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Eyes spy

The lowdown on what people are really looking at when they wander through your home.

If you’ve ever spent hours agonising over a light fitting, only to wonder if anyone other than you will notice it, listen up. Here’s just the study for you. Researchers have used eye-tracking technology to monitor where people look when they first see each new room in a house.

The study, conducted for insurance site, recorded not only what objects and fittings people looked at the most, but what held their attention for the longest. And the stars of the show aren’t always what you would expect.

The results were ranked room by room and trend by trend to give would-be decorators a few clues about whether to splash out on a boucle chair or a mid-century coffee table.

One important thing to bear in mind, of course, is that while trackers can tell us what people look at, they can’t tell us why. There is always a chance people are looking at something that catches their eye for all the wrong reasons. But people generally looked at the same objects in a similar order.


The kitchen is easily the biggest-ticket room in most homes and usually involves the most design decisions. So, who would have picked that flooring is the feature people spent the most time looking at? It’s a reminder to us all to sweep and mop.

Flooring was followed, perhaps more predictably, by cabinetry, which along with benchtops is easily the biggest design decision in this space.

At the other end of the scale the things people looked at the least were the cooktop, range hood and any artwork.

The kitchen top five were floor, cabinets, sink, countertop, and windows.

If you’re sprucing up your home for a sale, bear in mind other studies of buyer behaviour at open homes have found potential purchasers always open cabinet doors and drawers to check sturdiness and storage. They also turn on taps to assess water pressure in kitchens and bathrooms.

Living room

The most expensive items are way down the list, with wall art the most overlooked living room feature.

TVs were also near the bottom, although, to be fair, many people don’t want a television to be the focus of a living room. A recent trend towards black feature walls aims to camouflage screens and throw the focus back on furniture.

However, splashing out on a special coffee table or feature rug clearly pays off in impact.

The living room top five were coffee table, rug, soft furnishing (cushions/sofa), floor, and fireplace.


Perhaps it’s just vanity, but researchers found mirrors were the most eye-catching bathroom feature in this study, followed closely by under-sink drawers and cabinets.

It seems the big message here is don’t sweat the small stuff, with participants in the study looking the least at taps, lighting, towel rails and toilet roll holders. Taps clocked only 11 glances, holding the attention of observers for an average of 305 milliseconds, compared to drawers, which clocked 162 looks and held the gaze for around 1,888 milliseconds.

Interestingly, tiles – often the most-considered bathroom choice – only came in seventh, but perhaps they are a feature that work hardest as a backdrop rather than a focal point.

The bathroom top five were mirror, under-sink cabinets, sink, toilet, and bath.


Unsurprisingly it was soft furnishings such as throws and doonas that won the day here.

But a nice outlook and natural light may also be important with many participants also looking at the bedroom windows.

As opposed to kitchens, flooring in the bedroom was near the bottom of the list, with neutral carpeting probably a standard choice.

The bedroom top five were bed throw, doona/quilt, drawers, window, and decorative cushions.

Home office

While a desk may be your major consideration when setting up a work room, it can go relatively unnoticed.

The clear winner in this experiment was the office chair, which people looked at nearly three times more often and longer than the second-placed monitor screen.

The office top five were office chair, monitor, shelving, art, and rug.

Top trends

Researchers also decided to put distinctive décor to the eye-tracking test, packing rooms with a range of on-trend features, then measuring how quickly people homed in on these items. The clear winner is nostalgia, with 1940s and 50s-inspired boucle-textured furniture taking out the top spot followed by a host of 60s and 70s trends.

The distinctive decor top ten were boucle furniture, rattan furniture, dark kitchen cabinets, mid-century furniture, berber rugs, painted arches, herringbone flooring, macrame, black shower fixtures, and dried flowers.

Data from insurance comparison site
Any advice contained in this article is of a general nature only and does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. Therefore, before making any decision, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice with regard to those matters. Information in this article is correct as of the date of publication and is subject to change.