Painting Accent Walls

Painting Accent walls

accent walls

Have you ever wondered how to pick the right color and which wall to feature as an accent wall?  I get this question a lot.  In fact, on occasion, customers will have us come out to give them an estimate to just paint some “accent walls.”  I think we have all gone to a model home or seen a featured home in a magazine with a dining room, or hallway with a stunning accent wall.  The problem is, you are only seeing part of the picture.  You may be seeing a well-staged room, but you have to remember you have to live in the space, and you need to think of the space as a whole. 

I realize that cost can be a driver for people to want accent walls.  People want to decorate, they want to have a home that is on trend, but they don’t want to spend thousands and thousands of dollars.  Accent walls can be a great addition to a project, but they need to be executed the right way, or they will just stand out and feel off. 

Just accent walls?

I have had several customers over the years call me while having the typical “builder white” walls; all walls and ceilings being the same color, and all in flat.  When I have been called into this, I am often asked to “just paint a few accent walls.”  I will almost always talk them out of this for a few reasons. Firstly, the finished product will look unfinished.  The home will look like you have “just painted a few walls” and you really didn’t have the money to paint the house.  If you saw a home in a magazine or in a model, all the colors you saw were designed to work together along with the décor.  Adding a few “pops of color” will not get you to your intended look.  If you don’t believe me, have you ever just tried to go shopping wearing your “normal clothes” and just wanted to make a special outfit using a “pop of color” with a scarf or a special hat?  No, of course not.  You would put a whole outfit together.  In order to achieve a certain look, all the colors and the décor in a space must be considered.

When simply painting a few accent walls, you are also ignoring the other walls that most likely need attention.  Most homes I go in, unless it is a brand new home, have wear and tear.  Walls get grimy.  My wife and I bought a house two years ago, painted all the walls, and already our upstairs hall looks horrible due to the two teenage monsters that inhabit the end of the hall.  Unless you and your spouse are empty-nesters or require your children to wear gloves in the house, your walls will also take a beating on a regular basis.

Selecting the right wall to accent.accent wall

Besides the topic of “just painting accent walls,” I often get asked how to select the right wall as an accent wall.  I have a few rules of thumb.  Most accent walls should only be done for two specific reasons:

  1. The wall is symmetrical.
  2. The walls has an architectural detail you want to highlight, like an art niche, a fireplace detail, or special moldings.


When you paint an accent wall, you are trying to grab attention.  You are saying:  “Hey, look at me!” You don’t want friends and guests in your home to then think: “Why am I looking at that wall?”  If the wall is odd shaped or just ordinary, you should not accent it.  I had a customer insist on painting a HUGE wall that stretched over her kitchen and into her entry way in a deep red.  I told her not to paint it, she insisted, and boy did it stand out…and not in a good way.  And no, I don’t think the customer is always right.  She was definitely wrong on this one. 

Picking the right color for and accent wall.

Customers always want to know how to pick the right color for an accent wall.  Now I am no color expert, but I have selected a TON of colors for customers over the years.  In fact, I used to do all the color selection for our customers, and was even named as one of the best resources for color design in Denver by a major home décor magazine.  When selecting an accent color, I usually look for colors that are already present in the space.  For inspiration, I will usually look at pillows, pictures, rugs, drapes, or bedding.  Often times, I would recommend a color that we would use in another part of the home for an accent color.  For example, the living room and dining room might be one color, with a separate main color, and use the living room/dining room color as an accent in the family room.  This works well to bring unity and cohesion in the space, without letting it get too busy. 

One big mistake I often see other “color designers” do is to make an accent color two or three shades off the main color.  As a painter, it drives me crazy, as you can barely see the color change due to shadows and different light directions.  If you want to accent something, go big or go home I always say.  The worst is when we would literally use one color number off the main number.  You could look straight at the walls and not notice anything.  My feeling is that some color designers feel the need to select a lot of different colors to justify their fees.  I believe less is more and keep it simple.  I like using multiple colors, but you need to be thoughtful and be sensible.  If you can hold two color cards out with straight arms, separate them (as to not hold them right next to each other), and not be able to tell a color difference, you need to select one of them, and terminate the other.

Accent walls can be tricky to select, but if done right, they can add an interest to a space with little additional money.  I would suggest to not over think it, and not force it.  If you want an accent wall, go back to my two rules of thumb.  Don’t force it.  I have literally had to tell customers that they have NO good walls to accent.  It’s okay.  Just make sure to use other décor to spice up the space. 

If you are looking to paint accent walls in Denver, and would like some assistance, please reach out to us, we would love to help.