Painting Accent Walls [Updated 2023]

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 just to 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, that you are only seeing part of the picture. You may be seeing a well-staged room, but you have to remember you live in your home, and you need to think of the space as a whole. 

I realize that cost can be a driving factor 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. 

Painting Accent Walls In Denver

Just accent walls?

I have had several customers over the years call me with the typical, “builder white” walls: all the ceilings and walls are the same color and are all flat. When I have been called about 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 done exactly what you asked, “just painted a few walls” and like you didn’t have the money to paint the entire house in full. If you saw a home in a magazine or a model home, all the colors would be 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 gone shopping wearing your “normal clothes,” picked up a scarf or hat you liked, added it to your outfit in order to add a “pop of color,” and it magically just worked? My guess is no, of course not. Instead, you would put together a whole outfit involving that accessory so that everything matched. In order to achieve a certain look, all of the colors and the décor in a space must be considered.

When simply choosing to paint a few accent walls, you are ignoring the other walls that most likely need attention. Most homes I enter, unless it is a brand new home, have wear and tear. The 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.

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 wall 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 accept it. I had a customer insist on painting a HUGE wall that stretched over her kitchen and into her entryway 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 an accent wall.

Customers always want to know how to pick the right color for an accent wall. While there are certainly a lot of accent wall ideas to choose and ideate from, it is very important to choose wisely as it will affect the overall aesthetic & interior design of your home. 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 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. It is also important to note that it also depends on what kind of light you’re trying to get into your homes that would properly accentuate the accent walls such as natural light and artificial light. There are also much more simpler colors of choices like the good ol’ green accent wall and blue accent wall which is good if you’re looking for something simple yet elegant. Oftentimes, 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 while the main space or family room is another. I would use the living room/dining room color as an accent in the family room, which works well to bring unity and cohesion to the space, without letting it get too busy. 

On a side note, Benjamin Moore’s huge selection of bold colors & paint types always gets you the best bang for your buck so if deciding on an accent wall, always consider Benjamin Moore. Don’t believe me? Check out these awesome reviews.

One big mistake I often see other “color designers” do is 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 are asked to use one color number off of the main number. You would 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 to 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 (not hold them right next to each other), and are unable to tell a color difference, you need to select one of them and terminate the other.

While there are different types of accent walls to choose from such as wood accent wall, bedroom accent wall, board and batten accent wall, & bathroom accent wall to name a few, we should always start with the basic questions: which best suits your tastes and home aesthetic?

Accent walls can be tricky to select, but if done right, they can add interest and excitement to a space with little additional money. I would suggest not to overthink it and not to force it. If you want an accent wall, go back to my two rules of thumb: Is the wall symmetrical? and/or does it have an architectural detail you would like to highlight? I have literally had to tell customers that they have NO good walls to accent. It’s okay. Just make sure to use other types of décor in order 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.

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