Accent Walls Done Right

Accent Walls Done Right!

When it comes to decorating, a question I’m often asked is “how can I create an accent wall?” Though the demise of accent walls has been heralded by numerous decorating experts, they’re still very popular.

Done right, accent walls can change an entire room for less than a dinner out (with wine, of course.) And, have no fear… there is no such thing as “decor police” who will cart you away if your accent wall has gone awry. Things happen when you try something new… but with a few easy tips, you can successfully transform any space.

Here are my accent wall basics that will make you look like a decorating pro:

    Ask yourself WHY you’re adding accent walls

It’s important, before you start, to know why you’re adding an accent wall. I’ve had clients tell me that they feel they should have one, but have no idea where it should go or why they would add one. Accent walls are used to do two absolutely opposite things, but with the same result (confusing, isn’t it?)

The first way to use one is to highlight an architectural feature that would be otherwise lost on the wall. A great example would be a stone fireplace at the end of a room, or built-ins. The other way to use an accent wall is to create architectural interest with color, and furniture or artwork.

Wood grained accent wall
A wood-grained accent wall is used to highlight the fireplace as well as creating a unique “frame” for the wall-mounted tv.

Another example of that would be a magnificent headboard against a wall painted in an accent color. The result is the same in both case — you are creating interest and character in the room.

    Choosing the color for your accent wall

Once you’ve chosen a wall to feature, now it’s time to choose your paint color. One of the most common accent wall color is red, or some variation of it. Like the red dining room, reds have almost become the standard for accent walls. But you can easily decide to go another direction, with Greens and Blues also working really well for strong accent walls. Because you’re only painting one wall, you can really get creative with your color choice. Find a color in the room, maybe in a fabric or art, and use that for your accent. The only rule for choosing a color would be that it complements the architectural detail you’re highlighting or creating. If the stone in your fireplace has a pink cast to it, you won’t want paint with pink undertones, either (or green for that matter!)

Dark green accent wall
A rich, dark green accent wall is used to enhance the drama in this room.

Consider the walls around your accent wall. In my experience, the most wasted opportunity for a smashing accent wall is in leaving the other walls white. Unless your accent wall is a very pale neutral or pastel, a richly colored paint will feel completely out of place when surrounded by white walls. If you’d rather not paint the entire room, or it’s impractical, then simply find an accent color in a softer tone, and find ways to distribute the accent color in accessories around the room.

If you’d like to go more dramatic, you’ll be happy to know that choosing a coordinating wall color for the other walls is embarrassingly easy. You’ll want to find a neutral color that has similar warmth or coolness to your accent wall color. Any paint store can tell you which neutrals are warm and which are cool (the secret is in the paint recipe!) Every neutral can be classified as cool or warm, because it takes a combination of colors to create a neutral. Surrounding your accent color with a coordinating neutral will be bring harmony to your room.

   Determining the contrast for your accent wall

Accent walls don’t always have to be dark, or extremely different from the wall color around them.. just enough to give a visual cue that the accent wall is different.  For example, I’ve seen wonderful versions of accent walls that are just a shade or two lighter than the walls around them, especially in rooms that can otherwise be considered small or dark. That lighter wall effectively “pulls back” making the room appear to open up.  Other times, I’ve seen just a shade or two darker wall being used to highlight features that you really want to have pop out in the room.

Using moderate tone differences in accent walls
A slightly darker wall around this fireplace creates a dramatic vista for this accent wall.

    Choosing a focal point for your accent wall

Aside from the color change, accent walls normally also hold a particular item as a focal point. IF one doesn’t already exist, that can be a canvas wall art painting, a stunning piece of metal wall art, or a gorgeous tapestry wall hanging. Whatever you choose, make sure that it warrants the attention that it will get by being showcased on an accent wall.

Kensington Exhibition Wall Tapestry by Fabrice De Villeneuve
Kensington Exhibition Wall Tapestry by Fabrice De Villeneuve

Although you can coordinate that focal point with subtle accents, it’s important – in order to an accent wall pop the way it should – to keep your focal point clean, crisp and cohesive. An accent wall that is then cluttered with mismatched art or a variety of odd prints rarely ends up achieving the desired effect. I say rarely, because every once in a while someone manages to break the rules with breathtaking success.

How easy what that? You’re now equipped with the secrets of the accent wall, so you can create an accent wall like a pro, (and keep the “decor police” away, just in case they really do exist!)