Accent wall update! New trends in accent walls

Like stainless steel appliances, painted accent walls are here to stay. Fascinatingly, after more than five — count ’em: 5! — years of blogging, The Accent Wall: Friend or Foe? remains one of my most-read posts. Can you believe it?

I’ll be honest: I still have mixed feelings. But there are several trends in accent walls that give me comfort.

  • Paint PART of a wall to emphasize a particular object. The Bossettes went to hear my hero, Jamie Drake, speak recently, and we were fascinated by his use of contrasting paint behind a freestanding bookcase. (Did you catch that? Freestanding, not built-in. So bold.)

Tragically, I can’t find a picture of that, but here’s a similar flash of Jamie Drake genius: in the 2012 Kips Bay Show House, he used white on part of a wall to highlight the art.

Jamie Drake's grasscloth room in the 2012 Kips Bay show house

  • Paint the “fireplace column.” That’s not a real term. But you know what I mean?  Not the whole wall, just the space above and around the fireplace.

Gray fireplace accent wall

  • Insets make for terrific accent walls. Why, how shocking: this gorgeous space ALSO is by Jamie Drake!

Jamie Drake's pink dressing room

Less glam, but still on-trend (yep, still hate that phrase!) is a painted inset bossy color did recently. (Also file this under “painted bookcases”):

Brown accent wall, inset accent wall

  • Paint the surrounding walls white — or another super-super–light color) to keep the overall look fresh and modern. High contrast is best. See how dated the khaki walls make this room look? (Sorry, Herrell remodeling on Houzz…)

Green accent wall with khaki

  • Black is the edgiest accent wall.

Black accent wall in bedroom

Hey, look at this! Another black accent wall in a nursery! There’s hope for the next generation after all.

Black, white and yellow nursery

So those are the trends in accent walls…and then there are a few rules. I’m sure you already know them, but let’s review just to be safe:

  • The accent wall should be the main wall in the room i.e.: behind the bed or behind the sofa. Ideally, it will be the first wall you see in the room.
  • An unbroken wall is the best accent wall. The fewer door and window openings, the better.

Orange accent wall

Want to ask me a question about an accent wall — or anything else? You’re in luck! I’ll be the guest designer on The Washington Post’s Home Chat this Thursday – aka tomorrow, February 14, Valentine’s Day! You can even submit a question in advance RIGHT HERE. I hope to hear from you!

Quoted in publications from The New York Times to The Washington Post to Real Simple magazine, Annie Elliott is considered an expert in color, residential space planning, and telling people what to do in the nicest way possible. Her interior design firm, bossy color, has been serving residents in the greater Washington, D.C. area since 2004.


  1. says

    Bossy girl, you and I are on the same page! Great article, great tips. I like doing the backs of bookcases and the occasional firebox in an accent color. Oh, but you forgot the perfect accent wall: the ceiling! Well, I’m sure you didn’t forget, it’s just my favorite way to accent with color (but only if the walls are neutral).

  2. Julie says

    We are about to paint the nursery in our home gray. I would love to do a darker gray accent wall. But the first wall you see when you look in the room is not the wall that the crib will go against. It also has a window. Do you think we should do the windowless wall with the crib as the accent wall?

  3. lindsey says

    I love these ideas. I am not sure where exactly I’ll be incorporating color accent walls yet, but I am thinking I want to paint my whole house interior (not bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen or dining room) WHITE! What is a good white color that is not too stark?
    I will be putting down medium hard wood floors (If I can ever find a prefinished one I like with wide planks). I want to do a pewter and purple dining room, and I love the turquoise, blue, purple, gray and pearl type accent colors. (with splashes of yellow accessories). That will be the overall palette of the house, but again, white walls.
    Any suggestions?

  4. Kerry says

    Hi there,
    I’d like to ask your advice. We have a long open plan TV lounge / dining room. I’m considering painting PART of the long wall in an accent colour. It’s the part behind the TV unit, more or less the width of the TV lounge part of the open plan space, and I think it would be great area to draw attention to. But can you part only part of a wall in an accent colour? Would that look crazy? Are there any tricks to pulling it off well? I’d really appreciate your help!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *