I just adore jewelry — and it’s not about the bling. OK, it’s a little bit about the bling, but what I love most is how a gorgeous piece of jewelry brings focus to an entire ensemble. And good design does the same thing. When a room has the right focal point, it draws you in. When it’s missing, the whole room lacks presence.

My clients, Orla and Brian, had exactly that problem. The young couple had recently moved into their first home together and their open-concept living/dining room lacked any suitable focus. With plain white walls and an awkward blend of “his and hers” furniture, the space had no real character.

The couple really wanted a place where they could feel at home and entertain family and friends. So I geared up and, using focal-point design, took their living/dining room from blank slate to bold space.


My big challenges were to create zones in their open-concept space, add more seating and find a way to blend the couple’s styles. When designing a multipurpose space, each zone should have one main focal point to anchor it. In the living room, I built a beautiful framed-in banquette against the side-wall that not only provides some much-needed seating, but also visually grounds the space.

To create the banquette, I designed a full wall frame, flanked it with low, white bookcases and installed a warm charcoal upholstered bench cushion. But what really makes the focal statement here is the banquette’s custom black-leather quilted back-rest that soars from bench to ceiling. Suspended from the ceiling, at the top of the backrest is the new television screen, which visually blends in against the black background of the seating niche and doesn’t deter from the focus.

This banquette also serves to ground a new seating area consisting of a warm beige sofa, two teal armchairs, two mirrored cube tables and a creamy area rug. And since the room has no closet, I introduced a stunning piece of reclaimed wood cabinetry to help hide and organize any clutter.

In the dining room, I chose the back wall as my focal point. As with the black-leather banquette, a great way to create focus is with color, so I painted this wall black, which unifies the two zones and makes a very dramatic statement. I also included an elevated electric fireplace in my design for added visual interest.


I then took the couple’s existing dark wood dining-room table and had it painted a crisp, fresh white and added six armless chairs that I had upholstered in a cool slate color. Over the table I positioned a stunning pendant chandelier. I also placed mirrored sconces on either side of the dining-room windows and two dramatic torch lights flanking the banquette in the living room — all in the same nickel finish.

To unify the two spaces even more, I used similar window treatments in both rooms: drapes in a floral fabric of gray, tan, brown and teal. I then added a rustic woven wooden blind in the living room and a lattice roller blind in the dining room.

Using focal-point design, I was able to turn a bland open space into two exciting and harmonious living and dining areas. The focal points now draw you in and take you on an exciting journey as you move through the now-elegant and -comfortable zones. This once-bland space is now defined, grounded and the ideal place for Orla and Brian to focus on building a life together.

Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV’s “Candice Tells All.” For more ideas, information and show times, visit www.hgtv.com/candice-tells-all/show/index.html.