Accent Walls Too Predictable? Surprising Alternatives to Try Now

Accent walls have been a popular decorating trend for years. The idea is simple – paint one wall a bold color or attention-grabbing finish to make it the focal point of the room. When done right, an accent wall can really transform the look and feel of a space. However, accent walls have become so commonplace that they can start to feel cliche and predictable. If you’re ready to reimagine your rooms, read on for creative alternatives to traditional accent walls using color, texture, pattern, and more.

The Rise and Pitfalls of Accent Walls

Accent walls first came onto the scene in the 1980s and 90s. Interior designers realized that painting one wall a contrasting color was an easy, affordable way to add drama and visual interest to a room. The accent wall served as a decorative focal point and instantly livened up monotonous, neutral spaces.

For many years, accent walls maintained their popularity because they allowed homeowners to quickly update their interiors. A simple coat of bold paint could make a room feel new again. However, as accent walls became ubiquitous in suburban developments and flip houses, they also started to feel tired and unoriginal.

are accent walls out of style

Beyond just seeming cliche, traditional accent walls also have some practical downsides. Painting a single wall an entirely different color can disrupt the cohesion and flow between rooms. Accent walls also tend to dominate a space, limiting how you can use other design elements like furniture arrangement. And if not executed thoughtfully, a random bold wall can feel jarring and compartmentalize a room rather than enhance it.

Thinking Beyond the Accent Wall

Does this mean you have to avoid accent walls entirely? Not necessarily. The key is approaching accent walls intentionally, not just as a trend. When designed well, a focal wall can still highlight a room’s architecture, reflect light beautifully, and showcase prized furnishings or art.

The days of arbitrarily picking one wall and coating it in a bright color are over. But there are countless creative ways to add drama, focal points, texture, and color to a room without relying on a single bold accent wall. Consider these modern alternatives for creating standout spaces with depth and dimension.

Using Color Creatively Without a Bold Accent Wall

If you’re tempted to paint an accent wall but find the idea too expected, there are other ways to incorporate color throughout a room.

Paint Architectural Details

Rather than painting an entire wall, use color on architectural elements like trim, windows, built-ins, and ceilings. The smaller pops of color highlight specific features without overwhelming the room. You can paint window frames a vivid shade or try bright colors on crown molding, baseboards, and door trim for a bold statement.

Incorporate Color Through Furniture and Accessories

Add colorful accents with furnishings and accessories like pillows, rugs, and artwork instead of committing to a full accent wall. Coordinate these pinks, greens, or blues with more subtle wall colors to prevent the room from becoming chaotic. This allows you to switch up colors over time as trends and tastes change without repainting the entire wall.

Use Color to Draw Attention to Specific Wall Features

If your room has unique architectural elements like niches, arched windows, or asymmetrical angles, use color to highlight these details. Painting inside a niche or just around a unique window shape draws attention to the features without starkly splitting up the room.

Paint Adjacent Walls Different Colors

For a bold but coordinated look, consider painting two or three adjacent walls in contrasting colors. This creates a color-blocked effect that feels more intentional than one random accent wall. Just be sure to choose colors that complement each other to avoid a disjointed look. This technique works especially well in modern and contemporary spaces.

Incorporating Texture and Pattern

While many accent walls rely on color for drama, texture and pattern also create stunning focal points. Here are creative ways to add visual interest with diverse materials and surfaces.

Natural Textured Materials

Wood, exposed brick, and stone add gorgeous natural texture to walls. For a modern accent wall, install reclaimed wood planks or brushed metal panels. Or expose original brick walls and limewash them in muted earthy hues for an industrial chic aesthetic. Large-scale stone or ceramic tile can also make a textural statement.

Elevated Wallpaper

Forget about dated wallpaper. New removable papers allow you to cover walls in chic patterns and textures. Try an organic grasscloth print or bold geometrics to accent a wall with the classic look of wallpaper. Modern papers also mimic other textures like wood, marble, concrete, and fabric.

Mixed Textures and Patterns

Don’t limit yourself to just one texture or patterned wallpaper. Mixing various materials creates depth and visual interest. For example, install shiplap boards over part of the wall and wallpaper on another section. Or combine sandstone tiles, rustic wood beams, and a plaster finish.

Paint Finishes

Beyond just color, different paint finishes also add wonderful texture. A glossy lacquered finish reflects light beautifully and adds a sleek visual pop. Matte paint looks ultra-modern, while Venetian plaster or color-washing lend an old world charm. Metallic paints create an edgy, glamorous statement.

Creative and Unexpected Places for Drama

Accent walls traditionally appear on the largest, most visible walls in a room. But today’s designers get creative with where they add bold color and texture. Here are some surprising spaces to make your focal point.


Look overhead for your accent surface. Vivid color or graphic wallpaper on a ceiling makes a stunning statement. This works especially well if you have architectural beams or other interesting ceiling details to highlight.

Interior Doors

Use a vibrant paint color or modern grasscloth wallpaper on a set of interior doors or just one statement door. This unexpected pop of color and texture grabs attention while still allowing walls to recede.

Wall Niches and Shelving

Highlight built-in shelves or wall niches by painting or papering the back panels. You can use a different color than surrounding walls or a coordinating print. This showcases books, artwork, and beloved objects creatively.


Paint a fireplace surround or tile the entire brick fireplace wall in a bold color for a striking accent. This directs eyes toward the natural focal point of the fireplace in an unexpected way.

Stair Risers

Use color or pattern on stair risers to jazz up a staircase. Contrasting riser colors add a fun pop of color as you walk up the stairs. Wallpapering individual risers makes a striking artistic statement.

Accent walls aren’t inherently bad, but the overuse of this once-trendy decorating idea has made traditional bold painted walls feel uninspired and predictable. Luckily, there are endless creative alternatives for adding color, texture, and visual intrigue to your spaces.

The next time you’re tempted to paint a random wall dark blue or bright red, pause and think about your overall design vision. How can you use color, pattern, materiality, lighting, and furniture to create focal points and interest? Approach your room as a whole, not just an accent wall.

You can still achieve that wow-factor from an accent wall without it looking expected. Mix materials, think unconventionally, embrace color and texture throughout a space, and highlight architecture and form. Reimagine your rooms in inspired new ways to enjoy spaces with depth, vision, and creativity.

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