An accent wall — a wall painted a different color than the other walls in the room — is a great way to create contrast and ramp up the style factor in any room.
But when you’re choosing an accent wall and color, you have to be careful to choose the right splash of color.
Here’s how you can choose the perfect accent wall color for any room in the house, no matter your color preferences.
Assess Your Color Palette
Before you choose a single paint swatch, you need to assess the color palette of the room.
Your color palette is a group of colors that always look good together. They highlight each other and meld well together.
By using a cohesive color palette, you can focus your design and bring the whole room together.
If you’re creating a color palette from scratch, stick to three to five colors. Here are a few common types of color palettes:
- Monochromatic (shades of the same color, best for those who fear color)
- Harmonious (calm and relaxing, colors that are right next to each other on the color wheel)
- Complementary (colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, standing alone and contrasting nicely)
If you need somewhere to start, pick a white, a neutral, a saturated or bold color, one extra color, and your accent color.
Warm Color Theory vs. Cool Color Theory
If you’re not sure where in the color wheel you want your room to fall, it’s time to turn to color theory.
Warm colors (red, orange, yellow, gold, etc.) pull the wall towards the eye. They’re bright and vibrant. Reds create a feeling of energy and enthusiasm, orange is friendly and inviting without being in-your-face, and yellow lends a sense of brightness and cheerfulness.
That said, because warm colors draw the eye, they can make a room look smaller. Since the colors seem to leap toward the eye, they make the wall seem shorter. Warm color accent walls are best at the end of a long, narrow room, as they make the room seem more spatially balanced.
Cool colors (blue, green, purple, etc.) on the other hand are more subdued. Cool accent walls, especially in lighter colors, can make a room seem larger.
Blue, in particular, is often viewed as a relaxing, reliable color. Light blues create a feeling of serenity and airiness, while dark blues like navy are associated with intelligence and sophistication.
Because green is often associated with plants, it can have a harmonizing effect. Lighter greens are associated with freshness, while dark greens have a sense of growth and stability.
Define Visual Temperature
Part of choosing an accent wall is knowing the visual temperature of a room and how it affects your color scheme.
When we say temperature, in this case, we aren’t referring to the physical warmth or coolness of the room. Visual temperature is the psychological effect that a room’s colors and natural light have on our perception of warmth or coolness.
The best way to figure out your visual temperature is to figure out which way your windows face:
- North: less direct light throughout the day, making the room appear colder
- South: the sunniest rooms in the house, which means colors are intensified and the room feels warmer
- East: most light in the morning, and that light is more yellow
- West: most light from the sunset
If you have an east-facing room you plan to use later in the day, you need to use warmer colors to offset the lack of natural light. If you have a west-facing room you plan to use in the evening, like a bedroom, you’ll want cool colors–warm colors can be overwhelming at that time of day.
Consider the Room’s Purpose
When choosing an accent color, it’s also important to consider the room’s purpose.
For example, let’s say you’re painting an accent wall in a dining room. You might love blues and cool colors, so your instinct is to reach for blue paint.
The problem is that blue is a calming color and an appetite suppressant. That’s because blue doesn’t show up naturally in food that much, so our brain is hardwired to see blue and tamp down on our appetite.
That’s great for a relaxing bedroom when you want to calm down and slow your metabolism so that you can sleep.
But if you’re in a kitchen and want to stimulate energy and metabolism, you’d be better suited to red.
Choose the Right Wall
You also need to choose the right wall to serve as your accent wall.
The best accent wall is the wall that stands out when you walk into a room. It’s the wall your eye naturally lands on.
That said, you don’t want your accent wall to be too big — otherwise, it overwhelms the eye.
You also don’t want a wall that’s too obscured or too bare.
A wall that’s too bare will pop too much and make the whole room feel out of whack. A wall that’s too obscured loses the effect of the accent color, defeating the whole point of the accent wall.
Need Help Choosing an Accent Wall Color?
Choosing an accent wall color means thinking about what kind of impact you want your room to have.
It can be a fun process–you can spend time defining your interior design style and create a room that’s uniquely you.
But when it comes to painting the wall? That’s a separate issue entirely. You have to clean the space, prep the wall, choose the right paint for the type of room, and paint the wall properly.