Wall Color Trends: Painting An Accent Wall (And How To Make It Work)

Adding an accent wall is one trend that’s gone in and out of vogue a lot over the last couple decades. For a while there at the beginning of the 2000’s they were even considered taboo – soooo 1990’s/80’s/70’s! But personally I couldn’t be happier to see them making a comeback. Accent walls are a great way to add color and personality to your space. It’s important to remember, though, that not every wall is a perfect candidate, and it’s a style that can easily go wrong. So, if you aren’t sure where to start, here are a few ways to make this wall color trend work for you.

Redecorating On A Budget

Lime Green Living Room Accent Wall (By Borden Interiors And Associates, photo by Jim Bartsch)

I think accent walls are often best used by people who have a bad case of the redecorating bug, but don’t have the budget they’d like to support the habit. Picking one wall and painting it is easily the work of an afternoon and less than $100, and can add any color of the rainbow to your space. With a slightly larger budget and intentionally-neutral furniture, you can turn that one swatch of color into a theme that continues throughout your space. This lime green wall, for example, adds a vibrant, springy quality to a rather neutral room, and is carried through in the easy-to-replace throw pillows, area rug, ceramic-container-cum-accent-table, window valences, and even the fresh florals. Tired of the look? Repaint a small swatch of wall, replace a few accessories, and you’ve got a completely new look.

Pick One Odd Shaped Wall

Blue Bedroom With Cathedral Ceiling (by Andre Rothblatt Architecture)

Accent walls almost never work in small, square, uniformly shaped rooms, especially ones with crown and base molding – the look just feels squat and unfinished. But an odd shaped wall – especially one angled because of a tall, gabled ceiling – is a perfect candidate. This deep navy blue wall is dazzlingly eye catching and draws attention to the shape and height of the room, turning a slightly-off wall into a modern canvas. And, you can see, the blue is carried through the room primarily in the comforter and area rug, meaning that again a fresh coat of paint and a few hundred dollars can completely transform the style.

Bold Bookshelves

Modern Atlanta Loft Space (by Niki Papadopoulos, photos by Sarah Dorio)

While not technically a full accent wall, painting the inside of a set of built-in bookshelves is actually a great use of the spirit of the accent wall. Not only is this a great forum to try out a bold color you might be afraid to use on your whole room, it also adds a sense of depth, drawing attention to your book collection (or whatever you happen to have on your shelves), and a nice contrast between the shelves themselves and the color behind. In the room above, I like the way a stark, grayscale modern space is brought to life with just a touch of pink – while the symmetry of the shelves and the gray wall between is mirrored in the placement of the matching chairs and sofa.


Bedroom Retreat (by Susan Kennedy Design)

Accent walls are often associated with living spaces, but that doesn’t have to be the case. They’re also a creative, easy way to add a stylized “headboard” to your bed. Depending on the size of your bedroom, a king or queen sized bed probably takes up a good portion of one wall, and surrounding it with a single solid color visually implies a large, colorful headboard – even if you already have one, and especially if you don’t. I really like the balance of the three art pieces in this room, and the overall earthy feel created by the sage, sepia, and brown tones.


Master Bathroom Retreat (by Jennifer Gardner Design)

Just as you might not expect an accent wall in a bedroom, you might be even more surprised to find just how well they work in a bathroom, too. Less expensive than ceramic, stone, or glass tile and with a finish that can be both colorful and simple, opting for a simple coat or two of paint is a great way to get a beautiful look while opening up more room in your budget. I particularly like the way the color here sets off the shape of this modern freestanding tub and is mimicked in the accent tiles on the floor, and the saved expense probably made room in the budget for that towel warmer! Just be sure to look for at least a satin or semi-gloss paint that will resist water and that can be scrubbed clean without changing its luster.

Divider Wall

Modern Hall With Accent Wall Divider (Architect Michael Schein, Photos by Elad Gonen and Zeev Beech)

Sometimes in some homes, your layout winds up including one weird space divider. This is especially true when trying to open up a floorplan (but encountering something structurally necessary). But a coat of paint can easily turn that odd, intrusive chunk of wall into something beautiful and artistic. I love the simple, natural, minimalist design of this divider wall, which adds just a little bit of color contrast to set off the space, making it something more than just an ungainly divider.


Bellevue Farm Entryway And Staircase (by Clearview Construction Group LLC)

I also really love using the sides of staircases as accent walls. The zig-zag step shape creates a cool visual contrast while helping separate the stairwell from the rest of your home. This works for an enclosed stairwell, too, only the accent wall would be the inside of the staircase extending up to the second floor. If you choose to go this route, though, be sure that your stair rails are painted a coordinating color!

Accent Walls Don’t Have To Be A Crazy Color

Hollywood Hills Retreat (by Annette English)

Often, accent walls are used as a sort of sounding board for bright, bold, vibrant colors you might like but be too intimidated to use for a whole room. And that’s certainly not wrong – painting a whole room is a big commitment, and some colors (like 2012’s Tangerine Tango or 2013’s Emerald) can be pretty intense on more than one wall. But while having one wild accent wall is a great way to add a bold color to your space, remember that an accent wall can be any color. I find myself particularly drawn to dark neutral spaces like the one above, which are a little more mellow but no less beautiful. This chocolatey accent wall, for example, gives the room deep, earthy feel without overwhelming or darkening the whole room, but absolutely any color you choose can work.

Do you like the look of accent walls? What room or color are you considering?