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How to Decorate with Wall Accents Without Going Over the Top

An important and inevitable step to any decorating venture is figuring out what is going on the walls. There is honestly nothing as unfinished or depressing as a blank wall, as I’m sure anyone who has lived in a student dorm will tell you. Sofas and tables and chairs are all important elements of a room, but it’s really what you put on the walls that kicks your decor into high gear. And although there is no one right way to go about it, there are some basic guidelines you’ll want to follow to avoid overdoing it. Tapestries, paintings, mirrors, even interesting pieces of art instillation–you can make all of them work.

Consider Your Colors

Wall Art, 251-B by Polart
Wall Art, 251-B by Polart

Whether you are doing a full remodel or just working with an existing color, you’ll want to make sure the accents you choose don’t clash with the wall you will be hanging them on. If you are just going with a white or off-white wall this won’t be much of an issue, but if you’re going for more of a bold statement, like in the picture above, you’ll want to think carefully before you hang. Two many colors in one place quickly becomes busy and tacky.

Too High? Too Low? Just Right.

Some places are more suited to wall art than others. (By Julia Cutler Interior Design, photo by Michael J. Lee Photography)
Some places are more suited to wall art than others. (By Julia Cutler Interior Design, photo by Michael J. Lee Photography)

Another important detail to keep in mind is exactly where you hang your wall accents, both the placement and the height. Some spaces are more suited to decoration than others; for instance, in the picture above the space above the fireplace is obviously and purposefully framed for something to hang there. In fact it would probably look odd if left bare. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to hang art at about eye-level. Of course, eye-level is going to be different for everyone, so there’s some wriggle room, but generally 60”-66” above the floor. If you’re hanging a picture above a couch, experts say about 8”-10” inches above the back. Any lower and it’ll look crowded, and any higher and it looks like it’s trying to escape.

Focus or Filler? 

Arrigo Gold Wall Art, 07074 by Uttermost
Arrigo Gold Wall Art, 07074 by Uttermost

Obviously conditions will change depending on what sort of accent you decide on, but if you go with something large and ostentatious, a statement piece like the one in the picture above, you might want to think about making it the focal point of your room. If cluttered by a lot of other art, or even by a large amount of furniture or noisy patterns, a piece like this could quickly become tacky or overwhelming. I love large pieces of art (shiny gold metal or otherwise) but they work best alone on a wall, paired with more subdued colors and prints.

A Collage Combination 

There is a fine line between clutter and order. (By Corynne Pless)
There is a fine line between clutter and order. (By Corynne Pless)

If you are leaning toward a lot of smaller pieces, your first instinct might be to scatter them across the room evenly or isolate them on different walls, but I think the collage effect can be a lot cooler, especially if your accents are all different sizes. I’ve done up some sort of thing to this effect in almost every place I’ve lived, with a combination of posters, art prints, and magazine clippings. Varying art, typography, and photographs has a particularly interesting effect. I especially like this in a bedroom or basement, when you may be going for a bit of a less formal feel.

Obviously, the question of what decor accents to put where is a fairly open-ended one. It depends on your space, the accents themselves, and the overall effect you’re trying to achieve. Just keep these general guidelines in mind when you are on the prowl for new and interesting decor.