Accent wall update part deux! Trends in wallpaper accent walls

I wrote about wallpaper accent walls last spring, but since we’re seeing them EVERYWHERE, I think we should examine the latest trends. Don’t you?

But first, a reminder: follow the same rules you would for PAINTED accent walls. Accentuate unbroken, prominent walls. The best wall is usually the first one you see when you enter the room.

Gray geometric wallpaper accent wall

  • Trend #1: more wallpaper accent walls behind beds…as headboards, really.

Green and white wallpaper accent wall behind bed

Metallic wallpaper accent wall behind bed as headboard

  • Trend #2: framed wallpaper.

Yellow and white wallpaper framed

  • Trend #3: Wallpaper accents in nooks and insets.  Below, the wallpaper (which I’m pretty certain is by Manuel Canovas) turns a potentially awkward space into an interesting feature.

Toile wallpaper on bedroom inset wall

  • Trend #4: Wallpaper on fireplace walls. I have mixed feelings about this one. I don’t generally recommend wallpapering a fireplace wall; I think the fireplace provides enough of a focal point. But the wallpaper is a sweet addition here…

Floral wallpaper around fireplace

…and here, where it frames the fireplace most effectively.

Black and white wallpaper accent wall

Seeing as how I seem to be on a one-woman campaign to bring wallpaper into every single house on the planet, I’ll leave you with a few more thoughts:

  • Remember that wallpaper accent walls are especially terrific if you don’t have a lot of art.
  • Wallpaper accent walls can be particularly interesting in a stairwell. Try this instead of hanging family pictures up the stairs, as so many of us do. That’s a fine look, but unless each photograph is double-hung, they’re going to get knocked off-kilter every time your toddler (or teenager, or Goldendoodle) bounds down the stairs. How fabulous is this Osborne & Little dog wallpaper? It’s called, appropriately, “Best in Show.”

Osborne & Little black and white dog wallpaper

And of course you remember Nina Campbell’s Paradiso wallpaper in bossy color’s stairwell.

Nina Campbell's Paradiso wallpaper

  • Finally, do not do a wallpaper accent wall in a really tiny space, like a powder room. Go big and do the whole room, or leave it alone.

Farrow & Ball Rosslyn wallpaper in powder room

Wallpaper, Gentle Readers. An accent wall is the easiest way yet to make it your friend.

Many thanks to everyone who submitted questions to The Washington Post’s Home Chat last week with Jura Koncius! An excerpt ran in yesterday’s Local Living section of the Post. Thank 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. Mary says

    Since I couldn’t afford wallpaper, I did an all-over stencil on the wall behind my headboard. I loved it at first. But after living with it for awhile, I began to feel like the room wasn’t balanced.

    The wall had the stencil, headboard, nightstands, lamps & art. The opposite wall had just a dresser.
    It began to bother me so much I ended up painting over it. Good thing I didn’t pay for expensive wallpaper.

  2. Kari says

    Unbroken means no windows, right? The wall I first see in my bedrooms always has a window in it. I’ve been wondering what to do about that. So do the window wall or another wall without a window?

  3. Elizabeth Meister says

    Annie! I was researching using wallpaper for the back of my kitchen island and here you are, and here is your post! Serendipitous. What do you think: wallpaper the back of an island? Will it hold up? Don’t forget the THREE children who will attempt to destroy whatever we do back there. But we want some color and attitude, after holding back everywhere else so our little brooklyn townhouse doesn’t feel too cramped . . .

  4. says

    Hi, E!! Very interesting idea. There’s no question that in this high-traffic, high-impact space – with 3 little ones, no less! – you’re tempting fate. That said, if you look for VINYL wallpaper, it has a fighting chance. I’m not sure how hip wall coverings in vinyl are these days, but that’s the route I’d have you go. The upside, if you find the right pattern, is that we’re not talking about a lot of square footage. This = inexpensive and easy to replace if it gets too ooky.

    Another idea: chalboard paint with a soap dish of chalk screwed right onto the island “wall?”

    Let me know what you do, E! Great to hear from you!
    Annie xo

  5. says

    Hi, Kari! All rules are made to be broken, let’s not forget :) Is this the wall with your bed against it? The wall w/ your bed would take precedence as the accent wall. If it happens to be the first wall you see, so much the better, but life is imperfect. Does that help?

  6. says

    Thanks for writing in, Mary! Alternatives would have been a stronger color and artwork on the non-stenciled walls, or stenciling the whole darn room, if you liked the pattern enough. I hope you’re liking your room now – good for you for experimenting!

  7. Kate says

    Annie! I’m looking at houses for us to move to (offer on our adorable little house in wrong school district on the table), and lo, no one has updated in years. Results of a bad midwest housing market, perhaps? I find myself wishing for your no nonsense voice to help me figure out what I can and cannot deal with.

    That’s really it. That, and I’m wondering if I can find some sort of inoffensive (HA!!) hockey wallpaper for an accent wall, rather than the tired hockey wallpaper border/chair rail I have currently for Son Number One.

    Thanks for all of your posts.

  8. Kari says

    Thanks for the help! In one of the rooms I’m thinking of, I think the bed (crib) will be on the wall opposite the window. So that means it will be on the same wall where the door is. Maybe that will just have to be the accent wall! I feel like the windows in my kids’ rooms make it hard to determine where the beds should go. I need to learn the “rules” for that.

  9. says

    I love the idea of having an accent wall a different color, not so sure if I would do wallpaper though. Great pictures, love the inspiration!

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