When to Paint an Accent Wall

Interior accent wall painting is often a fast and inexpensive way to make an ordinary room look extraordinary. By painting a contrasting colour to the room’s adjoining walls, we create a new and pronounced dimension of depth to make the space seem longer, shorter, wider, narrower and sometimes taller or shorter than a monochromatic paint color scheme will allow. The question is, what accent will give you the new dimension and appearance you’re looking for?

Color pronounces our perception of light and space. This perception produces an emotional response depending on how we perceive the light in the space to create feelings of warmth, coziness, vibrancy or calmness, for example. And with the addition of accent wall painting, you can dramatically alter the feel of the entire interior space not only by adding another dimension to the room but also by having the surrounding paint colour read differently to the eye. So the first thing you want to establish when choosing your paint colour palette is how you want the space to feel.

Case in point, we’re working on residential interior condo in downtown Toronto for a devout Toronto Maple Leafs fan. So naturally, he wanted his whole condo painted in dark blue and white to really immerse himself in his beloved team. Now, the entire condo is less than 500 square feet with the open living space itself representing less than half of that. Pretty tight condominium space for a dark blue accent wall. And the Toronto Maple Leafs’ blue is so dark in fact that it would cut the intensity of daylight captured through the window in half by painting just one wall! Also, because the living and dining room are one long and narrow open space, painting such a deep colour on one of the long side walls would really crowd the room to make it seem even longer and narrower.

But what’s important here is how the customer wants to feel in his condo. He wants his paint colors to reflect the passion and enthusiasm that he has for his team. And the long side wall in this case was the only partition wall he could hang the flat screen TV and the framed pictures of his Toronto hockey heroes. Looking further into the rest of the colors surrounding the room, the larger furniture was all black. The TV, black. And the frames and matting of his hockey portraits were black and Leafs Blue. So painting this accent wall in a deep dark blue was really going to cramp the space and over power his prized possessions so they were hardly noticeable.

So what do you do when you MUST have a certain really dark accent colour but don’t have the space for it? You bring it down a couple of notches. Tone it down and brighten it up with a mid-tone version of the same deep colour you’re going for. The result? The space appears bigger. The artwork and furniture stand out rather than getting lost in the darkness and the overall contrast is less shocking and more comfortable to eye over long periods of time. But most importantly, it feels like the vision you were going for in your mind because the accent colour is still bold and rich, but allows enough light to reflect off it to truly enjoy the paint colour in all lights, day and night. In this case, by sheer coincidence, we chose Benjamin Moore “Toronto Blue” as the accent colour for this space which just happened to be half the tint value of the almost black-blue the customer originally wanted and now looks fantastic! It couldn’t look more “Toronto Maple Leafs” if the team decorated the condo themselves!

If you start with the basics in choosing your colour palette, you can’t go wrong. Start with how you want to feel when using the space. Invigorated? Soothed? Focused? Then, look carefully at the colors in the room that will be there after you paint. The furniture. The window dressings. The wall hangings. Then, generally speaking, choose a light or medium tone colour that is a complimentary or neutral thread through all of these items. Be sure to check your colour behind each room element in both day and night lighting. Or at least in the lighting you’re most often using the space. Then decide the prominent display you’d like to feature after the painting is done. It could be a painting or some other piece of art or wall hanging you enjoy and pick out an accent colour from it. It could be ever so slight strokes of red or chocolate or eggplant barely noticeable from afar but found in the small details of the piece.This is a good place to start in choosing your accent colour. And if you’ve done your “homework” correctly in choosing the paint colour for the rest of the room based on a common thread of all room elements described earlier, then your main colour will also be compatible with this feature piece you’re getting your accent colour from. And Voila! Instant designer colour palette!

Now all you have to do is choose which wall to paint your accent colour. An easy way to decide is by choosing either the wall you look at most or the wall you’re seen against most (as in an entry hall, for example, with the accent colour behind you as you open your front door). In the case of painting a living room, for instance, people often watch TV against a wall they look at most of the time when they’re in that room. An accent colour behind a TV or a piece of wall art also allows you to feature them prominently when positioned against a rich background. On the other hand, in painting a bedroom it’s very popular to paint the headboard wall an accent colour to give the illusion of a bigger bed and present a grander, more sophisticated look to the room. But here again, we have the feature of the room (the bed) being displayed in front of accent colour. Of course, you can decide where you’d prefer to add your splash of colour to any room with an accent wall, but start your decision-making process by considering the wall where all eyes turn most and you can’t go wrong.