An accent wall, for all intents and purposes, is a design feature that is used to highlight different aspects of the home (architectural, art, etc.), or just to break up the boring, everyday continuity of certain living spaces. It may be that the wall is a different color than the others, it has a unique pattern, or even that it’s made from a different material.
When it comes to spicing up the walls in your living space, the possibilities are nearly endless. That’s why I’ve come up with this in-depth guide to the benefits and techniques of accent walls, so you can make your home truly unique.
The most common type of accent wall, by far, is a solid shade of paint that is just a different color. If three walls are white, then adding one that’s pink, blue, orange, or whatever you want it to be, can bring some stylistic contrast to the whole room. Whether it’s the wall behind your bed, the one behind your fireplace mantel, or just a random one of your choosing, a little bit of color can change the whole look of your home.
Of course, figuring out which color, shade, and finish will look best isn’t always a picnic. If you’re into a rustic aesthetic, then you may want to go with earth tones, but if the 80s renaissance is your thing, then fluorescent and neon colors may be a good option (or you could just put up a poster of Emilio Estevez and call it a day). If your walls have a flat finish, then you may want to use a semi-gloss or even a full-gloss for some nice contrast.
The point is, an accent wall can be an opportunity to put a little of yourself into your home. Just make sure you choose something that fits in with your current or planned designs, your furniture, and your personal preferences (i.e. don’t get something just because someone else told you it would look nice).
My favorite type of accent wall is one that is created by using the ombre technique. Those of you who have knowledge of hair styling will already be familiar with the look, but for the rest of you, it’s when a color starts out dark at the top or bottom and then fades evenly to a lighter shade as it goes.
You should know that it’s actually pretty easy to create this effect yourself. Okay, so it’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it can be done with a little preparation and some patience. All you have to do is get a few gallons of the same color paint, cover a third of the wall with it (top, bottom, side, wherever you want the darkest shade to be), then dilute the next batch with a little bit of white base to cover the middle third, and then dilute it even more to cover the last section. The tricky part is blending the sections together, so you may want to practice on something else first.
Another method to achieve the same effect is to paint with three different shades of the same color, rather than diluting the one shade, and then blend the seams together with a mixture (first seam blend using the first and second paint, second seam blend using the second and third paint). No matter which method you use, just make sure you mix everything well, otherwise you’ll have an uneven coating.
Patterns can be created for an accent wall using paint and tape, paint and a sponge, joint compound (for the knock-down textured look), wallpaper, or anything else you can imagine. The main appeal of adding a pattern is that it accentuates the evenness and consistency of the other walls better than any other technique.
If your walls were an orchestra, the solid colors would be the rhythm section carrying the piece along at a steady pace, and the patterns would be the string instruments singing the harmonious melody. Separately, they each do their own thing, but together they create something new entirely. There are many different types of patterns out there, so I can’t list them all, but pinstripe, argyle, chevron, geometric designs, and even murals, are all good options.
The best way to achieve most of these patterns is by coming up with templates, tracing everything out with pencil, taping, and then painting. For sponge painting, you can do pretty much whatever you want (just put the sponge in the paint and then put it on the wall). For joint compound, you may want to hire a professional, but the general idea is that you apply it to the wall using a mud/putty knife in a specific pattern.
The last type of accent wall I’ll talk about today is the kind that’s made by using different materials. Chances are, you probably already have one of these in your home, right above your kitchen countertops or in your bathroom. You may not think of a backsplash or a tub surround as an accent wall since they have more practical uses than just being aesthetically pleasing, but the principle is basically the same. Some good accent wall options include; tile, stucco, antique wooden planks, brick, stone, and fake stone.
As I said before, the sky’s the limit. If you’ve never worked with brick, tile, or stone before, then you may want to leave the installation up to a professional. If you do want to give it a try yourself, then your best bet is going to be to get a how-to book beforehand so you can be prepared for the real thing.
No matter which type of accent wall you decide to go with, and which method you use to achieve your desired result, make sure you do your research ahead of time. Consider all of your options, come up with a realistic budget, figure out which styles you like, and then just go for it. As long as you follow the guidelines I’ve just laid out, you’ll be happy with the new addition to your home.
Images courtesy of Design Sponge, Hemtrender, Project Nursery, and My Domaine.