Just as an exotic accent can make a stranger seem more interesting, an accent wall can add drama and excitement to a room. Accent walls are generally painted in a deeper, bolder color than a room’s three primary walls and ceiling. This design technique can bring some definition to an otherwise featureless room, or it can enhance a focal point already present in a room, such as a fireplace.
In many cases, an accent wall suggests a particular feeling. A vibrant orange wall might energize a room, while a pink wall could create a sense of tranquility. If you hope to define or anchor a separate space within a room – a reading nook, for example, or a dining area – an accent wall can do the trick.
An accent wall can effectively set off black-and-white family photos. It can also make a large room feel cozier (warm colors appear to contract), or a small room more expansive (cool colors recede from the eye). There are many reasons to create an accent wall, but the process isn’t quite as simple as it seems. Choosing the right wall is essential, as is selecting an appropriate color. Fortunately, painting an accent wall is the kind of project that provides considerable reward for relatively little effort – as long as you do your homework.
Though it’s a rule of thumb, the first wall you see when you enter a room isn’t always the best one to accent. Accent walls are often solid, without doors or windows. However, a richly colored wall can make a stunning frame for attractive French doors or a window with a picturesque view. When it comes to accent walls, rules only take you so far, and some are made to be broken.
One reliable rule dictates that an accent wall should highlight a point of focus. The headboard of a bed is a prime example; significant furniture, a large or dramatic artwork, or an architectural feature can work equally well. It’s also possible to create a focal point: A sizable plant, a floor vase, a sculpture, or framed photos might fit the bill. Of course, if one of the three primary walls includes a focal point, it can compete with the accent wall for the eye’s attention, creating confusion and weakening the room’s aesthetic integrity.
An accent wall’s bold color is meant to stand out from the primary walls’ neutral hue, but there’s no reason the two colors can’t be related. A common practice is to paint the accent wall the same color as the primary walls, but two or three shades darker. A room’s existing décor may provide inspiration; throw pillows or drapes often suggest a suitable accent color. That said, using a dominant color for the accent wall – such as the color of the room’s upholstery – can backfire, overwhelming the eye instead of simply enlivening the space.
Contrast is key, which means that furniture and wall decorations shouldn’t blend in with, or even disappear into, the accent color. One way to ensure that such elements pop is to choose unconventional spaces to accent, like a kitchen backsplash or the back wall of a built-in bookshelf. The ceiling of a room can be considered its fifth wall and accented accordingly.
Then again, why confine the accent color to a single wall? Accenting one-third of one wall and two-thirds of an adjacent wall creates a striking wrap-around effect. There’s also no law that an accent wall must be solid color, top to bottom. Crisscrossing wood strips and molding in the trim color can break it up; molding can outline a geometric shape in the accent color; or the painter can leave a vertical white space in the center of an accent wall, so that a dazzling artwork may hang there.
Thinking even further outside the box can have its rewards as well. A mural can give an accent wall, and a room, a great deal of personality. A wall with gold, silver, or copper leaf finish adds glamour; metallic paint can provide similar results more easily and inexpensively. Faux finishes that imitate stone or Venetian plaster can produce an intriguing, textured look. Even a black accent wall can be a stunner, not a downer, if you keep the room’s furniture, flooring, and ceiling light.
It’s fun to conceptualize an accent wall, but at some point you have to get practical. Although accenting a single wall doesn’t differ too much from your typical painting project, the process does involve a few special considerations. A tinted primer is the right choice for a dark accent color. The sheen of the accent wall should match that of the primary walls. If the latter are semi-gloss, the former should be the same. It’s wise to paint a few test swatches on the accent wall in order to see how the color looks when it’s dry. If it plays well with key color elements in the room, you can proceed with confidence. Keep in mind that a gallon of paint covers roughly 350 square feet; measure your wall and buy accordingly.
Completing an accent wall might take as little as two hours, and all you really need is paint, a roller, a tray, and painter’s tape. It’s a nice project for apartment dwellers, since it’s easy to undo before moving out. Orange has become a popular color for accent walls, but it’s important to avoid choosing a hue merely because it’s trendy. If it works with the rest of the house, terrific; if not, it runs the risk of dating the room. Remember how big avocado green was a few years ago? Neither do we.
If you’re looking to maximize the impact of your accent color, select a wall that’s visible from an adjacent room. A flower arrangement in your color of choice is a lovely touch, especially when there’s company. Whatever you do, collect décor to match your desired color before buying paint; it’s much easier to refine the hue of your accent wall than to find the right items to match it.
Creating an accent wall isn’t rocket science, but a carefully planned, well-executed one can add considerable richness and depth to your home’s design. Over time, you may come to take that single, deeply colored wall for granted, but each time a guest compliments it, you’ll be reminded of its beauty.