Have you ever gone to an outdoor summer party and immediately looked at something as soon as you entered the yard? That was a focal point, and you did exactly what it was supposed to make you do – look.
A well-placed focal point is the dominant feature, and it draws your eye right to it. It is the center of attention. A sculpture in a perennial bed is something to initially look at, and then your eye can meander around the rest of the garden. It will always come to rest at the focal point.
A focal point can add visual interest with color, texture or form. A trellis with a flowering vine hanging off of it has a lot of movement as it rises from the ground then tumbles back down. Bright color flowers make it stand out even more.
The focal point is your design anchor
Focal points also anchor a landscape or outdoor living area. How can you not place a grouping of chairs around a massive stone fireplace wall outside? A fireplace makes a solid backdrop and adds definition when placed farthest from the house. When you walk out of the house, you immediately are drawn to the seating at the fireplace.
A portable gas or wood firepit invites you to circle furniture around it. A firepit can also double as a coffee table. I have always said that fire was humankind’s first tv. It is mesmerizing and easy to stare at. It’s quite fitting as a focal point.
The look and sound of a fountain also effectively catch your eye. A water feature can be contemporary, traditional, cascading or fit on a tabletop. The sound of water is very soothing, and we are drawn to it. Ponds and pools are also great places to gather. Good lighting makes them interesting at night.
Focal points and contrast
You can’t help but look at an architectural feature that is a color that contrasts with its surroundings. Think of a red door or a sculpture painted purple. Sheds, gazebos, gates, walls and fences can all be the center of attention if their color or material stands out from everything around it. A winding pathway leading to a gazebo adds visual interest and creates more movement as your eyes runs along it.
A fence or wall can hold an art collection, just like you’d have an accent wall inside your home. They can also act as a trellis with an interesting climbing vine on it. A decorated surface would be the anchor of the living area and the spot people naturally gravitate to.
Natural focal points
Take advantage of mountain vistas, the ocean, a lake or a river as your focal point. Large flowerpots placed strategically or a line of fencing carries your eye to a distant view. Trees on either side create a frame for emphasis. Maybe the edge of your patio simply blends with the view.
Trees with unusual bark, shape or color work wonderfully as the dominant feature of a yard. Your perennial border or rock garden can serve the same purpose. A sculpture in your garden can create a restful or whimsical mood.
By focusing on something in the distance, like a lighthouse or a city skyline, your yard will appear larger. The same principle applies if you use the edge of your yard for your focal point – the farther the eye has to travel, the larger the space will appear to be.
Several ways to create visual interest
As you can see, there are several ways to create visual interest in your yard. Some are plant based, and some are architectural. All will be the center of attention and make your yard very inviting.