Designing a Room Around a Specific Piece of Art

Designing a Room Using Specific Artwork

Designing a room with your favourite piece of Art as the central focus or “Focal Point” is a unique and interesting approach to designing a room. 

An Interior Designer or Interior Decorator will specifically look for what direction the design of a room or entire home should be based on listening carefully to the wants, needs and styles of the clients. You can request that a favourite and beloved piece of Artwork be the place to start.

Because I’m an artist and have worked for 13 years as an Architectural Draftsperson and several years as an Interior Decorator, I have found that Artwork can be a wonderful starting point to design a room around and with careful and thoughtful design choices the entire room can enhance and showcase your magnificent piece of Art.

To design a room with Art as a Focal Point, we should define “Focal Point”. A Focal Point is the “center of attention” of a room or space, it’s where the designer wants you “the viewer” to look and to keep your eyes captivated. As the viewer looks around the room their eyes will always come back to the Focal Point.

There are many ways of keeping your Artwork as the Focal Point and here is a list of some of the most important points to help achieve this:

1) I suggest larger size art if you want your painting to be the Focal Point or a grouping of smaller pieces of artwork hung to form a large Focal Point. In addition to selecting the size of artwork, just as important to consider is the “size of the wall”. See item #4 discussing how to select the wall for your Art/Focal Point.

2) Everything else in the room must direct the viewer to look at the Focal Point. So the question is how can we do that? If you are going to design your own room and you have no design background, for simplicity sake each room should not have more than one major Focal Point. So with a large beautiful piece of art on one wall, there should not be any other large pieces of art (similar in size and shape) on another, nor should there be furniture, fabric and decorative accessories that steal the show, compete or take attention away from the Focal Point. Every piece of furniture, fabric, lighting and decorative accessories should be subordinate to the Focal Point, yet coordinate, match and compliment it. I have seen many decorating clients rooms where they have too many competing items and focal points creating disconnection which will cause a feeling of discomfort. This type of room loses it chance to truly be BEAUTIFUL. You can easily identify these rooms because you will not want to spend any time in them, it may feel uncomfortable, it may be boring, it may feel dizzying in contrast with a well designed room that everyone will gravitate toward and isn’t that the goal when renovating and redecorating?

3)  Everything in the room should be subordinate to the Focal Point/Art. I am not saying that every single item in the room can’t be gorgeous and unique, but rather everything should be beautiful and carefully thought out and at the same time should not draw the eye away from the Art/Focal Point.

4) Selecting what wall to put your Art/Focal Point on. There are many things to consider. It is not always the rule but as you walk into a space from the front entrance (which is the main area all your guests will come through including yourself) would be the first wall facing you as you enter the room! This would be the first choice for the Art unless there are windows or a fireplace on the wall that takes up significant wall space, although sometimes Art can be great over a fireplace if the mantle is low enough or the ceilings are high enough. When selecting the wall for your Focal Point you must also consider that a large scale piece of must have adequate space around the Art to help give it the importance it deserves. If you have a huge piece of Art on a wall and you only have inches of walls space around the Art, this can create a crowded effect and will distract instead of giving the Art the presence and importance it deserves. In contrast having a huge wall with a tiny piece of art in the middle looks strange as well. Scale is everything in design. See my future Blogs “Scale is Everything when Designing a Room” and “How High to hang your beautiful Artwork”.

5) Scale is everything. By virtue of the fact that your artwork is large it automatically will become a Focal Point unless for example you selected a large scale, attention drawing light fixture or a massive colourful couch which could again distract from the Focal point. So consider picking items in your room that are useful, multipurpose and coordinating with the art but yet not too over the top competing with the Art/Focal Point. The scale of Lighting (chandeliers, wall mounted lighting and task lighting/lamps), furniture (style, shape and size), fabrics (color, pattern, size of pattern on fabrics and texture) and decorative items like pillows, throws, sculpture, books etc should not compete with the Focal Point.

6) Selecting colours for the room: to enhance, tie in and coordinate with your Artwork/Focal Point. If the Artwork is neutral and you want to keep the entire room peaceful with very little colour, use similar neutrals in different tones and textures to create interest and quiet beauty. With bright colour you can create a higher energy space which you may want for certain rooms but not in others. Keep in mind that each enclosed room (with a door) in your home can be a different colour, the whole house does not have to be all the same colour, however there should be a continuous element like baseboards, door/window trim and/or flooring that remains consistent from space to space to tie it all together. The wall colour under normal circumstances should not compete with the Artwork. Several main colours can be selected from the Art itself and can be used carefully and thoughtfully throughout the room/space whether on the Focal Point wall maybe in a lighter version and introduced with small splashes of colour placed throughout the room with movable decorative items like pillows and fabrics. It is just my opinion as I have seen very successful and beautiful rooms with bright amazing colour throughout, created by very experienced Designers, but for beginner designers I tend to suggest keeping wall colours more neutral and I suggest injecting color through Art, and movable decorative items such as fabric, lamps, sculpture and pillows. That way if you get tired of a certain bright color, you could switch out for another colour. Many clients I know exchange bright coloured Art and accessories with the seasons.

7) Make sure you can get your money back when you purchase something for your room design. Keep in mind that many an experienced designer have picked what they thought was the perfect item for a room, placed it in the space and realized it doesn’t work and took the item back. Even a designer with many years of experience realizes that until you see a new item in a room can you really tell whether “it works”, especially where the designer is really trying to make a unique statement. Be prepared to take back items. So if you have no design background make sure you can get your money back and be careful ordering online or ordering customized furniture. Spending a lot of money on something that potentially doesn’t work is a costly mistake I want you to avoid.

8) Determining the style of Room with your Art as a Focal Point – Some people may know exactly what style of furniture that they want to coordinate with their Artwork but others may need to work through some questions to help determine a style. Here’s some things to consider:

Here’s some things to consider:

a) What mood does the Art piece have?  Does your Art invigorate you, does it have a sense of mystery, is it calm and peaceful, does it create a happy joyful feeling, a whimsical fun feeling, is there a sense of elegance or a more relaxed casual feeling? Then write 5 “feeling” words to describe your Artwork.  This will help determine a possibility of the style direction of this room which can help identify furniture style and design direction that might work.  
b) Shapes- Then write 5 words which describe shapes or repetitive elements in the painting. Curves, cubes, straight lines, circles, “S” shapes, triangles, polka dots, zigzags, flowers, leaves etc. Shapes in artwork can give a direction in terms of shape of furniture, selections of patterns on fabrics, and shapes of decorative items
c) Colours -Select the first 3 most abundant colours in the painting that you can use to choose fabrics and wall colour etc.  

Create a Vision Board or a Design Binder:

Find pics or take pics of favourite rooms from design books, magazines and people’s homes that you love and that inspire you. Place these on your Design Vision Board or binder. These pics of rooms can tell you a lot about what you gravitate towards. Include pics of lighting, furniture, art and fabrics to see if “a style starts to emerge”. Often designers can combine a couple of styles together to create a unique design. Place the “Feeling words”, “Shape words” and “3 Colours” (paint samples selected to match the 3 major colours in your Artwork) on the Design Vision Board or binder.   If you want to take it further you can start collecting some samples of fabrics based on the colors from the Artwork (as suggested in Item #8) for drapery, pillows, fabrics for furniture and place these fabric samples on your design board. If you have no design background I suggest simply receiving some quick advice from an Interior Decorator/Designer by meeting for one or two hours. Have your design board and a list of design questions.  The more prepared you are the faster the meeting will proceed saving you money. Decorators can charge by the hour and the more information you have ready, the more quickly you can see if your selections are going to work. Make notes of any suggestions they have. I find a lot of people ask for advice from a Designer and then not take their advice at all and their spaces end not having a sense of cohesion and so please respect the experience and guidance that a full time Designer/Decorator has. Decorating is very expensive endeavour so listening carefully to what an experienced Designer says will save you money in the end.  It is worth paying for a few hours of advice to help you have the most successful and beautiful room with your beloved Art as a Focal Point. If you are nervous as you design a space or you want to take more control and do the work, but still need the guidance of a Designer/Decorator, they can meet you for a first consultation at your home and also meet you again later at decorative stores to help pick fabrics, paint colours and furniture while charging by the hour. I would not have your first meeting at a store but at you’re your home so the Designer/Decorator can see the space you are designing. All of these consultations will help keep your design costs down by helping you keep focused on the important elements of the design. Designing a space is like composing a painting and is complicated and involves a lot of little, yet very important decisions made along the way.

Enjoy this Creative Process:

 Enjoy this creative process but proceed carefully without rushing – This is my last piece of advice. Creating is an amazing act and a beautiful one but at some points can be messy and frustrating. But when the result is incredible and beautiful, it is yours to enjoy and revel in! Keep creating! See my upcoming blog on the “Elements of Design for a Room” for “Designing a Room is like Composing a Painting”, which will be a helpful additional tool for “Designing a Room around a Beloved piece of Art” and also see my upcoming Blog “On the Importance of Creating – An Act of Art”.

About Artist Kimberley Cook:

Artist Kimberley Cook AFCA CSPWC has been painting in Oils and Watercolours for over 25 years and she loves to make her surroundings beautiful whether in her home, studio or garden with her creative ideas and wants to help others create their own gorgeous space! To Kimberley “creating is like breathing” a very necessary part of her life. 

The painting in this article is her latest Oil Painting in her “White Peony Series” titled “White Peonies- Pastel Pair”. If you would like to purchase this Original Oil or would like to see more of her Artwork see