6 Tips To Nail An Accent Wall

Some wallpapers are just too fabulous for an entire room. Enter: the accent wall. Read on for my tips to perfect the art of the accent wall.

Tip #1: Find the wall that feels most natural to accentuate.

This is a little easier said than done, but use these questions to help you decide:

  • Why are you doing an accent wall?
  • Do you want the wall to be the focal point of the room?
  • Do you want it to serve as a backdrop to other features in the room, like artwork or furniture?
  • Do you want it to be the wall that is most visible to people when they are in the room?
  • Do you want it to be a surprise that is not immediately seen when you enter the room?

Here are a few places that generally make good accent candidates:

  • Behind the headboard
  • Behind the sofa
  • In a nook
  • In the back of built-in shelves
  • Around the fireplace
  • Behind the television/entertainment system (although avoid going too busy here so as not to distract from your Game of Thrones or This Is Us viewing)
  • On a gallery wall (behind an assortment of artwork)
  • On a wall that extends from a main room (like a living room) into a hallway

Tip #2: Don’t do an accent wall just to do an accent wall.

In other words, don’t decide you want an accent wall and then pick a random wall to do it on. Chances are it will look unintentional or forced, and it will throw off the balance of the room. If you have a wall that seems a little empty in a room, its emptiness alone is not a good enough reason to do an accent wall. As much as I love wallpaper, I know that sometimes an empty wall might be served better by a piece of artwork or a large mirror rather than being accented without good reason.

Tip #3: Think about the room’s current paint color — keep it or repaint?

Will the current paint color distract from the wallpaper? It might be too intense and draw your attention away from the wallpaper. Or it could be the wrong neutral, like a cool grey when the wallpaper has warmer beiges in it. If you feel like the current paint color is not going to work with your wallpaper, it’s time to repaint.

This is not a firm rule, but it’s likely that you will want to select a paint color for the walls that is found somewhere in the wallpaper. Whether you pick a bold color found in the main wallpaper pattern, or a neutral from the background, your overall look will feel more intentional and harmonious this way.

This isn’t the greatest photo, but here’s an accent wall I did in my old Seattle apartment. (If you’re wondering, those rectangles above the wallpaper are actually a weird little closet space where I stored random things like an air mattress and my snowboard.) There is a contrast between the paint color and the wallpaper background color, but you can find the paint color in parts of the branches. Even the smallest amount of color unity can tie together your walls and wallpaper.

Accent wall of blue flowers on a cream background

If you want the smoothest transition between your painted walls and your accent wallpaper, paint the walls the same color as the wallpaper background. You can even take a swatch of the wallpaper with you to the paint store to have them match the background color exactly.

If you decide to paint the walls, do that before you hang the wallpaper. I know that eager feeling of wanting to hang your wallpaper as soon as you get your hands on it, but trust me: you do not want to get paint splatters on your brand new wallpaper. So control your impulses and ALWAYS PAINT FIRST.

Tip #4: Use home furnishings to create a unified look.

Pick out some colors from the wallpaper print for pillows, window treatments, throws, rugs, etc. Even doing smaller, less significant items like candlesticks or a framed mirror in one of the wallpaper print colors can go a long way in creating cohesion.

Don’t get too matchy-matchy though. If your wallpaper print has one small pink flower in it, and then you do a vase, a throw blanket, a lamp, a potted plant, and roman shades all in the same pink, you’re being too obvious. We want the wallpaper and your home furnishings to feel like they go together naturally, to make us subconsciously accept their union as a matter of fact because we didn’t force it.  

Here’s a design board I made of home furnishings to work with an accent wall of Cole & Son’s Flamingos wallpaper.

A design board of home furnishings that work with an accent wall of Cole and Son's Flamingos wallpaper.

Tip #5: Center your wallpaper on the accent wall.

This tip applies primarily to textured wallpapers like grasscloths, textiles, and faux grasscloth vinyls. More specifically, you should take this tip into consideration if you are hanging a wallpaper that will have intentionally visible seams. If you hang your accent wall left to right, as wallpapers are typically hung, your seams will most likely end up not being symmetrical on the wall. So either set a seam directly in the center of the wall, or hang your first strip directly centered on the wall.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to follow this tip for regular wallpapers as well. If you want to make sure your pattern is exactly centered on the wall, start in the middle and work out from there.

Tip #6: Go for it!

The point of doing an accent wall is to add interest and charm to the room. Since you aren’t doing the entire room in the accent wallpaper, don’t be afraid to push some boundaries. If your goal is to make your accent wall the star of the room, avoid picking a subtle print. I don’t want you to be underwhelmed every time you enter the room and think to yourself, why the heck did I even bother?

Of course, as I’ve said time and time again, there are no cut-and-dried rules to wallpaper, so I’ve got some exceptions to my last point. It is okay to go with a subtle accent in rooms where you want a calm vibe or on a wall with a lot going on already. For example, most likely you want your bedroom to be a calm space, but maybe you want to add just a little interest. I’d probably recommend adding some texture with a grasscloth on the wall behind your headboard. Or let’s say you have a gallery wall with lots of cool artwork and knickknacks that’s just not popping enough. Maybe a subtle tone-on-tone wide stripe in a darker color could be the final eye-catching piece of the puzzle.


Need help figuring out which wall to accent? Want an opinion as to whether you’ve got one too many yellow home furnishings to match that little bird in your wallpaper print? Drop me a comment below!


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