Accent Walls - Home Decorating Thumbs Up or Down?
Irwin Weiner ASID - Whenever you get six interior designers in the same room, you're going to come up with six different approaches to decorating solutions - and widely varying opinions regarding what they consider good or bad. Accent walls - the painting or treatment of a single wall in a startlingly different treatment from the other walls and the ceiling - are controversial. Many respected designers shun the single-wall treatment as being an amateurish decorating shortcut. Click on this link for a House Beautiful article and slideshow on Colors Perfect for One Wall, and you'll read quotes from great designers who can't stand the technique, while at the same time showcasing others who like specific colors to pop a wall. You might also take a look at Maria Killam's lovely Colour Me Happy blog and her Do You Need an Accent Wall? Take This Test article.
Where do I fall? I find accent walls to be a page out of reality TV decorating shows. They're done to death, and oftentimes with disastrous results. Use a strong accent color on the wall behind a solid wall of built-in bookshelves; the shelving materials and accent pieces on the shelves (or books, for that matter!) tone down the "look at me, I'm an accent wall" effect. Apartment Therapy has a good idea with an article and photo illustration of Matching An Accent Wall with One Piece of Furniture, using the color to tie better into the design scheme of the room with the colors of upholstery and accessories. In the photo below, note how the lilac of the accent wall color is the base color for the rest of the walls and ceiling (just a paler version of the accent), unifying a small and symmetrical room. The heavy moldings around the accent wall and the focal-point fireplace also make the accent wall color a more obvious solution.
Or treat an accent wall as art, as in the case of Spanish muralist Aurelio Cachafeiro (see top photo), and put up a professionally painted mural or unusual stone or wood treatment instead of choosing an oddball accent color and having one wall stick out for no reason. Today's featured video shows Cachafeiro and his work team in thrilling time-lapse photography installing an accent wall mural over a three-day period. Notice that the mural is on a curved look-at-me-I'm-different wall, which practically begs for special treatment.