No Time for a Full Renovation? Try These Easy One-Wall Makeovers Instead

published Feb 8, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Before: bed against a plain off-white wall, with nightstands on each side
Credit: Ammu Cherian

It’s easy to hone in on the big picture when deciding to do a home renovation. Blowing out a hall closet could make a living space larger, or a revamped kitchen could give you the organization capabilities of your dreams. Repainting the exterior of an entire house could make it look more modern, which would bump up curb appeal alongside a wider porch. It could also be that you want to install entirely new windows, or replace all of the old floors. There’s so many ways to think big! But as satisfying as these changes may be, there’s a lot to be said about smaller shifts that pack a stylish punch. And one sterling example of an understated showstopper is the tried-and-true accent wall. 

Choosing to bring more attention to this canvas — like one behind a headboard, another in an entryway, or even a mirror-facing expanse in a powder room — can be a worthwhile endeavor for honing your budding DIY skills, since it’s possible to keep ideas in check with a condensed footprint. Furthermore, accent walls can tie together a palette, draw more attention to an architectural detail, show off your artistic strengths, or simply make an area feel cozier. And lastly, when you consider how much those big-picture plans actually cost, an accent wall is quite the wallet-friendly alternative. It could just be the weekend project you need until those larger plans come to fruition. 

If you’ve been looking at a blank wall in your home thinking, “Hm, how can I turn you into an exclamation point?,” then consider these one-wall wonders as inspiration. These four examples of accent wall makeovers all use different materials, from wood to wallpaper. Choose the one that best suits your ideas, and you’ll likely have a room with amped-up charm in no time. 

For a classic look, add picture frame moulding.

After Liz and her husband moved into their Washington, D.C. townhome, they furnished their dining room with the usual suspects: a farmhouse table (that her husband built himself) and a chandelier. But after about a year of living with the space, they couldn’t help but notice how plain the main dining room wall looked — so they figured that installing a chair-and-picture-frame-molding accent would liven things up. The process was completed in the course of a weekend by cutting the wood to size, mounting it to the wall, caulking the edges, and painting, which all came out to $250. In the end, this small addition makes those usual suspects look incredibly sophisticated. 

Get a playful pattern with wallpaper.

Loren Muntz had what she describes as a “dark and depressing” bedroom, complete with gray-green walls and old carpet. She dreamed of a place that felt more like a luxurious hotel room, and went about making it happen for about $4,000 over the course of six months. She painted the walls white, installed wood flooring, put in a new light fixture, and styled new furniture, but the biggest “wow” moment has to be the scalloped accent wall behind the bed. The happy wallpaper was a budget-friendly buy she spotted on Amazon. 

Credit: Kristy Saucier
1 / 2

Keep it simple with a bold paint choice.

When Kristy Saucier and Julie Cobb moved into their new home, they were looking to have a “stylish but functional” living room to share with their two kids. The only problem was that the space had nothing but a sterile atmosphere. “We couldn’t figure out how to really bring out the tall ceilings and work with all the ‘white space’ in our living room,” Katie says. So they decided to buy a can of Magnolia paint in “Signature” and applied a single saturated coat to the wall where their television would go. They hung that above a wood console, placed artwork nearby, and added in accessories beside a striped accent chair to finish things off. Now the room feels much more welcoming. “Originally we were quoted $600 for a professional job, but the fact that we did it all in one afternoon for less than $50 was so satisfying,” Katie says.

DIY a graphic mural with paint and tape.

Ammu Cherian describes her old bedroom as an “uncomfortable hospital room.” It had blank gray walls with no decor, and a sole north-facing window that limited the amount of light that came in. She wanted it to feel like a sanctuary where she and her husband could recharge and reconnect as a couple. “Although our home has a multitude of colors painted on the walls, I wanted to keep this space clean, simple, and reflective of our modern yet timeless style of design,” she says. 

Ammu achieved this goal in a weekend by creating a graphic mural on the main wall using a wall-mounted laser level and tape—and because she already owned most of the tools, the paint samples and tape cost less than $20. There’s one more tip she learned from TikTok that ensured that her mural would succeed: “Since my walls are textured, I knew my paint would bleed through the tape if I painted the black paint on directly,” Ammu notes. “So, I first painted a coat of white paint that matched the walls.” Once that coat dried, she used two coats of black paint to create the lines, and then a flat paint brush to fill in any remaining gaps.