Which wall is best for a painted accent wall?

I recently received this question from a reader who was painting her family room and wanted to know which wall would make the best accent wall. She was confused as to whether she should pick a solid wall that was a side wall, the fireplace wall, or the wall behind the sofa which had a window and a door.

Regardless of how you feel about accent walls (many designers and decorators see them as dated) they are still very popular here in the north east and quite a few of my color consulting clients ask for them. When choosing an accent wall, remember it will be a focal point in your room, so be sure there is a good reason to draw attention to it. A random “side wall” doesn’t make for a good accent wall just because it’s a solid wall. Also, don’t default to an accent wall just because you don’t have the courage to paint all four walls your accent color, otherwise it will just look like you haven’t finished painting.

So, which wall is best for a painted accent wall?  Here are the three things I look for when deciding on an accent wall.  

1. A solid wall with no breaks or interruptions. A solid wall behind a sofa or a bed is always a good choice. It is a great place for a pop of bold color that adds visual interest to an otherwise lack luster room.

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

2. A symmetrical wall. If you must use a wall with windows or other architectural features it will look best if the wall is symmetrical.  A wall with various sized windows or windows and a door is not the best choice.

symetrical accent wall

In the photo above, the accent wall is symmetrical with the two matching windows and sconces. The dark gray also relates to the sofa and draws you visually through the room while adding some interest to what looks to be a long narrow room.

3. The ceiling. Painted ceilings are very on trend right now and since the ceiling is the 5th wall it is a great place to add a pop of color.

blue painted ceiling

image via Apartment Theraphy

Similar to solid walls, a painted ceiling works best if there are clearly defined boundaries. In other words, if you live in open concept house, a bold turquoise ceiling may not work for the whole house. Bed rooms and bath rooms are my rooms of choice for a painted ceiling.

The Novagrats via Apartment Theraphy

The Novagrats via Apartment Theraphy

This morning I stopped by a client’s home who I had helped with choosing color a few weeks ago. She had recently moved to a beautiful new condo and her main floor was one very long and narrow single room (approx. 60′ x 20′) that was kitchen, living room, dining area.

We decided on an accent wall for the far back wall for two reasons. She wanted to tie in the orange accent from her rug, pillows, fabric and art work and we also wanted to visually shorten the room with the advancing orange wall. Here is the result.

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

Here is another view of just the wall

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

She told me it is her favorite thing about the condo and just loves walking in and seeing the pop of bright color.

As always, I love feed back…What do you think of accent walls?  Do you have an accent wall in your home?

29 Responses to Which wall is best for a painted accent wall?
  1. Connie Nikiforoff Designs Reply

    I think there are definite times when accent walls are great. I have used a darker wall at the end of a long, narrow room too with wonderful results. It actually made the room appear to have better, more balanced proportions.

    I too love the orange accent wall in your client’s condo. Perfect!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Connie! 9 times out of 10 I talk a client out of them but in this case I knew it would be perfect.

  2. Livia Reply

    Great choice for the accent wall, Linda. I can’t imagine the room without it… And the colour is beautiful! Great tips.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so much Livia! It really did tie everything together.

  3. Tina Gleisner Reply

    Love how you broke things out simply & making me wonder if my idea for adding wallpaper to half a wall (the living room but not the dining room in open concept room) would work. Maybe I’ll do bedroom wall instead …

  4. Jil Sonia Interiors Reply

    I must say I’m a huge fan of accent walls, of course done right – as per your helpful tips. I find they can make a ‘flat’ room look more full of life and often the strong colour can be used to visually balance a heavy object on the other side of the room.
    Great job – beautiful colour placement.

  5. kelly Reply

    Beautiful job Linda! I too am not doing many accent walls, but that last example is the best argument that you should have them when it fits. Looks really beautiful!

  6. Monique Milne Reply

    These are great tips Linda, the accent wall in this space is beautiful. I love how you carried through the accent color throughout the space and really love how you put a tablecloth in the accent color with glass over top. This is not your grandma’s tablecloth! You rocked this!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Monique although all the credit for the table cloth goes to my client. It was already there. I simply chose the color of orange based on it and all the other orange in the room.

  7. Carol Standil Reply

    Nicely done, Linda. I try not to use the term accent wall with my clients, as it does conjure up a rather dated and usually unattractive default blob of colour in my mind. But I am all for painting a wall or ceiling a different colour to create a specific effect in a room, as you’ve done here for your client! I’m also a huge fan of orange, and am sick of the sight of snow, so your post has made me happy on multiple levels!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Carol. I am an orange fan too so seeing the happy orange wall yesterday “made my day”.

  8. Heidi Nyline Reply

    Lovely Linda. I am not a huge fan of accent walls because they are often done wrong. Your examples are exactly how to do it right. Great tips.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Coming from you Heidi I take that as a huge compliment. Thanks!

  9. Max Reply

    Aaaahhh! I can breathe again! I also get a lot of requests for accent walls, read that it’s outdated but looking at these examples, it really is very striking if the color placement has been done right! Thanks for sharing Linda!

  10. Jennifer Louise Interiors Reply

    Linda, this is lovely. Thanks for giving me the courage to use accent walls with my clients when appropriate!

  11. Kristie Barnett, TheDecorologist Reply

    Love the result of that orange wall in your client’s room – great placement and with good reason!!!

  12. Andriel Reply

    I love accent walls. It gives a room personality..The orange wall is popping gorgeou . Thanks for sharing.

  13. Candace Huddleston Reply

    I have a question. We are building a home and my daughters bedrooms have a dormer window in them. I am wanting to paint a solid color accent wall in their rooms. Should i paint the dormer wall the different color or the regular wall that their bed will go against?

    • Linda Holt Reply

      A good accent wall should have no architectural features so the wall the bed will go on will be the best accent wall.

      • Candace Huddleston Reply

        Thank You!!!!

  14. Latina Garbacz Reply

    Pretty! This has been an extremely wonderful post. Many thanks for providing this info.

  15. Karen Peyton Reply

    So glad I found your post, albeit a couple of years later. Thank you for “laying down” the rules! I was on my way to a huge mistake. Your examples of proper use for accent walls and ceilings are beautiful!

  16. Stephanie Reply

    What a helpful article! Thank you so much!!


    I LOVE the orange accent wall from the condo. Can you please give me the color name, finish and brand.

    Thank you!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      The color is Benjamin Moore Firenze.

  18. Susan Davis Reply

    I love your accent wall, but it does have a window! I want to do a similar idea in my small den. The accent wall has a large window 3 x 7 with white texture curtains and white wood blinds in the window. I want to paint it a deep blue so that the curtains will contrast against the blue walls. The other walls are a warm white with the sofa being on a wall adjacent to the blue window. Random blue art work will be over the sofa. To me it will look great, but I am seeing your disagreement with your accent wall and a huge window……so both are OK if you have a legitimate reason to put an accent wall where window and curtains are? If I do the accent on the sofa wall that looks expected and trite to me.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi Susan, generally the best accent wall is one that has no architectural features such as a solid wall behind a bed. An accent wall with a window is okay as long as the window is centered on the wall so the wall appears symmetrical with equal wall space on either side of the window.

  19. Julie Reply

    I love these photos! I have a quick question. We are painting my 14 year old daughter’s room and she wants an accent wall. Her room is set up where when you walk in, you are looking at a large wall with symmetrical large windows (3) and the wall is arched like a bay window but larger. Her bed will be going on the wall next to it because I don’t like the idea of putting her bed under Windows, especially in California and their earthquakes! Someone suggested I accent the window wall so it has a nice punch of color against the plantation shutters. And, paint the wall opposite of it, which is the short wall the shares the entrance door. What are your thoughts? We were going to do Benjamin Moore’s Hazy Blue, she has a beach themed room. Thank you!!!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi Julie, honestly I would not do an accent wall in her room. With three windows and and arched wall there is enough going on. Let the windows and arch be the focal point and not a chopped up wall of color.

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