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  • after2

    Celebrity designer Candice Olson uses design elements to create separate zones for conversation and dining in this room.

  • materials

    While all of the materials in this room were chosen for their ability to work in their unique 'zone,' they also relate really well together too.

  • after

    Amidst all the warm shades of brown and blue, there's no doubt that this black quilted wall featuring a flush-mounted flat-screen television is the focal point of this conversation zone.

  • cta_pr124art

    Candice Olson can be seen as the host and designer of HGTV’s Candice Tells All, Divine Design and as a judge on HGTV Design Star.

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Candice Olson can be seen as the host and designer of HGTV’s Candice Tells All, Divine Design and as a judge on HGTV Design Star.


Get Focused

If you're designing a multi-purpose space, every zone should have a focal point, says design guru Candice Olson. A focal point anchors an area—great examples of these include fireplaces, cabinetry, textured walls, and unique artwork and accessories.

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  • Candice Olson on Designing with Focus

    How one of America's favorite designers transforms a room from a blank slate to a bold space.

    by Trisha McBride Ferguson

    Some rooms just have it—a feeling or energy that makes the space beautiful, appealing and inviting all at once. And other rooms don't. What is it that truly makes a room inspiring? Often it comes down to focus. A room without focus lacks presence, yet when the focus of a room is wrong, it's all you notice.

    Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how Candice Olson, host of HGTV's Candice Tells All and Divine Design, takes a plain, ordinary living/dining space and makes it special. And she does it by creating a focal point in each area (zone) of the room.


    Uninspiring Beginnings

    This 'before' photo makes it easy to see why the young couple who own this home turned to Olson for design help. The space is uninspiring, forgettable even. If you look at this photo and then look away, it would be challenging to remember anything specific about the room—at least anything good. And the purpose of the room is's clearly a combination living room and dining room, but neither use is being adequately served.




    Getting Focused

    Olson succeeds with this redesign by creating specific zones and giving each zone a focus. A multipurpose room like this—one that functions as both living and dining space—demands a design solution that supports all its uses. The beauty of the finished room is that it features design elements that differentiate the unique zones, and others that tie the room together.




    Separate Spaces

    By grouping the chairs and sofa around a table and the television, Olson has created a seating area that encourages conversation and entertaining. She chose shades of aqua and camel for the upholstery fabrics and accented them with brown. Separated from the dining room by a rug that grounds the area, the focal point of this zone is the television wall, which features a unique quilted wall treatment in a dramatic black fabric.

    Closely related—but by no means a copy—is the adjoining dining area. Here Olson chose a chocolate-colored fabric for the dining room chairs—a shade that relates to the colors of the conversation area yet stands on its own. In this zone the focal wall is also black and features an attention-grabbing fireplace.




    Separate But Related

    While both zones of the room work independently and stand on their own from a design perspective, they're also two parts of a larger room. Olson successfully employs color, fabric and lighting throughout the overall room to tie the two spaces together so that they also work as one.

    • Color. With the exception of the focal walls, only one wall color (Benjamin Moore's Sandy Hook Gray HC-108) is used. This allows the eye to move throughout the room uninterrupted, making it feel like one large space. A single flooring (deep, richly colored hardwoods) used in the space has this same effect. A single color palette (drawn from the drapery fabric) is also consistent through the room, with both focal points featuring the same black walls.
    • Fabric. Although each treatment lends itself to its own area—the window in the living area is covered with natural woven blinds and the window in the dining room has a contemporary patterned roller shade—the room as a whole is tied together with the drapery panels that flank both windows. These floor-to-ceiling draperies are used in both zones and are made from a floral-patterned fabric that serves as inspiration for the colors in the room—taupe, camel, aqua and chocolate.
    • Lighting. While some of the lighting in this room serves to reinforce its unique zones (a chandelier in the dining area and a floor lamp in the living rooms) the stunning sconces featured in the room tie it together. The overscaled sconces punctuating the focal wall of the living area are clearly related to the smaller sconces mounted in the dining room. Together they balance the room without looking overly matched.


    It's these kind of details that bring the room together successfully. For more inspiration, here's a look at one more beautiful zone Olson created in this space: the entry way.