other stuff.

Some larger rooms can have more than one focal point. That fact seemed to fly in the face of the very definition. How can there be two centers? Turns out, one focal point is going to dominate.

Your best approach is to choose one focal point for each room. Make it easy for the buyer to quickly survey the room and respond positively, viscerally, immediately.

How to select

If you are uncertain what the focal point of a room is, ask yourself, "What's the first thing a prospective buyer will notice when she enters the room?" Then ask yourself if that thing is a selling point.

Don't assume a focal point has to be something that conveys with your home when it sells. If your gorgeous velvet sofa is the one thing that makes your living room look special, and your other living room furnishings revolve around it, let that sofa be your room's anchor and focal point. 

A grouping of furniture that functions
well together qualifies as a focal point.
Photo: bella mancini design
If the room's focal point is an architectural feature and you would rather not highlight it, consider a way to upstage it. 

In one older home I staged, the obvious focal point was the fireplace. But since it was no longer functional and there were large windows overlooking a woodland setting, we staged the room to call attention to the windows and the view. 

If the room has nothing distinctive architecturally, it will be up to you to create a focal point. 

When there is nothing large like a bed, couch, or dining table, you may be able to arrange a few pieces of furniture in a grouping to imitate the visual weight of an important focal point. An example would be two matching chairs, one on either side of a bookcase or table. 

Play it up

To make sure your focal points are immediately visible and inviting, don't bury them in clutter. You may have to a rearrange all the furniture before you achieve the look you want. Your goal is to make the focal point both obvious and something that makes the room approachable and friendly.

Color is one way to accent a focal point. If the jumbo fireplace mantel or granite-topped kitchen island is the same color as its surroundings, it may not get noticed. Add a colorful accessory, or a prop that's oversized or unique to bring attention to it.

Look for dramatic pieces like this floral display
and mirror to help you introduce a focal 
 point to a space that lacks one. Photo: aji co. 
For example, sometimes all it takes is a large floral arrangement (silks are okay) on an ordinary table in a foyer to create an impressive entrance. Other additions that will draw attention are large lamps or mirrors.

Experiment with what you have, or shop for some decor pieces that make a statement. Places like TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, eBay, World Market, Tuesday Morning, Facebook Marketplace, Overstock, and thrift stores are economical sources.

To make a less-than-ideal focal feature worthy of its role, make sure it is immaculate and well-maintained. Clean those windows if the view is important. Repaint that old bookcase if that's what centers the room. Slipcover that sofa if it is the focal point and needs to some spiffing.

Once you get the knack of staging your home's focal points, you'll see a big difference in how your rooms look and feel. And buyers will respond favorably!

For more advice on staging your own home, be sure to download my homestaging eBooks. I guarantee you'll get all the tips and encouragement you need to get your home sold sooner for more money.

Top Photo: Lucy and Company