Just as an exotic accent can make a stranger seem more interesting, an accent wall can add drama and excitement to a room. Accent walls are generally painted in a deeper, bolder color than a room’s three primary walls and ceiling. This design technique can bring some definition to an otherwise featureless room, or it can enhance a focal point already present in a room, such as a fireplace.
In many cases, an accent wall suggests a particular feeling. A vibrant orange wall might energize a room, while a pink wall could create a sense of tranquility. If you hope to define or anchor a separate space within a room – a reading nook, for example, or a dining area – an accent wall can do the trick.
An accent wall can effectively set off black-and-white family photos. It can also make a large room feel cozier (warm colors appear to contract), or a small room more expansive (cool colors recede from the eye). There are many reasons to create an accent wall, but the process isn’t quite as simple as it seems. Choosing the right wall is essential, as is selecting an appropriate color. Fortunately, painting an accent wall is the kind of project that provides considerable reward for relatively little effort – as long as you do your homework.
Though it’s a rule of thumb, the first wall you see when you enter a room isn’t always the best one to accent. Accent walls are often solid, without doors or windows. However, a richly colored wall can make a stunning frame for attractive French doors or a window with a picturesque view. When it comes to accent walls, rules only take you so far, and some are made to be broken.
One reliable rule dictates that an accent wall should highlight a point of focus. The headboard of a bed is a prime example; significant furniture, a large or dramatic artwork, or an architectural feature can work equally well. It’s also possible to create a focal point: A sizable plant, a floor vase, a sculpture, or framed photos might fit the bill. Of course, if one of the three primary walls includes a focal point, it can compete with the accent wall for the eye’s attention, creating confusion and weakening the room’s aesthetic integrity.
An accent wall’s bold color is meant to stand out from the primary walls’ neutral hue, but there’s no reason the two colors can’t be related. A common practice is to paint the accent wall the same color as the primary walls, but two or three shades darker. A room’s existing décor may provide inspiration; throw pillows or drapes often suggest a suitable accent color. That said, using a dominant color for the accent wall – such as the color of the room’s upholstery – can backfire, overwhelming the eye instead of simply enlivening the space.
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