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Whether it’s your first home or just a brand new one, decorating a space can get overwhelming. If you’re tired of scouring Pinterest boards and design magazines for inspiration on how to elevate your home decor, it might be time to look to the accent wall.
Put simply, an accent or feature wall is a single wall of a room that has a different style than the other walls of the same room. They’ve been around in home design for a while, but Jennifer Guerin of JG Color Studios still notes that an accent wall “is a great way to add visual interest to a space and draw your eye to that area of the room.”
There’s no shortage of ways to use an accent wall to create a classic but unique focal point to your space.
Here are some tips to inspire you and help you get started. Whether you’re looking for a DIY accent wall, something budget-friendly, or a little more elaborate feature wall, you’ll find something below.
Meet the experts
To gather these design ideas to help you give your home a quick makeover we spoke to a range of interior designers to gather accent wall ideas. Here are the experts we spoke with:
You don’t have to be an artist to create a great accent wall using paint. While one of the easiest ways to create a stunning accent wall is to choose a unique wall color for one of the walls in your room.
2. Embrace the Exposed Brick Look
There’s a reason exposed brick is such a coveted feature of an apartment or house - it makes for a super easy way to spruce up your home aesthetic. “If you love the industrial look for your home, exposed brick is a great option,” says Franklin. “If you don't already have exposed brick walls in your home, opt for brick veneers to ‘fake the look’ or work with a contractor to add an actual brick wall to the space.”
3. Shiplap Accent Wall
Adding a bit of texture to a space can be a very simple and effective way to switch up the look, which is exactly what shiplap does, like in this mudroom space. “Shiplap is classic and stylish,” says Emery. “Mix and match shiplap ones with some horizontal and some vertical for a cohesive flow throughout.”
4. Use Wallpaper
Don’t feel like painting but love the look of a little mural, pattern, or art piece on your accent wall? A wallpaper accent wall is an easy solution, and there are a ton of options to choose from. This approach works equally well in almost every room too — from dining rooms, bedrooms, home offices, living spaces, and more.
“For a maximalist and monochromatic feel without applying wallpaper to all four walls, select a color within your chosen wallpaper and paint the remaining walls with it,” says Rees. “Or to keep the space feeling minimal, opt for a smaller-scale, barely-there print for a sweet, subtle accent wall that won’t overwhelm the rest of the design.”
5. Vertical Wood Paneling
Like shiplap, wood paneling is another way to create an accent wall with texture. It’s great for when you want a minimal look, particularly for areas of your home like the bedroom. “We designed a vertical slat wall behind the bed frame in a primary bedroom,” says Howard. “It adds texture and warmth to the space in a modern, minimal way.” Creating a wood wall can be a fun home improvement challenge and something you can certainly do yourself with a bit of planning.
6. Make A Gallery Wall
You may find yourself with a lot of great art pieces or memorable family pictures, but none are big enough - size-wise or statement-wise - to take up an entire wall space. This is where the gallery wall comes in: create a collage or collection of smaller wall decor pieces on one wall to draw in the eye.
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7. Standout With A Mural
Murals are perfect for creating a fun, imaginative, and bold accent wall. While you can put them anywhere in your home, they’re especially great for kids’ bedrooms or playrooms (you can dream and paint even bigger in those spaces!). If painting isn’t one of your strong points but you’d still like to DIY your wall, take a look for a stencil you can use.
8. Add Unique Shelving
Taking advantage of shelving can help spice up a wall in a couple of ways: first, the shelving itself adds texture, depth, and geometry to a space. Second, the objects on the shelves - from books to photos to keepsakes - can serve a dual purpose as decor and wall art.
9. Use Tiles
Tiles are fantastic for turning an otherwise boring space, like a bathroom or kitchen backsplash, into an eye-catching feature of your home. Look to add color and texture to your shower, for example, by using unique patterns and arrangements of tile.
10. Create Contrasts
The key thing to keep in mind about accent walls is that they only work if they’re unique to the rest of the space. Painting one wall of an all-white room black is one easy example.
“The key with an accent wall is to stand out by creating some contrast with the rest of the room.,” says Mellan-Matulewics. “This could be done through different colors, patterns, texture,s or a mix of all three. With a wide variety of wallpaper available today, the almost endless possibilities with what can be created.“
11. Wainscotting Moulding
Boost the aesthetic of a plain white wall simply by adding texture and shape through molding. “The wainscoting moulding wall is quick and easy,” says Emery. “This unique moulding is gorgeous and makes a big statement! Customize it to work for any wall.”
12. Large Art
Don’t want to add an accent to the wall itself? Opt for a large piece of art that takes up a good section of one wall in your space. It’ll draw the eye without the planning or labor needed to achieve some other accent wall looks.
13. Board and Batten
Much like wainscoting moulding, board and batten can use shapes and texture to spruce up a plain wall. Emery says, “I love the creativity that goes into a board and batten accent wall. Classic board and batten is made of rectangular boxes. You can also do vertical board and batten,square board and batten or a partial board and batten wall.”
14. Build A Panelled Wall
Looking to a simple bedroom idea? Use paneling to create an accent wall without having to put in too much renovation legwork (or money!) Wall panels work great in areas like the bedroom, where a wood accent wall can also double as a unique headboard.
15. Paint Stripes
All you need to create an eye-catching striped accent wall is two paint colors, some painter’s tape, and a brush. The simple, yet artistic look is a great fit for smaller spaces, like an office or mudroom, where the stripes won’t be too overwhelming.
16. Use Gradients
If you’re looking to create an artistic look for your accent wall, but don’t want something as complicated as a mural, a gradient is an option for you. Mix a bold color with white for a subtle accent wall in spaces like the bedroom.
17. Try Color Blocking
For an easy but super bold accent wall, try color blocking. You can keep it as simple as sticking to one color in a large area of the wall - like painting a mock headboard for your bedroom - or you can get creative with geometric shapes or chevrons and a few colors.
18. Geometric Shapes
Try shapes on your accent wall for another clean, bold look. Experiment with triangles or other angular shapes and a few colors.
19. Go Subtle
“Less is more” can also be true for an accent wall. Try a minimalist concept by using a neutral color that still stands out while not overwhelming the space. Use different neutral shades in already neutral spaces, like the bedroom.
20. Choose a Vibrant Color
Alternatively, choose a vibrant color for one wall of a living space in your home. It’s helpful to choose a color that works well with other accent colors in your furniture or decor.
21. Modern Paneling
Using paneling and color to create a modern accent wall. “We created an abstract, geometric panel design for the accent wall in a kid's bedroom,” says Howard. “This added some dimension to the space in a fun and playful way, and we opted to paint the wall a dark grey to add even more depth.”
22. Create a Reading Nook
Have a small, dead space that you’re not sure how to design around? Use an accent wall to make a cozy, yet functional space feel like a reading nook by the stairs.
23. Vibrant Wallpaper
For a bold look that doesn’t require any painting on your part, grab a brightly colored or patterned peel-and-stick wallpaper for some easy DIY. Franklin notes, “To avoid overwhelming the space while still making a statement, apply the wallpaper to only one wall; or go all out for a bold, cozy look by enveloping the room with wallpaper.”
24. Photographic Wallpaper
Wish you had an expansive window overlooking an amazing view? Photographic wallpaper is a great alternative. Bring some of the outside world into your living space with an accent wall.
25. Create a Focal Point Around the TV
You don’t have to shy away from creating an accent wall around one that already has use, like where you’ve mounted your TV. Use the TV as a centerpiece for design, like this example that adds another level of geometry around the TV.
26. Centre Around A Fireplace
A fireplace is already an accent on its own in many homes. Build around the focal point by using texture, like brick, or additional paneling to add simple texture.
Which Wall Should Be The Accent Wall?
There are endless ways you can design an accent wall, but there are some things to consider when deciding on the accent wall itself. It’s important to keep in mind the full usage of the room, particularly the area where the accent wall will be. You should consider whether the wall is a blank canvas or if there are windows or other features to work around. You should take the surrounding furniture arrangement into account.
“Consider the furniture in the space and the function of the room,” says Rees. “If you have a home office, you may want to select the wall behind your desk for an interesting Zoom background, or for a nursery, it may be the wall with the crib. You can also use an accent wall to highlight a special feature, such as a fireplace in a living room.”
“The accent wall should be the one that anchors the room."
All experts agree, whichever wall you choose as the accent wall should be (and will be) the focal point of the entire room. “The accent wall should be the one that anchors the room,” says Guerin. “Your design will be most effective if the wall is symmetrical and flat, without any windows, doors, or multiple angles as these elements can be distracting.”
What Colors Should Accent Walls Be?
The short answer is any color! There are no rules relegating what colors accent walls can and can’t be, but there are some things to keep in mind when deciding on the color you pick. You should pick a color that you’re able to style the rest of the room around, for one. Since it’s the focal point, you should choose a color that you feel comfortable being front and center in your space. You should also be sure that the color is one that you can sprinkle throughout the rest of your space in other decor ideas to tie it all together.
“The color should work in tangent with the surrounding furnishings and design, pulling a color from the rug for example,” recommends Johnson.
“You should consider the room’s role in your daily life when choosing a color."
It’s also important to remember that certain colors create certain moods and environments. You want to make sure the color you choose matches the ambiance you want to create in your space. Johnson adds, “you should consider the room’s role in your daily life when choosing a color. Blue is known to calm and promote a meditative zen – such that a lovely blue in the bedroom can create the perfect tranquil oasis. Green is invigorating and balancing, and often a nice choice in an entryway or living space. Even yellow, in small doses, can be welcoming and energizing.”
One of the greatest things about the accent wall is that you have total creative freedom to make it your own. You can start small, with just a vision of color and a can of paint, or you can add in shapes through paneling, molding, or other textures. Don’t be afraid to dream big and paint a mural scene across a whole wall or opt for a wallpaper that’s totally out of your comfort zone. There’s really no going wrong with an accent wall, and it’s a great way to show a bring a little more character into your already unique home.
Ash is the founder of Living Cozy. He's been featured by publishers like MyDomaine, Realtor, Real Homes, Architectural Digest, The Spruce, Homes and Gardens, and more. As a writer his work has appeared in publications like FastCompany, TNW, and Entrepreneur.