Budget Decorating: Adding An Accent Wall

When decorating a home there are elements that come into play that we tend to forget about. These elements when added to any room in a home will make it feel more cohesive. This post is the first in a series that will remind you to think about adding these elements. The first up is the accent wall.


Pretty white dining room with turquoise corner cabinet as an accent piece in the room.

As a blogger who writes about budget decorating and DIY ideas, I receive quite a lot of questions from readers asking for ideas on how they can make a room in their home look better, bigger or brighter.

They ask how to make a piece of furniture look updated, more colorful. Other questions are more specific to the reader’s home and style, but all the questions I receive have one goal in mind.

In a nutshell… they are looking for ways to make their home look prettier and more cohesive as a whole. I think we all want this, right? I know I do.

One question that I received from a reader last week, asked this in a very straightforward way.

Lara asked: How Can I Make My Living Room Look Like a Decorator Did It?

This question made me smile as I understood exactly what she is trying to achieve.

Achieving the “decorator look” has nothing to do with specific decorating styles, trends, or personal preferences, but more about decorating basics or as I like to call them… the forgotten elements.

DIY shiplap wood planked accent wall in hallway
A short accent wall with horizontal panels that joins the kitchen, foyer and hallway.

The decorating secrets are not actually secrets. Instead, they are more about decorating ideas that we tend to forget about doing as we have been overly influenced by decorating catalog and magazine perfection.

We incorrectly think we always need to buy all new furnishings to get a room that looks like a decorator did it.

Blue and white decorative pillows on a sofa.

This thinking has made us forget a few things we can do to any room to make it look more cohesive, even on a budget. This is what Lara is looking for; a room that looks pulled together from floor to ceiling.

What Every Designer Knows and Never Forgets

Creating Impact With an Accent Wall

paint-in navy blue on-accent-wall-in-bedroom
Satin wall paint on bed wall in guest room.

When we hear the word accent wall, feature wall or focal wall, we tend to think only of one floor to ceiling “painted” wall in a room.

Paint is the easiest and most budget-friendly way to create an accent wall, but it is not the only way. You can also create an accent using wallpaper, fabric or wood with a larger budget and power tools.

Black chalkboard floor to ceiling accent wall in kitchen
I created this accent wall on the side of the oven wall in my kitchen using black chalkboard paint.

Creating an accent wall is also one of the best ways to test a paint color you are too afraid to use to paint the whole room. It gives the room an instant focal point where there wasn’t one before.

Are Accent Walls Still in Style?

Accent walls will always be a part of decorating. What does go in and out of style is what you put on them. Colors and wallpaper patterns trends come and go, but the decorating element of accenting a wall to make a focal point is classic.

Open shelving in kitchen showing how you can add a pop of color using removable color backdrops that you can make.
I made the changeable accent backdrops above using cardboard and giftwrap.
  • An accent wall also doesn’t have to be a big focal wall. It can simply be the backsplash in your kitchen, the backdrop of open book shelves, or a wall in a powder room.
White IKEA Billy bookcase with black and white patterned fabric shelf background accents.

I made the backdrops on this bookcase using fabric.

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Airstone fireplace in living room with glossy white trim and vertical panels to accent on either side
Vertical Planking added to accent the fireplace wall in my living room
  • An accent wall doesn’t need to be a bold color either. A subtle color or texture difference can bring the contents in a room together in a very pleasing way.
  • A pattern on wallpaper or a wall of vertical or horizontal paneling in the same color as the other walls in a room can make a difference to how a room looks and feels.
Blue grasscloth wallpaper used as a color accent on a wall in bedroom.
Grasscloth wallpaper on the bed wall in my bedroom.

When one wall or area in a room becomes a focal point, it automatically elevates the room into one that has had some thought put into it and will make the room appear to look “decorated”.

How to stencil a wall using an all over stencil

You can also use an allover stencil to create an accent wall anywhere in your home as I did in my foyer shown in the above photo.

Do you have a wall or walls in a room in your home that would work as an accent wall? I am sure you do.

Faux blooming branches in large planter behind a sofa

In my living room I created an accent corner by covering two short walls in the room with barnwood panels.

How Do You Choose an Accent Wall?

The most common wall to make an accent wall is on the wall you see as you first enter the room, but it is not the only wall to consider.

  • Foyer/Entry – The wall that is right across from your front door as you walk in the house
  • Living/Family Room
    • The fireplace wall or the wall with a large focal point window
    • The wall a TV is mounted on
    • The long wall the sofa is on
    • The wall space between the built-in bookshelves
    • A wall niche
    • Small wall that adjoins two rooms
  • Kitchen
    • On the backsplash
    • Wall behind open shelving
    • On a wall in the table and seating area
  • Bath/Powder Room
    • The wall the sink and toilet are on
    • Inside the mirror cabinet for a surprise pop of color every time you open the cabinet
  • Bedroom
    • The wall the bed is on
    • Backdrops behind any shelving
    • Large window wall
  • Laundry Room
    • The wall behind the washer and dryer
    • The space between the top of washer/dryer and wall mounted cabinets

Where I Want to Add An Accent Wall

Dining area in kitchen

After getting the hardwood floor redone in my kitchen and living room, I am thinking about creating a bolder accent wall on the window wall behind my kitchen table and chairs. It is the far wall in this image. From this viewing point it looks the same as the others.

close up photo showing white textured wallpaper on a wall in a kitchen.

Up close though, you can see the wall has white textured wallpaper on it that you can see when you are in the kitchen, but not from the living room.

The wall is the perfect type of wall to add a pop of color since there are two stopping points – the kitchen cabinets on one side and a corner on the other side. I already have the chalkboard accent wall in the room, but I can make this wall be bolder with texture to make it stand out.

Where Can You Put an Accent Wall?

How about your house? Where is a good wall to add an accent wall? Look around for wall space in every room in your home, both big and small.

Try to imagine how it would look painted in a favorite color, wallpapered or fabric covered in a lively pattern, textured wood paneling added or even with an interior slat wall like this one.

You can have a decorated look in no time at all, even on a tiny budget using paint and a stencil to get an expensive wallpapered look.

Budget decorating idea graphic
#1 Accent Walls

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32 Comments

  1. A decorator told me how to get a spectacular look from accent wall(s). If you are painting an accent wall, continue around to paint the adjoining wall when it is in another room. In other words, you now have two of the same color accent walls in two adjoining rooms. Decorate each accent wall with different decorations. I saw this done in several houses. It is a very classy look and gives the house wonderful “flow”.

    1. Hi Dianne – I agree! I love seeing color and flow in a home. Accent walls that go through rooms are the best way to achieve flow with paint, moulding or wood.

  2. What a wonderfully useful site. Finally you have demystified basics we need to know, bringing “style” to our homes. Your advice is straight forward and the displays add to the understanding of the subject.
    Thank you for opening my eyes to something I knew that was missing. I am elated.
    Fay Kivela

  3. I have a 1927 craftsman home in Spokane, WA. It has all the original, unpainted wood trim; plaster walls, brick fireplace. Family and friends warn me about painting the trim, fireplace bricks, front door, etc. But I am thinking it might really brighten the place up. Will I devalue the house by covering the original finishes?

  4. Hello,
    We recently moved into a new house (it was a flip, so everything is a clean slate). It can be a bit overwhelming trying to plan and decorate in a way that makes sense, and on a budget! Thank you for the info, we’ll put it to good use as we settle into our new place.

  5. I need to get some ideas to make my condo living areas look cozy and comfortable. Looking forward to getting some ideas.

  6. Thank you so very much for your decorating, “In my Own Style. ” I look forward to each publication of your blog,.
    You are amazing and I am going to incorporate some of your decorating ideas into my home. I am looking forward to
    retiring at the end of this year and I can’t wait to use some of your ideas. I love being at home!

    1. Hi Gail – Thank you for taking the time to leave me such a nice comment. I love being at home, too. Being able to work from home is the best job ever! Hoping the new year and retirement brings you many happy at home moments. I am sure you are counting down the days. :-)

  7. Hi Diane
    My daughter will be renting a home in a few weeks. It’s a nice home but the owner has a forrest green carpet. I
    The family room and dining room is one large place. I’m thinking large throw rugs.
    What’s your thought on multi-color rugs that match in each room?
    or do you think muted colors like silver and light green, then decorate with color?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Donna –

      It is always so hard having to decorate around a solid color carpet that may not go with anything. If you can find two area rugs that match or that coordinate in color, they will look nice. It will also help to create furniture groupings in each space to give each room a little of its own personality.

      The muted silver and green sound nice as they will coordinate with the forest green wall to wall carpet. One good thing about decorating with green – it goes with everything. Think of a green lawn with lots of flowers and colors all around. So pretty.

  8. Wonderful post. So helpful, as usual, Diane!

    I added the link to my twitter feed.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series, and I am trying now what color to paint the wall at the end of our hallway. Thank you.

  9. I’m so excited about this series! I’ve been stumped on how to make my boring living room look put-together and, well, nice. An accent wall… of course! I just ordered a $60 wall lamp, and I’m moving my beautiful artificial tree and reading-nook chair to the back wall that has a big window with recently updated curtains.
    Now, there will be a focal point that will pop and draw attention, and the added light will make the whole room brighter.
    Thank you for the inspiration (again), Diane!!
    P.S. The recently updated curtains were also inspired by you! Love your blog!!

    Brandi

  10. Love accent walls!! I especially love the grass cloth in your bedroom ?
    Looking forward to this new “forgotten” series ?

  11. This was the perfect post to get me thinking. As you said, it can be as simple as cardboard and wrapping to back an instant statement! Thank you thank you for your ideas! I LOVE everything you’ve done to your lake house.

  12. I’ve always loved your “faux transom” projects, and I think you should “transom” up the other doors in your hallway to the garage. It would look like this times two (if the image link works)

    1. Sorry it took me so long to reply to your comment and photo. Thanks for the idea to add more faux transoms to my hallway of darkness. Maybe someday I will add more… you can never have enough transoms. Love them.

  13. I LOVE these ideas!! Your master bedroom is probably my favorite since I love navy blue. It has me thinking about our master!! Thanks for the ideas and the fact that more will be coming. You always have the loveliest things in and around your home. I have deleted other emails from decorator/DIYers, but HAD to keep yours…you continue to inspire me!! Thanks again and have a blessed 4th!

  14. Good ideas here. I would paint your white accent wall a sky blue to bring life to the dining room. I think you need a color that you see while in the living room. Smiles and happy Fourth of July to you and your family.

  15. I love this post. My living room is currently all white and im looking to add an accent wall which will lead me to adding pops of color within the room

  16. This sounds like a great series. By stretching it out…it gives us time to think about each one, and how it is applicable. The hardest thing I think, is to take that picture on Pinterest, or a magazine, or blog, that I absolutely love, and interpret it to look like ‘my’ home. Btw…you did a great job on your master! Enjoy your weekend! ;)

    1. Hi Donnamae – I have gotten nothing but positive feedback on the Budget Decorating series and will be adding to it on a regular basis now.

      I will try to write a post that may help you interpret photos you like as I think you are not alone in having a hard time trying to interpret a home decor photo and create the look in your own home.

  17. My husband and I were just talking about this the other day. I had read that accent walls were “out” and he wanted to do an accent wall in his den. He said “To heck with what’s in and what’s out, I want an accent wall!” So that’s what we’re going to do. And my judgy McJudgerson pants needed to have a slice of humble pie, because I literally just painted our fireplace a navy blue, which IS an accent wall. I loved this post so much. Thank you for sharing it and I look forward to reading more secrets.

  18. Diane,
    I love your style! I’ve been looking for bedding and love the blue and white paisley bedding. Would you share who makes the bedding?
    Thanks!

  19. My living room is fairly big–15′ wide x 18′ long. For many years the 9′ long red brick fireplace, which is set to the right side of the room, drove me crazy! The mantle was only 7″ deep so it was almost non-existent.. A few years ago I found someone who did woodwork as a hobby. He added 2×4’s to the facade and then covered them with plywood and molding. Now my “focal point” is a white 7′ long fireplace surround with a 20″ deep mantle. He balanced the surround around the off-center firebox. The last two feet were supposed to look like a built-in bookcase but I was worried that corner would look crowded so he left it as a niche. I found a marble-looking ceramic tile to cover the brick and now I have a very elegant looking focal point! The fireplace still takes up half the long wall but at least it now looks like “me.” The entire project cost me $1100 but it was worth every penny! I’m looking forward to your other tips!

  20. Good ideas! I’m looking forward to this series, Diane. And thanks for spreading them out because I’m sure each post will have plenty of ideas to chew on. Have a great holiday weekend!

  21. Thanks, Diane! I love these ideas for creating an accent wall. I’ll definitely be looking at my living and dining room with new eyes!