Accent Wall Alert – Don’t Make This Mistake!

Last week I got an email from a lady in North Carolina looking for approval on her choice of accent walls and color placement.  This is the layout she sent me of her kitchen:

She told me she planned to paint Wall A and Wall C in a very dark green paint color, with white trim and a white chair rail running through the middle of it.  Then she wanted to paint Walls B, D, and E in a beige/earthy tan color below the chair rail and a lighter tan above the chair rail.  She asked me, “Will this work???”



Why, oh why would someone want to do such a thing?  I know why, of course.  It’s because in an open floor plan like this, she believes that her only option for strong or dark color is to paint one or more accent walls, as the color would be “too much” for the entire space.  I certainly agree that dark green would be too much.  Since the ceiling runs unbroken throughout multiple areas of the house, I would NOT recommend painting the ceiling a real color besides white, even though a color on the ceiling works well the dining room I shared on Monday and in this kitchen:

via Pinterest


This is what I recommend:  a beige or gray neutral with a slightly green undertone (rather than fleshy peach or pink, which I suspect she meant by beige/earthy tan) on ALL the walls in this space.  The right color placement is as important as the right paint colors.  Where there is chair rail, apply this color above the chair rail only.  I suggest painting below the chair rail the same white as the trim and the kitchen cabinets, in the same finish (probably semi-gloss).



Now, what about the accent wall?  I do not recommend an accent wall in this space (and certainly not two).  What I would suggest is painting the kitchen chairs like this:

via Pinterest



and adding colorful, patterned curtains on the double window like this:

via Pinterest



and art on Wall A like this:

 via Pinterest



 and maybe some kitchen accessories like this:

via Pinterest


Your wall color can’t always be the STAR of the room, nor should it be in this particular situation.  The paint color on the walls should be a pleasing backdrop to your furnishings and accessories.   If you choose the right neutral one, you can apply real color any number of other ways in the space.  Do you agree with my suggestions for this kitchen?  What would YOU do?

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46 thoughts on “Accent Wall Alert – Don’t Make This Mistake!

  1. Andrea Brooks says:

    Love your suggestions! I know it’s not easy to address every email but way to take a huge potential mistake and turn it into a plan with some real solutions! I’m sure this person will be very grateful!

  2. Holly says:

    Yes! I love your suggestions about adding the accent in forms of pops on the chairs, artwork, etc. I’m surprised how many people I know have accent walls, but I do think people who are a bit color shy think it’s the only way to get the color into the home. But you’ve shown how accents can bring in the desired color that a client is looking for. Nice post Kristie!

  3. Alyson says:

    Great post. You gave that woman your expertise for free, but in sharing it here you helped us all avoid a 1980s mistake. I loved all the visuals.

  4. Sherry says:

    You’re so smart, Kristie :> So many readers love this very kind of post. I bet that gal’s not the only one with these questions! I hope you find that your readership reflects that.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      I still see LOTS of accent walls around here. I think mainly they are done out of fear. Fear of a “blah” neutral room or fear of dark or “real” color on all the walls. There are situations where I think they are a good choice, but certainly not in this case!

  5. Paula Van Hoogen says:

    Kristie, you made me laugh out loud with that “OH NO” slide :0) I love your sense of humor….and the beautiful and logical color choices. It’s like putting a great outfit together….NO dark green socks with white slacks and pinky beige sweater. OKAY!???

  6. maria macdonald says:

    Hi Kristie I have just found this site and I think it’s great!!! I also have a question my living room is a rectangle shape its not very big; I thought about adding an accent wall but the wall that has a fireplace also has a door on either end (you have to access the kitchen via the living room) do you think it would draw too much attention to the doors if i accented that wall or should I just paint all the walls neutral and have coloured accents like you mention with the kitchen above. My colour scheme was going to be purple and grey.

  7. Paula says:

    Hello Kristie,
    Thanks for a very helpful and informative post with great pictures to illustrate your point! My daughter in law, who lives in Clarksville, TN, recently called you to get a plan for her living room. I recommended that she use your services since I have benefited so much from reading your blog. I thought you gave her a great place to get started. Thanks!

  8. Kelly says:

    I’m with you- fabrics and accesories are the best way to bring in color. I love all your pictures! The chairs, the window treatments, the cow! and the beautiful flowers on counter. So pretty!

  9. Terri says:


    I adore your website.  I came across it while searching for ideas on painting an accent wall.  Thanks to your recommendations and photos, my wall placement was confirmed.

    I am desperately searching for that perfect "beige or gray neutral with a slightly green undertone" that you mentioned in your accent wall article "Don't Make This Mistake".  I especially admired the color you used on the dining room wall with the collection of white and bone colored plates.  Would love to know the name and manufacturer of that color, as well as other similar colors…

    Will be visiting your site frequently!

  10. Berenice says:

    Hi Kristie,

    I am thinking of painting an accent wall in my living room and I wanted it to be the one with the TV. This wall is continuous with the dining room with a door opening to the guest bedroom in between and I am worried that it will be too long of an accent wall! Do you think it will be ok or should I consider the wall behind the couch which is shorter and stays within the confines of the living room? Thanks!

  11. Natalie says:

    I would love to send you a picture of the layout of my bedroom, because I'm not sure which wall to accent. Anyway I can do that?(:

  12. Melissa says:

    Oh my gosh, I am so glad I found this! I am in the process of choosing the wall color for my living room/dining/kitchen and was pondering an accent wall (which I secretly abhor and always have unless it is something really interesting like wood plank or something). My walls suck and I can’t go too dark so I plan to do light greige walls throughout. I ordered an L sectional with boxed cushions and track arms in a sandy beige and I have a large wood dresser I plan to paint a bold green convert to a media center. The other colors are navy (Fallon Zig Zag pattern) and pops of yellow or possibly orange (not sure yet). So the colors are only in things that are interchangeable. Does this sound like it would work?

  13. AN says:

    I hope I’m not too late to this discussion.

    I am planning to redo my bedroom which is currently in neutral beige and cream. We have a squarish room with a four poster and a window opposite the bed and another window at right angles to the bed.
    I was planning to use teal and red for the decor….warm white walls, teal curtains with a lovely print (Lassiter Caribbean by Pindler) and the red accents in the form of two small 12″ square paintings above the bedside lamps , a Turkish area rug and the bedspread as well as the upholstery on a small swing that we have placed in the corner of the room.

    I wanted to paint the wall behind the bed teal to make the paintings pop and also tie in with the curtains. Would this be a mistake?

  14. Abhiruchi says:

    Hello, I have a question for the kids room. Its a 10 ft – 12 ft room with built-in cupboards (covering half the wall) in the wall opposite to the door (entrance extreme right). I was planning to put an accent colour on the left wall (which is the wall you see prominently and doesn’t have any built-in’s, obstructions etc). It is university (rental) housing though (which means old style cupboards,, off-white colour throughout the house). Accent wall seems to be the way to go to bring some colour into the house and what can be more perfect that babies room. I was thinking of something in orange (to be precise the nippon florist yellow
    NP AC 2052 A). I have some white ikea shelving, a bright rug and his crib with multi-coloured bedding (based in yellow-orange-reds and cicus theme). Please suggest. Am I doing the right thing? I am planning to put a some nice fun frames over the accent wall and have some colourful frames on the non-accented walls.

  15. Paula says:

    My accent wall has a cold air return vent about 8″ x 12″. It is about six inches from the ceiling. Should the vent be painted the accent color or remain white? Thanks so much!

      • Carol says:

        Help! After researching for a year I took the plunge and painted my slightly rectangle well proportioned “good room” walls and deep skirting board in Hague Blue. F & B. The house is 1912 with white wood panels under each of the 3 Windows a nd lots of white woodwork. There’s white above picture rail and a very high white ceiling. I wanted to get a navy velvet deep seated sofa and make it all opulent. But now think maybe I need an accent wall maybe metallic to lift the heaviness of the room. Or do I just lighten it with bright lamps and a mad splash of colour from a pink rug for example. If really appreciate some direction. Thank you c

  16. Yilen says:

    I’m having an issue with my new home as well. As you enter you see the stairs/hallway/and living room at once and once you close the door you can see the dinning room. Its a home from ’86 so its rooms and rooms. I originally wanted grey all over the house and then I’d choose either an accent wall(some sort of blue shade) in the dinning room or living room and the room without the accent wall, i’d end up using accent pieces to give the room a little pop. My dilemma is which room to give the accent wall ….the room you see first or the room you see after you close the front door…. ?
    I would have done a nice flow but the stairway ends up separating both the living room and dinning room.

    The rest of the home I have covered, the family room which no one sees until they reach the back of the home I was going to paint it the same color that I put throughout the whole home (since the hallway flows into the family room….and just paint a darker grey on the wall where the fireplace is…especially since the fireplace is from the ceiling to the floor and very wide, so the darker grey to make it pop isnt much wall on the sides (room isn’t as big either).

    But yeah…any who… my entryway is my issue and I can’t seem to make up my mind.

  17. Pingback: Please Do It Right, or Don’t Do It At All – The Accent Wall

  18. Erica says:


    I just found your website and love finding all the great advice and seeing your fantastic designs. I was looking into painting a accent wall and now realize it’s not such a good idea. We are purchasing a house with an open concept plan where the ceiling is open to all the common rooms. We are thinking of painting close to a revere pewter because of beige-y tiles. I love the look of the turquoise ceiling in another post, but understand I cannot do that. How do you think if will look to paint the ceiling a 50/50 white/gray mix? Or should I consider painting it all the same gray? Or should I really just leave it white? If it make a difference, most of the light comes in from the West. Thanks for your help!!!!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      No, don’t white down the paint 50/50! Maybe you use an accent color on the ceiling that will work well with Revere Pewter on the walls. Try BM’s Greyhound – it looks great with Revere!

  19. Jenny B. says:

    Hi Kristie! I know this post is old, but I got lost in the links under today’s post and just found myself here (I very much enjoyed my detour). 🙂 I am wondering… Do you still recommend painting the area below a chair rail the same color and finish as the trim? What if the drywall is textured? I have a chair rail in my breakfast nook and knockdown textured drywall, and I am not sure what to do. 🙂 Thanks!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Good question, Jenny – Yes, I still recommend painting below the chair rail the same color and finish as the trim. Is the texture the same above and below the chair rail? Of course, smoother walls gives a more finished look, but I’m not sure it would change my recommendation.

  20. clem griffiths says:

    I have to paint 5 upstairs bedrooms and a bathroom and on the negative side the house suffers from insufficient lighting. That being said I want to do something that is refreshing and pleasing to the eye for 2014. The floor is a medium dark brown to chocolate laminate , dark but not coffee dark there are some golden hues in there.

    I was thinking of a family of colors and using a color from the family of colors for an accent wall for each room. I really want to come away with a wow ! effect. Any ideas on what is hot for 2014 and which palette I could consider. ?

  21. Mary says:

    Hi Kristie!
    I just signed the lease for a wellness center in my town and need help with painting. Here’s a pic of the office:
    I’m trying to decide what walls to accent. I’d like to use a light neutral color and a light green color to accent. Any suggestions? Thanks for all your expertise!!

  22. Kris says:

    I painted my kitchen a dark green. All cabinetry is shaker white with a black island. The family room has a large opening between the kitchen and family room and it is encased in white trimmed wood. The fireplace wall is at the far end and is on a 17′ wide wall, facing the kitchen. We are redoing the 6′ 8″ wide fireplace by drywalling over the top brick. We are dropping the mantle a few inches and replacing it with a new white mantle. In addition we are encasing the lower part of the fireplace in shaker white trim. Black and gray granite matching the kitchen counter tops will be inside the trim and on the top of the hearth. I want to paint the family room the same cream color as the foyer, which abuts the family room but paint either the drywalled top of the fireplace or the entire wall the fireplace is placed on the same dark green as the kitchen. Does this work? This wall is opposite the kitchen, facing towards it. The room is 21 feet long by 17 feet wide. The fireplace which sits on the 17′ wide wall. Thoughts?

  23. Tina says:

    Is it possible to do a light colored accent wall? My kitchen is open to the dining and living room. The kitchen cabinets are espresso so I wanted a lighter color backsplash to keep the kitchen from falling into darkness. I was hoping to use the same color on the wall surrounding my fireplace to tie the space together. I was looking at Olympic silverberry for the walls and a shade lighter for the backsplash and accent wall. Is this a mistake?

  24. Darlene Bahr says:

    I have a large living room/dining room, all walls are a very light peach, one wall is all windows facing the lake, my accent colors for pillows and rugs are turquoise and brown, all furniture white. What would be a good accent color for one wall?

  25. Pingback: How to Choose an Accent Wall

  26. Ellen says:

    I am painting my living room. When you walk in the front door, you see 8 ft wall with fire place and window. The wall opposite is 17 ft. I want to paint one of the walls camo blue and the other 3 seafoam white. Please advise. Thanks

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