15 Creative Accent Wall Ideas for Every Design Style

published Mar 31, 2024
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diptych of two accent walls
Credit: Photos: Erin Derby, Mario Mineros Photography ;Design:Apartment Therapy

If you’re looking for a fun way to add some visual interest to your space, an accent wall is a natural choice. This style has been around in the interior design world for decades, rising to popularity in the ’90s and early 2000s while gaining more momentum in recent years. Whether you’re highlighting a specific area with paint, wallpaper, wood paneling, or anything in between, accent walls allow you to add color or texture to a room on a more budget-friendly, low-commitment scale. Plus, they’re a foolproof way to create an eye-catching focal point or emphasize existing architectural details in your home.

Quick Overview

What Are Accent Walls?

Intended to be a focal point, an accent wall features a paint color or decorative motif that’s noticeably different from the other walls in a room. This can be achieved with paint; wall treatments such as wallpaper; or architectural features like molding, brick, wall paneling, and more.

How to Choose an Accent Wall

One of the trickiest parts of adding an accent wall to your home is deciding which wall you’re going to accentuate. Ultimately, you should choose one that you want to double as the focal point of your space, but this isn’t always a simple task. Here are a few tips and questions to help you consider.

  • What wall do you notice first when you walk into the room? This can be a great place to start.
  • Do you have any large pieces of furniture up against a wall in your space that already draw attention (i.e., your bed, a large couch, or even a built-in seating nook in the dining room)?
  • Is there an architectural feature in your room that you want to highlight, such as a fireplace or set of built-in bookshelves? Or is there a wall that gets better natural light than the others? 
  • Consider the entry points to your room. Whichever wall you choose to accent will become the main focus, so it should be somewhere your eyes are naturally drawn to (rather than above the only doorway, for example).
  • Keep the size of the walls in mind. While your accent wall doesn’t necessarily need to be the largest wall in the room, it probably shouldn’t be the smallest, either. Highlighting a particularly narrow or compact area can leave the room feeling unbalanced and potentially even more visually cramped.

Are Accent Walls Out of Style?

There’s been some recent debate about whether or not accent walls are still in style. While they were once all the rage as a way to introduce color or texture to a space, they’re increasingly being replaced by bolder designs that encompass an entire room. I had to ask the experts — are accent walls still in style? Universally, designers answered “sort of,” with the caveat being that there’s a “right” way to approach them.

“Accent walls in recent years often felt like the room had been cheated a bit — as if one didn’t fully commit to the look, and sometimes it results in the room feeling unbalanced or chintzy,” says Gaia Guidi Filippi, founder and principal designer of Gaia G Interiors

To combat this effect, ensure that the accent wall feels like an intentional part of the overall design rather than just an afterthought. Choose colors already being used in the space, add texture if it’s lacking elsewhere, and pick a style that complements the existing aesthetic. “For example, a wallpapered accent wall can be in a room with other walls painted a coordinating color,” says Julia Newman, owner and principal designer of Julia Adele Design. “This helps the accent wall feel purposeful and not so random.”

Accent Wall Ideas

1. Paint a wall (or two).

A simple coat of paint is a classic and easy option for accent walls, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Take notes from this gorgeous Dutch home, which uses moody shades to highlight several walls throughout the space. You can lean into the color drenching trend here, too, by painting any built-in cabinets, trim, and doors along the accented area to match, as well. 

2. Use limewash paint.

Another popular option for accent walls in 2024 is limewash paint, as seen in this stylish U.K.-based apartment. The finished result creates an earthy, natural-inspired feel and mimics the look of textured plaster walls (except it’s much more practical!). Best of all, it’s easy to use and apply, so this is a DIY that anyone can tackle!

Credit: Erin Derby

3. Mix in wallpaper.

Instead of covering an entire wall in the same media, why not wallpaper a small nook and finish the rest off with a coordinating paint color? Designer Maitri Mody executes this idea well in her colorful Brooklyn Heights apartment, but you could also use wallpaper to fill in or emphasize architectural details — either built-in or faux — for a more elegant look. Add it on top of chair rail molding, for one, or DIY framed wallpaper panels.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

4. Paint a pattern.

Take your accent wall to the next level by using paint to create a fun pattern or mural design. This eclectic and colorful bungalow in Ontario, Canada, shows why these types of accent walls work so well. Not only will this create a unique showpiece in your space, but it can also help to establish the color palette for the rest of the decor in the room. Plus, with a little elbow grease, you can get a wallpaper-like look for a fraction of the cost. 

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

5. Match your decor.

Another way to use paint creatively for an accent wall? Match an existing piece of artwork or decor in your space. This look works particularly well in maximalist homes like this one, but it can still be applied to any design style. The continuation of an existing pattern or motif makes the room look cohesive, yet still super colorful and one-of-a-kind.

Credit: Sandra Regalado

6. Accentuate exposed brick.

Brick walls look beautiful on their own, but take things up a notch with a half-wall paint design, like in this stunning Barcelona home. Or, if you’re not fortunate enough to live in a rustic loft or historic home with a real exposed brick, you can actually buy decorative faux panels or wallpaper that could pass as the real thing. 

Credit: Erin Derby

7. Design a mural.

If you or anyone you know is artistically inclined, make a custom mural for an accent wall. The owners of this Dumbo, Brooklyn loft tapped an artist friend for this sentimental customized creation, which includes nods to their Iranian heritage. Whether you commission a pro or DIY your own, this doubles as a large-scale piece of art. 

Credit: Cori Sears

8. Go bold with black.

The use of black paint can be controversial, but it’s gained more traction over the past couple of years — as seen in this bedroom, pictured here. The color makes quite the statement on its own, and an accent wall makes the perfect opportunity to dip your toes in a darker hue. That being said, don’t be afraid to get a little creative if you’re looking for a bit more dimension (think: black wall paneling, painted shiplap, a horizontal half wall, and more).

Credit: Erin Derby

9. Try a painted “headboard.”

Take a cue from this Brooklyn-based apartment and paint a faux headboard behind your bed. Not only does this give you the chance to infuse extra personality and style into the space, but it’s also way more budget-friendly than buying an actual bed frame or headboard. Plus, you can experiment with trendy patterns, then paint over the look with new designs if you ever decide to re-style.

10. Make a statement with mural wallpaper.

“Murals” made out of wallpaper pack plenty of personality onto a blank wall, as demonstrated in this author’s colorful New Orleans home. With lots of peel-and-stick options available, it can be easily DIY’d without the long-term commitment of wallpaper paste (IYKYK), plus this proves that you don’t have to cover an entire wall. Take it a step further and pair the remaining exposed areas with a coordinating paint color.

11. Carve out specific areas.

In this colorful Washington, D.C. studio apartment, the renter used vibrant floral wallpaper to designate an office space. Similarly, the nearby bookcase doubles as a “wall” divider of its own, which she also converted into an accent point by painting the shelves a bold color. If your own home has wall-to-wall built-ins, you can even wallpaper the back of the shelves for a similar effect.  

12. Style an art-filled wall.

Showcase your favorite prints and paintings (maybe even including some of your own) with an all-over art wall! This New York-based apartment demonstrates how to pull this off, with several large canvases hanging on a black painted wall. This approach is like a combination of a gallery wall and mural, with the canvases or frames right next to one another so that they cover the entire area. The artwork can be easily switched up over time, too!

Credit: Erin Derby

13. Take advantage of mirrors.

Make your space feel larger and brighter with a mirror wall, or embrace an existing full-scale mirror that’s already in your own home. As is, they’re perfect for transforming small, dimly-lit spaces, but this stylish New York apartment shows how to add a decorative element over top. 

14. Go with an unexpected material.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box with more off-the-wall materials (pun intended) that you can use to make a statement in your space. Some examples include an unexpected tiling effect on the accent wall — as seen in this comedian and artist’s Brooklyn home — panels of faux greenery, real plants (DIY plant wall, anyone?), aluminum paneling for an industrial look, and so much more. 

15. Curate a gallery wall.

Accent walls don’t have to mean a serious renovation or DIY project. This Philadelphia homeowner showcased how a gallery wall can be equally as effective. For a more eclectic look, opt for a combination of wall hangings, knickknacks, artwork, and picture frames in a variety of sizes. Alternatively, if you want a cleaner, more sophisticated aesthetic, then matching frames arranged in a symmetrical design with family photos or artwork may be the way to go.