The Accent Wall

I grew up with a mother that loved accent walls. When I say “Accent Wall”, I am referring to a room where only one wall is painted a color- and the other walls are left white. I’m not sure if it was the trendy thing to do back then, (in my defense, it wasn’t all that long ago!), or if she was just afraid of using color in a more liberal fashion. She was always concerned with making our home lovely, which I give her credit for, but I grew to detest Accent Walls.

Now that I am an interior designer, I find that people still have (and like!) accent walls. Once I get to the root of the preference, I find it’s usually due to fear of color and what color might do to a room. The biggest worries are that color will make the room “dark” or “make the room look smaller”. While I certainly don’t agree with the feared outcomes of painting an entire room one color, I do agree that accent walls have a proper place and can be done well. Contemporary, modern and eclectic interiors lend themselves very nicely to the concept of accent wall color. Any other design style requires a little navigation to get an accent wall right.

Here are some tips for executing a room with an accent wall,should you choose to do one yourself:

How to select the accent wall:
-Look for a wall with a focal point: the fireplace wall, the wall where the bed will go, the wall at the end of a hallway or a wall in a formal entry with a furniture arrangement such as a table or bench.

-Look for a wall within eyesight when you are in an adjacent room. The color will perform double duty if you can also see it from other rooms.

-Sense where the main “backdrop” wall is. Typically, it’s the wall that frames the room’s furniture arrangement. This wall is typically the first wall you see when you enter a space. (Try walking around your house, entering each room with a new set of eyes. Which wall is the anchor? Which wall do you see first? Which wall do you see from other rooms?)

Color tips for rooms with an accent wall:
-No matter the space, accent walls are best achieved where all the walls are painted. Don’t leave the other walls plain white.

-Option #1: For the accent wall, choose a dark or bold color. For the other walls, choose a light to medium neutral color. The dark or bold accent color should relate to the neutral color of the other walls. For example, if you are painting the accent wall a muted mossy green, the neutral should have a cool undertone, not a warm undertone. When choosing your neutral, try to stay near the middle of a color chip. If you go too light, it may not look like you painted. Ivory is not an option for the neutral color. Think in terms of tan and beige, not crème and off white.

-Option #2: For the accent wall, choose a dark or bold color. For the other walls, choose a variation of that dark or bold color. For example, if you choose a deep purple for the accent wall, look for a muted lavender for the other walls. When choosing the color for the other walls, don’t go too light (again, its pretty safe to stay towards the middle of a paint chip). The contrast will be too bold and the room will look choppy if the colors are too drastic. The contrast should take the middle road.

How to execute a room with an accent wall:
-You have to be sure that every other element in your room coordinates, but isn’t “matchy-matchy”. Supporting elements should carry out the accent color’s hue and value. If there is no thought of coordination and balance of color throughout the room, your accent wall will look like floating, unrelated color. Think about coordinating pillows, upholstery fabric, drapery, and a rug that pulls the color together.

-If possible, try to find these items before you buy the final accent wall color. Trying to find retail accessories and home goods to coordinate with that very specific shade of Robbins Egg Blue you selected will prove to be a nightmare. Again, this goes back to a color’s undertone. Color matching paint value to a shade from your rug or drapery fabric is easy. It’s nearly impossible when it’s the other way around.

-Try putting a flower arrangement in your accent color somewhere else in the room. I like the spriggy florals that are out right now. Look for something with lots of little blooms on long stems that arc softly downward (I have seen these in nearly every color). Stay away from expected arrangements that can look dated. If you are using a dark neutral or an earthy color for your accent wall, do a willowy twig or grass arrangement. Flowers and natural grasses are a great way to mix that accent color around.

Updated: May 21, 2020 — 6:47 pm

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