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Emily Henderson

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by Arlyn Hernandez
Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via House Beautiful Design By Molly Britt
image via house beautiful | design by molly britt

I totally understand why the “accent wall” was a thing back in the earlier 2000s: it’s a “pop” of color without taking too much of a risk in a room. I mean, if you end up hating that one random purple wall, you can just quickly paint it back…in a quarter of the time as a four-walled room. But here’s the thing about doing just that: well, it looks like you did JUST THAT. It’s like the coward’s approach to bold paint (and I can say that because I’ve been there, painted that in the past). This type of tip-toeing tends to not look very purposeful and gives off “I didn’t really get around to finishing up the paint job in here” vibes, I’m sorry to say it. HOWEVER, I’ve found myself bookmarking and pinning lots of images lately of rooms with…ACCENT WALLS. That being said, they aren’t your ’00s accent walls. Instead, what I’m seeing done really well is accent walls with a purpose. These babies have a new grasp on life. Read on because I’m going to walk you through what the keys to nailing the accent wall of today are with lots of very pretty examples (so get your Pin finger ready).

To Draw Attention to an Architectural Feature

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Brio Interior Design
image and design via brio interior design

First and foremost, using paint to highlight an architectural feature like a fireplace, a special room shape, molding, etc. will always get a thumbs up from me. Here, in a room by Brio Interior Design, the white brick fireplace gets the contrast it needs against a charcoal wall to feel special. When you aren’t working with a flashier tile or surround material, this is a genius way to create a moment out of a pretty basic set up.

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Zillow Design By Ryan White
image via zillow | design by ryan white

Painting built-ins as your “accent wall” helps to pull all the attention something like this (vintage or newly installed) deserves. Whether cabinets or bookcases, make sure to paint any wall bits that show up (for instance, if it’s more like a hutch with bottom cabinetry but shelving up top) the same color so it’s seamless. This works particularly well in a room that might be a little more monotone, like the above shot from a house designed by Ryan White. Yes, the floors are pretty stellar (and um, give me that chair, thanks), but really this appears to be a pass-through space made to be felt important with built-ins in that perfect sage-y hue.

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Apartment Therapy Design By Ligia Baleeiro
image via apartment therapy | design by ligia baleeiro

Had the wall behind that sofa (in an Argentinian home via Apartment Therapy) been painted the same white as the rest of the room, your eye might have missed that unique slope of the wall, but in a bright cerulean, it’s basically the first thing you notice (followed by the beautiful light pouring through the door, the molding and those stunning floors). If you have a room with a different roofline or shape, consider finding a way to accent either it or the space around it to make it shine.

To Bring Interest to An Overlooked Transition Space

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Cote Maison
image via cote maison

“Wow, this is such an inspiring hallway,” said ALMOST no one ever, until now, because I just said it. This might be my absolute favorite version of an accent “wall” on this whole list, except it’s more an accent door/ceiling. The ceilings here appear to be quite tall, so to bring even more attention to them, painting the door up into the overhead space is like a magnet for the eyes. And here’s the thing: had they decided to paint the whole hallway that dark inky blue (which I’m sure would have looked killer, too), would have laid out a totally different mood in here. This way, it still feels bright and airy with just enough visual interest.

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Domino
image via domino

Here’s a similar take on the “paint a door at the end of a hallway” thing from the prior photo just without the whole painted ceiling commitment. I love that they went all in on that sliver of wall, and didn’t just paint the door but rather all the moldings and hardware involved.

To “Distinguish” a Space for a Purpose

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Marion Alberge 1
image and design via marion alberge

Another very smart application of the accent wall is to carve out a “purpose” for a portion of a room without having to put up any walls or get too creative with furniture. In the above room by Marion Alberge, a dining room is distinguished from a much larger living space (that you can’t see in this photo). The slight alcove was the perfect opportunity to do this, so if you have awkward little spaces like that, you might want to consider going the accent wall route.

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Plank + Pillow
image and design via plank + pillow

I love the architecture of this space, but I could see how being all white, it might be a little one-note. The creative minds behind Plank + Pillow smartly too a little niche, clad it in shiplap and painted it a chalky navy to let it act as a workspace. To save money and labor, you can always skip the paneling and just go the route of paint for a similar effect. Note, also, that they painted the baseboard in that section, since that would be a question I myself might have if I were embarking on a similar painting journey: to paint or not to paint the baseboard.

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Architectural Digest
image via architectural digest

Here’s something a little different: painting the majority of the wall to draw attention to a corner. I found this shot on Architectural Digest, and at first, I thought it was a little funny not to commit fully to the paint job (in terms of taking it fully to the corners, ceiling or baseboards) but then I realized that it was the most purposeful way of going about it being that there is more wall beyond the corner, and otherwise they would have had to take the paint all the way across. Leaving the border says “yes, I meant to do this and I’m confident about my choice” which I’m all for.

Emily Henderson Accent Walls via House Beautiful
image via house beautiful | design by molly britt

Goodness this breakfast nook is dreamy, ain’t it? (insert my 3rd-grade teacher’s “ain’t ain’t a word” lesson here). I believe this is Farrow & Ball’s Inchyra Blue (PLUG! this also happens to be the color I went with in my dining room and with lots of bright light, it looks quite different here), and against the white painted brick and the rest of the room, it sings.

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Home Adore Design By Stamp Architecture
image via home adore | design by stamp architecture

I pulled this photo because I think it’s a nice way to use up and feature a sliver of a wall that, in this layout, would likely go to waste. Gallery walls for the win, people. (Also note their use of black frames on the black wall to just let the art itself be the star.)

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Cote Maison
image via cote maison

I know this is a bit “niche” in that most people do not have a full wall of cabinetry in their bedroom (at least, now in the US) with a bed built in, but IN CASE YOU DO, or are thinking up some storage solutions for an upcoming project, painting (and wallpapering??) an inset to place your bed is a great way to make a “headboard” without actually having a headboard.

To Add Contrast to a Basic Room

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Adore Magazine Design By Kate Cooper
image via adore magazine | design by kate cooper

Okay, this one is SMART. It’s no secret that designers and design-aficionados are TV-averse but look, let’s get real…most of us have a television that we need to have displayed openly. However, if you want some ideas as to how to “camoflauge” it, take a cue from Kate Cooper who worked on the above room. The majority of the house this room is in is white, bright and airy, but in the TV-viewing space, she went the route of painting the wall the flatscreen sits on a similar dark hue. This accomplishes two things: 1. the TV is less HUGE BLACK BOX ON BRIGHT WHITE WALL, and 2. it gives this relatively boxy room some contrast.

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Alternative Indigo
image and design via alternative indigo

Accent walls don’t just have to be paint, either. I myself am a little on the fence about the “headboard wall” accent treatment because frankly, I think most rooms don’t need it (I say go all-in in terms of paint in a bedroom, or let the bed and art tell the aesthetic story) but this is where you’re likely to spot it most often on the webs. However, I am pretty into this wood paneling situation. Alexis from Alternative Indigo opted for Stikwood, which is like removable wallpaper but wood veneers! You just peel and stick those bad boys up on the wall. Genius.

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Design Loves Detail
image and design via design loves detail

Design Loves Detail shows another example of the “headboard wall” treatment, just in a nursery. The addition of molding kicks it up like 10 notches.

To Make the Most of Awkward Architecture

Emily Henderson Accent Walls Via Marion Alberge
image and design via marion alberge

And finally, one that won’t apply to most of you, but I wanted to include it because I think it’s so fun. Particularly if you live in an old home with quirky architectural, using an accent wall approach to highlight anything that’s funky or awkward makes the most of your home’s uniqueness. The powder blue wall portion here really plays into the mid-century vibes of this room by Marion Alberge.

Alright, there you have it…the accent wall glow-up. I’m into it…are you?

Also, is there anything “passé” you’ve been seeing lately that you’re like “wait, that’s cool again!”? Let us know in the comments. We love diving in, researching and finding great new ways to approach an old design idea and then sharing with you all here. Can’t wait to hear what you’ve been seeing. Thanks for reading, friends.

  1. An accent wall is “cowardly”? Well now you’ve hurt my feelings, and I shall be stomping off in a huff. 😉

    Seriously though, I just don’t need a reason for an accent wall. I like big pops of color. And I don’t want the whole room to be that dramatic shade. Plus I like to be able to change it up quickly with a new color when I feel like it, without having to repaint an entire room.

    In short: Trends be damned. I don’t care if accent walls are “in” or not. I am Team Accent Wall. 🙂

    1. Agreed! I’ve always loved accent walls. They look modern and graphical whether they’re “in” or “out.” I love how they provide a space for exciting color when you want the rest of the room to be light and bright. I’m willing to bet some of the most pinned rooms feature dramatic accent walls.

  2. Loved the location of the dining room, very cozy

  3. Some of these use of accent colors are so inventive, I especially like the navy blue strip in the hallway, and the accent on that last picture!

    1. I KNOW! These are the types of things that make me stop and think!

      1. this made my day I had totally written them off and the ones in the deep saturated shades are amazing!!

  4. How many accent walls are too many? I love several of these and want to incorporate them into my home

    1. Hmmm…honestly, I would say if they are purposeful (and maybe not any more than one per space), it’s probably okay. But keep in mind that the more you do something in a home, the less of an impact that thing tends to have.

      1. Fantastic point. Thank you for this feedback <3

  5. I once lived in a rental that had an accent wall in every. single. area. with the “accent” being a darker shade of the same color.

    The open first floor was light yellow, with the kitchen painted a darker yellow.

    My bedroom was light brown, with a dark brown accent wall. My bathroom? Same but with red.

    And I’m not talking carefully selected paint shades that play off the wood floor tones or architecture or any of the other ways in which EHD makes us rethink how we feel about things like brown paint (wasn’t there a post about that recently?). It was EXACTLY as tragic as it sounds on the surface.

    For a while it left me feeling like accent walls were somehow stylistically immature and dated? But like Arlyn, I’m realizing I’ve been saving a lot of images recently with, essentially, accent walls! One more example that it’s not about what you do as much as HOW you do it that matters.

    1. Yes there was a post about brown! https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/brown-color-trend
      I remember, about 10 years ago, I was helping my sister pick paint colors, and we did a contrasting “accent wall” color in literally every bedroom. It was hysterical looking back. But that is what we felt we “had” to do to be “stylish.”

  6. You’ve inspired me. I’ve been toying with an accent wall for the entry area in our tiny open concept living room and now i know how to use molding to get it done.

    1. Yay! I’m glad this post helped you.

  7. I love this post! I noticed that the non accent color in all of the photos is white (or whitish). What would you think of an accent wall in a non-white room? Do you have any examples? I usually pick an interesting paint color for my rooms but I liked these photos so much I’m wondering if I need a white room to do this! Thanks!

    1. This could work with other neutral colors, like a pale blue or gray, just keep in mind that everything else, like moldings, must be that color too for it to work like you see here with the “all white” thing.

  8. I’ve always liked accent walls!
    Arlyn….soooo many of your chosen examples are in your gorgeous blueish greenish hue! Love it!
    I’ve been looking at sofas in similar hues lately, trying to choose THE one! It’s hard work. 🙂

    1. ha, I feel seen here. So, it’s obvious blueish green is my spirit color?

      1. I just love your writer’s voice! Ha! and your hues of choice!
        Fun, friendly and inspiring. You clearly lurve what you do! 🙂

        1. thank you!

  9. I absolutely love the image of the hall ceiling painted with the door at the end in the same color. I have the same architecture in my house so I think I’ll try this. My hall is longer and then turns at the door, so I think I would go with a lighter shade. But still impactful.

  10. hhhmmm, I’m not much of a fan of accent walls, especially not in bland homes as a substitute for good architectural design/detail. But, I do like them in architecturally interesting homes, or the painted wall of cabinetry, or an alcove.

    1. I agree with Megan.

  11. This was just the article I needed. I am planning to paint an accent wall in my family room but have been hesitating as the room tends to be a little dark. The 10′ wall has a beautiful mirror with branches going out around it. After seeing this I’m contemplating wrapping it around to the half wall up to my fireplace which is on the end of another short wall. I think I’m going with BM New York State of Mind. Thank you, Emily.

    1. Just looked up that color. SO GOOD!

      1. I agree — awesome color!

  12. I have a charcoal accent wall behind my white stone fireplace, with the same classic ikea black and white ikea rug. I painted it 6 years ago, so I’m now a trend setter!

    I did it to draw attention to the only architectural detail in the room, and to highlight the beauty of the stone. Exactly the reasons you said 🙂

  13. Black accent wall behind giant black TV = genius. My husband insists on a giant 60″ TV in our small family room which screams “HERE! Here is where we do nothing but watch TV!”. However, directly beside the TV wall is a lovely white brick wall against a stark black wood stove, and I think I’m just going to have to surprise him one day by painting the TV wall black and happily watching the TV fade away. Thanks Arlyn! (but I won’t tell on you… ;))

    1. Ha! A friend of mine did this in her home and I was like THIS IS GENIUS.

  14. Marion Alberge is a master of accent walls! I just spent way too much time looking through her projects and they all use this technique masterfully, whether it is paint or wallpaper.

    1. This is my first time seeing her work and I’m really into it.

  15. I have been itching to have a black wall in my house for ages! Dark walls are totally my thing right now!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

    1. Do it!

  16. I wish someone would come up with a new trendy phrase to replace “pop of color.” These examples are terrific, though. Inspiring!

    1. When I hear (or have to write) the phrase “pop of color,” I literally physically cringe. I CANNOT STAND IT. Thank you for bringing light to this very serious issue (ha!)

      1. Ha! My kids make like to make me crazy by randomly saying “a pop of color” because I find that phrase so incredibly annoying.

        Thanks for a great post!

  17. Good post. I actually have (unintentionally) an accent wall and it is… white! I’ve always been a little backwards!!!

  18. As a designer, maybe I was supposed to turn my nose up at accent walls but honestly I have never been opposed to them. I do agree that they were everywhere for awhile and many were not done well but I do think certain rooms/architecture need the accent to bring it to it’s full glory. 🙂 Love the inso pics. Great stuff!

  19. I love posts like these

  20. So smart to let the architecture of a space suggest where an accent might be most beautiful and effective as so many of your great examples do.

    1. Yes, ultimately that’s the biggest lesson here. You hit the nail on the head.

  21. Thank you for the inspiration! These are my favorite type of posts and I have been missing this pure inspiration I come here to find. Your work is beautiful but I love these posts best. Thanks thanks thanks!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it!

  22. Painted my (small) foyer wall black with black map pins in a large harlequin pattern to set off two unusual pieces of three-dimensional art placed over a sideboard. When the wall was white, the art just didn’t appear to have much merit. The black wall elevates the artwork. When I started the project, I wasn’t at all sure I wouldn’t be getting the white paint out again. Nope! The black is lovely. Do it! It’s just paint!

    1. This what I always say — art more often than not looks better on a wall with color than a white one.

  23. I did two accent walls in my house as I was preparing to sell, and one worked really well, the other not so much. But I think the one that didn’t work was just the wrong color. I’m digging silver and cooler, brighter colors anywhere I can find them in interiors! You know, like clear, crisp sky blue with celery green? That was in for a hot minute in 2004.

  24. These are really good examples! Very purposeful and intentional. When accent walls first became a thing, it was randomness that often made them appear lame.

    But I have an issue with the first picture, and it really, really bothered me. I know…

    It’s the kitchen island that’s open to the living area with the sink on it. Are these people the neatest, least sloppy people on the planet? How do you not splash even a little bit when you’re using that sink? That countertop has no lip, so any water will splash over the edge, and if it’s more than just drops, it WILL run over the edge. Onto the wood floor. Into those built-in display shelves on the back side of the island. It’s giving me OCD twinges just looking at it.

    Just me?

    1. Can I purchase the pressed flowers you featured in the entry in the ikea frames on pg 70? Simple and pretty. Love the powder room look also.

      1. Hi Colleen!

        That was a DIY project Emily created with her two little ones (so sadly not for sale). They picked wild flowers and dried them between books!

    2. As a designer and a homemaker and an entertainer in my home, I couldn’t agree with you more. However, I love placing the cooktop in the island/bar. This way, the cook can “entertain” their guests while concocting up wonderful food for them, and be part of the conversation while doing so.

  25. I have an accent wall in my bedroom similar to the one up there with wood planks, except mine is lighter washed cork planks. I love it!!

  26. I feel like for the last few years, the “accent wall” has been in wallpaper rather than paint.

    I do love some of these accent walls, and while I don’t have very many accent walls in our house, we did a few accent walls (or alcove in one case) in dark gray in our basement, and one was the back of the weirdly inset drywall alcove behind the TV and the other is the back wall of an area where we were planning to install a mini-bar (but haven’t yet). At the moment, I love the one behind the TV, but the one behind the not-yet-mini-bar just seems like it draws your eye to a strange location. But once there’s a mini bar there, I can see how it will be much more purposeful. In other areas in the basement, I considered doing some sort of accent – for instance, we painted the fireplace mantel black and I considered taking the black all the way up to the ceiling, but the mantel is already at an angle in a corner, and ductwork makes the ceiling drop down weirdly and the spot where it steps down hits right on that angled wall of the fireplace, so painting the wall black would really draw attention to the weird ceiling line. I’m way more used to this – trying to AVOID drawing attention to weird architecture, and therefore avoiding an accent wall specifically because it would draw attention. I think that’s more of the problem with a lot of the 2000’s accent walls – they were done in newer houses with very little other character and oftentimes shoddy drywall work where they just drew attention to bad things rather than good things.

  27. We live in an 150-year-old English cottage, and when we moved in earlier this year I had a real dilemma about what to do paint-wise in the long, cosy and atmospheric but quite dark living/playroom space, which used to be two rooms so still has remnants of the dividing wall left and two fireplace alcoves, one in each section of the room.

    In the end we painted the two long fireplace walls Stiffkey blue and left the rest of the room, including the divider between the two rooms, in white. Family were dubious to say the least before we did it, and I was worried it would look imbalanced, but it seems to get universal approval now it’s done. What I *hope* it does is make the architectural interest of the room stand out and add some drama without sucking out all the light in a room that is used too much to be a cosy dark blue cave. I took inspiration from Ginny’s living/dining room!

    1. I’m all about taking the chance! Sometimes you just don’t know until it’s done (sadly) but in this case, paint, although an annoying process, is relatively reversible so I’d always say to just go for it. Sounds like you ended up on top of this one!

  28. Not home related but did you know scrunchies are back?! And puka shell necklaces. This is according to my 14 year old niece 😂

    1. HA YES I DO. I honestly can’t believe it. Who decides these things?

    2. About a year ago, I got rid of all my scrunchies from the ’80s and ’90s, and then they came back in style! Really? This is why I save everything–it always comes back in.

  29. Agree!

  30. I love the decoration of a single wall, specifically where the color stands out. It is perfect in any environment and gives a unique decoration touch. Perfect in social areas and rooms. We are also in the hauge of the new trends https://wofs.com

  31. Thanks for including our home office accent wall, and I love all the other walls in the article!

  32. it is really nice and good thanks for thisvisit

  33. Bravo. Inspiration overload. Molly Britt’s dining niche is fabulous.

  34. Inspiring! I found this while searching for solutions for camouflaging a tv. Thank you for the ideas!

  35. Just wondering how to find that beautiful pendant light in dining room done by Marion Alberge? It’s perfect for my dining room

  36. Loving the accent wall inspiration here. Looks extra good especially while working with different textures. Definitely going to try making more use of it for future projects.

    Arvind
    https://www.alankarinteriorsandbeyond.com/

  37. Such beautiful examples! Would love some feedback on how to select colors if there’s a post you could point me to. I live in a log home, so most of the walls are a warm cedar. There is one drywall wall in our main living space that will be a gallery wall and I just don’t know if I lean in to the warm & dark of the wood or try to contrast with bright or cool. ANY thoughts welcome. Thank you for the great post!

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