When to Create an Accent Wall
Updated: Feb 11
(Originally published in the Napa Valley Register)
When is the best time to create an accent wall? While the idea is still brewing in a designer’s or architect’s imagination and in time to be included in construction blueprints. Ideally, it is incorporated into the floor plan, the elevations and the reflected ceiling plan — especially if it requires specialty lighting.
When do most people create an accent wall? When all is said and done, furnishings are in and the space feels blah.
In the first scenario, this predetermined intention can result in something dramatic and stunning. A real focal point. But realistically, most homeowners fall into the second category. With some skilled manipulations, one can still create a showstopper as if it had been planned from the beginning.
To back up a little the term “accent wall” is misleading. An accent wall is not an accent at all, but a focal point. As soon as you paint a solo wall red (or any contrasting color), it will stand out.
If you already have a focal point in the room, such as a fireplace, and you paint another wall an accent color, then you’ve created conflicting focal points both dueling for attention. This problem is easily solved. Just double the focus by making your fireplace wall your accent wall as well.
If you don’t have an existing focal point, then how do you know which wall to choose (if any) to add some flair? Choose the one that has some architectural interest. Besides a fireplace wall, it could be one that spans a staircase — it usually has an angled side. Or, it could also be the wall that anchors your bed or one that has built-in bookcases. It could even be the wall with a large window or French doors that feature the view beyond.
Don’t paint an accent wall without a good reason. Otherwise, it just becomes a distraction. Don’t paint an accent wall when your heart is madly in love with a certain color. If that’s really the case, then paint the whole room that color. Courage pays off.
Although I keep referring to paint, an accent wall can be created using different materials such as wallpaper and grass paper — especially today’s new and inspiring ones. Tile is always a personal favorite of mine. Other options include stainless steel sheets, cork, reclaimed wood slats, fabric, iron grills, and even living plant walls.
If paint is still your preference, think of painting stripes or harlequins. Remember what I said about courage? Or, what about big stripes using the same color but different sheens, that is, flat, satin, flat, satin, etc. But there’s nothing wrong with a traditional, solid paint as long as it makes sense. In fact, I just helped a friend choose a color for her dining room.
Her house has an open plan and while drinking a morning cup of Peet’s in her kitchen, we spotted the perfect candidate to be accented. It was a diagonal wall leading upstairs. We could also see the wall beyond it where a piece of art hung. A multicolored water painting of a duck with deep, orange chest feathers. The color led us to choose Pratt & Lambert’s “Brick Dust.” Now, no matter what my friend puts on her dining table — a bowl of lemons, colorful pottery or seasonal flowers – that centerpiece is always enhanced by the deep color of the accent wall behind it.
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