Budget Decorating: Adding An Accent Wall

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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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  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!