The RIGHT Wall to Paint An Accent Color

I previously shared the entry and living room of this recent project in a traditional suburban neighborhood.  Now I’m revealing how we transformed the dining room of this home and how we chose the perfect accent wall for this space.

Melanie G Photography


This room started out as a front parlor that held the family’s piano and everything else that had no real home.  As you entered the front door, this was the first room you saw.  The paint was white on white.  On white. 

Dining Room Before


We decided to move the piano to the dining room on the opposite side of the hall and making that room the family’s music room.   The dining room then moved into the hodge-podge room that previously held the piano.  The new music room was the perfect place to gather all the family’s musical instruments and to hang a gallery of family photographs.  My client had found a gilded antique settee at the Nashville Flea Market, but wasn’t sure what to do with its stained upholstery.  It sat in the front parlor, as well.

 Gilded Settee Before


A local upholsterer covered it in gauzy fabric and ruffles, and we moved it into the adjoining living room.  You can see more of this room in this post.

Gilded Settee After


Ok, back to the dining room.  Here again is the “before” of the room, taken from the front entry.  As a Nashville Paint Color Consultant, I find that many people want to have a colorful accent wall, mainly because they are afraid to paint the entire room in their choice of color.  So, they paint three of the walls a neutral color and paint one wall their chosen accent color.  So in this room, which wall would you choose to paint an accent color?



Did you guess which wall I picked to accent?  Ok, it’s not technically a wall – it’s the ceiling.

nashville designer dining room

Shabby Coastal Dining Room by The Decorologist, Melanie G Photography


It’s a much prettier view from the entry now.  The wall color in the entry is the same as the dining room, and the room beyond is a lighter version of the blue we painted on the ceiling of the dining room.  This creates a good flow of the color palette throughout the space, without making it look choppy.  You can see the makeover of the entry in this post.

blue designer room

 Melanie G Photography


Here’s a view from the other side of the dining room through to the entry and across the way into the new music room. The mismatched dining chairs keep the look informal and fun, while complementing the established color palette.

mismatched dining chairs

Dining Room by The Decorologist


From the adjoining living room, this is what you used to see before the makeover:  not much interest or color even though the homeowner had some really lovely furniture pieces.

View from Living Room Before


Now, the turquoise paint color on the ceiling positively glows.  The ceiling is the PERFECT accent wall, evenly distributing the accent color throughout the entire space. 

turquoise blue ceiling

The Decorologist, Melanie G Photography


This works so well because the walls in the dining room were left a soothing neutral color, allowing the ceiling to take center stage.

Nashville designer Kristie Barnett

Benjamin Moore’s Thunderbird 675


I also painted Benjamin Moore Thunderbird on the entire corner cabinet, leaving it in the interior but applying a layer of white over the exterior before roughing it up with a hand sander.  Notice the color in the adjoining living room is a washed- down version of the ceiling color painted in the dining room.

mismatched dining chairs

 The Decorologist, Melanie G Photography


Most of the accessories and art are some lighter or darker version of greeny-blue, which makes everything look calm and peaceful.

Melanie G Photography 

So what’s the take-away here? Quit looking around for the right wall to accent, and look UP for a change.  Maybe it’s just the perfect accent wall for the room!  Do you think I chose the right accent wall?

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60 thoughts on “The RIGHT Wall to Paint An Accent Color

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      This room didn’t have a light in the ceiling at all, so we had to have an electrician run wires and install this one. The fixture was from a place on 8th Avenue near Zanies (can’t recall the name of the place immediately!), and the electrician was someone the client had used before.

  1. sandra says:

    Love the after shots!! Who would have thought about the ceiling being “THE” perfect way to keep all together with the color!
    Thanks for the tip and pictures to help all of us who isn’t sure about decisions as this.
    Lovely home and just my style.great job!!

  2. Susanne says:

    It’s great! No, I did not pick the “correct” accent wall, but wow what an impact. I love the way you created a homey environment with sort of a minimalist approach. I’m a big fan of that sort of styling. Aside from ease of maintaining, less is often more and does add to a more tranquil feel. You are my favorite desighner. Your clients are so lucky to have you!

  3. Lisa says:

    I was blown away when I saw that ceiling color. It makes such a difference and works so well with the other room. I’m wondering if you have to talk your clients into using blue. A lot of people don’t like shades of blue, but maybe it’s different in your neck of the woods.
    PS. I would love to take a color class from you.

  4. Paula Van Hoogen says:

    I’ve been thinking about why this and other wonderful ceilings you’ve done make the rooms “feel” so good….It struck me that it is not unlike the feel that a tent or a tented room (middle -eastern style)
    gives— so enveloping and comforting, somehow. You just have a wonderful gift, Kristie for making a house into a HOME. Sure hope we have lots of clear days this winter –just in case I need to drive to Nashville & take one of your courses!!! It’s snowing now in Highlands……

      • Paula Van Hoogen says:

        I think we are actually southeast of you—but we’re @3800′.
        You know what to do—just like in design—Layer it (clothes)……
        We discovered the BEST blanket–(Costco and Penny’s have the lowest prices)—
        a down blanket.Not the comforter, which can get too hot. If you need another layer,
        a washable wool blanket over that is perfect!!!

  5. sherry says:

    Nope, I didn’t pick the right wall. I love it. The room is soothing in all that wonderful color.
    What does painting the ceiling do to the feel of a room with 8 foot ceilings? Will it bring the ceiling down or make it feel more open? It looks like you were working with 10footers. thanks.

  6. kelly says:

    Perfect Kristie! You are so smart! Using a color on the ceiling to tie in the rooms- genius girlfriend! Looks so much prettier in the room with the table and chairs too. Great job!

  7. Ruth Buffington says:

    I painted the ceiling in my dining room the same color! It’s called beach glass I think. I love it! The walls are gray though. I could never live with white walls. But that’s just me. Love your designs Kristie!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      This color is Ben Moore’s Thunderbird, which is a more vivid color than Beach Glass – which I also love. I have done Beach Glass on a couple of ceilings, and it is lovely. What color gray did you use on the walls?

  8. Kelly R. says:

    The turquoise ceiling looks great, and shows excellent restraint. I think a lot of designers would have been tempted to undertake a more radical transformation of color on the walls, rather than making a more isolated change with big time impact. So pretty. Well done!

  9. Melissa says:

    The dining room looks wonderful! My 8 foot slightly textured ceilings (thank goodness no popcorn, though) wouldn’t really make a great accent wall but this house is just perfect for it.

  10. Kelly @ JAX does design says:

    You TOTALLY chose the right accent wall! I LOVE colourful ceilings – so much more interesting than a typical white ceiling. And the colour you used is so beautiful 🙂 Great idea to use a lighter version of the ceiling colour in the adjoining room to tie the spaces together. And on a different not – the reupholstered setee looks amazing!

    This is such a pretty & elegant home, but with lots of elements (like the mismatched dining chairs) that make it cozy and fun too 🙂

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  13. Sam says:

    I've always loved the idea of having an accent wall, and that's what I plan on doing in my bedroom. The wall I wanted to do is the wall my bed is on, but reading your article where you said "let your architecture be your guide" has me thinking I should pain the wall my giant window is on. The window takes up about the whole wall leaving 2.5' on either side, of course with a top and bottom that would get painted as well. So which wall do I paint?!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      If the wall with the window is the wall you face upon entering, it may be a good wall to accent.  But if it is, you might want to consider centering your bed on the window as well.  With panels on either side, it could be lovely.  Check out this post:

      • Andrei says:

        Hi there, can you please help with my living room, i really like the accent wall idea but i can't decide what colour to pick, can i please send you a photo with my living room (i don't have all the furniture yet) but the wall i want to accent is the one where the tv is going to be, so i don't make the mistake of my life (this is meant to be a surprise for my wife, she is comming back next friday, i hope to finnish by then) plssss heeelllpppp.

  14. Chez says:

    Love this house and your work! I want to paint my 8′ ceiling turquoise but am worried it will make the ceiling feel even lower. Do you have any pics that show painted 8′ ceilings to help me envision the outcome? I am thinking eggshell for the ceiling with flat paint on the neutral tan walls? Maria Killam wrote on her blog that paint looks darker on a ceiling while you mentioned paint looks lighter on ceilings- so I am confused on which shade of color to pick. Thanks for your help!

  15. Chez says:

    Thanks so much for the response. I thought I saw an eggshell sheen on the thunderbird DR ceiling above? Our living room is dark and kind of small at 18′ x 15′. Is that too big for an aqua ceiling (either thunderbird or beach glass). I thought an eggshell finish might reflect some needed light- or bad idea?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      I think a blue on the ceiling would be fine in your living room, provided your walls are neutral. Beach Glass is pretty, but it’s not aqua like Thunderbird – it would be more subtle. I actually like eggshell on ceilings, and I have it on my own to reflect light. But if can highlight imperfections and roller marks, so that might be problematic for you. If you do a great paint job and don’t mind a few imperfections, eggshell would be fine.

      • Chez says:

        One last question pretty please? 🙂 Your color workshop and previous comments have convinced me to go for an aqua ceiling in eggshell finish. I am trying to decide between Thunderbird, Palladian Blue, and Spring Sky. My head is spinning. Our LR is 18’x15′ and a bit dark. It has 8′ ceilings, light cool gray walls, and this is the rug: Which ceiling color would you suggest? Thank you thank you!

  16. kim L. says:

    Hi Kristie! trying again I hit publish before I was ready. Kristie, our living room / entrance is an L shape. bottom right hand corner of the L short side is the entrance. To the left of that is a picture windowabout 1/2 as big as the wall spans. About nine tenths as big as the wall spans, which makes no sense,there is a giant wooden window treatment with no curtains covering the picture window, the walls and we are unable to remove it because we are renters. This of course makes this awful wall the dominant wall.if this giant wooden thing I didn’t tie the two rooms together so strongly, I would suggest using two different tones two separate the room spaces. I would like to use a very dark blue in the large part of the room and I wondered what you thought about painting this giant wooden thing the same color to drown it out. I would then put very large art on the left hand side of the long arm of the L wall. The kitchen shows through the knocked out right hand side of the long L arm, so I can paint is that blue on the parts where there’s actually wall there which is not much.or, I can extend the hallway deeper into the home a certain color, like a screen that coordinates with the blue and color the kitchen/ right hand L long arm of the wall the hallway color….I believe if most of the L is the dark blue, with big art on the left hand long arm L wall, then I can also color and lighter tone on two walls…- the wall opposite the entrance door, and the wall to right if entrance door… if you email me, I am glad to send you photos and hear what you think, and I am not afraid of color and I am very open to any ideas you have thank you so much. there is also a double window in a very strange place on the left hand long arm of L wall. It is right in the corner at the top of the L which also makes things a little difficult.husband and I would like to use this room to relax in, so far we have a leather sofa and loveseat, and a small round table with 4 chairs my grandparents owned, which I would like to use as a game table. Or, I could put a larger table that is rectangular in here and use as a craft table and put the small round table in our kitchen. We are completely open we like to watch Leave It to Beaver reruns on the TV in this same room if that helps…

  17. Courtenay says:

    I came across this site when searching for ideas on painting a ceiling turquoise. I love what you’ve done, could you please tell me the wall colour that you went with?

  18. Dawn says:

    Should the non-accent walls always be a neutral warm color? My daughter wants to paint her bedroom wall that anchors her bed in a cool, dark teal color (Cil taking the plunge) and the other walls a light cool blue (Cil sky high blue) her room is 10*12 and has a good size window facing west.

  19. Kristina K. says:

    I just love how you chose the ceiling in this room! So beautiful. I have a question that I would like your advice on…we have a living room, dining room that are connected by an archway. I want to do an accent color in my dining room, to liven it up, right now it is a very neutral beige, which is also in the living room. I am having a problem with picking a color for the accent wall because I have a beautiful maroon/red arched couch which is a very dominant color-that is in my living room. Because these rooms flow right together and the couch is prominently seen from the dining room what color would be a good one to go with? I love the idea of painting the ceiling like you did in this room, but am unsure how to proceed. Any advice would be so much appreciated. 🙂 Thank you!

  20. jeanette says:

    Hi, i have a living/dining room combo. As you walk in my front door you can see a portion of a back wall of my living room that has a french door and a set of windows. I have curtains on both sides of these about the color of your ceiling picture. I have a beachy theme going. I would like to add an accent wall to this big combo area. Would painting the ceiling this color be a good idea for this area or should i paint the french door wall? Any suggestions would be so appreciated. Thanks!

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  22. Katie says:

    Do you think purple walls with a gray accent wall would work well? I know purple and gray go well together. My problem is I can’t figure out which one wall would be best for me to paint gray. I’ve heard it’s best to accent the wall that your bed is against, but my bed is also against the window wall, and I will be having gray/white curtains. I have 2 other walls for an option, one that has my Tv on it and the other one is bare (for now) and possibly the longest wall in my bedroom. It is also the wall you first see when you walk into the room. What do you think I should do?

  23. Toni-Ann Bligh says:

    Hi! I love the ceiling as an accent wall and I love the color you chose. I’m changing the decor of my house to a shabby chic cottage look and thinking of doing this. What color white did you do on the walls! Thanks for your help!

  24. Ramonya Anderson says:

    Hi! I love your posts. Could you please tell me what you think about my idea for an accent wall. My dining room is 10’6″ X 9’6″ with no doors and 2 large windows, almost floor to ceiling, on the wall opposite the entrance. It also has 5 inch base boards and crown molding. I want to do a navy accent wall with gold and cream accents to go with my wood dining table and buffet. Is the wall with the windows a good idea for the accent wall? I’m skeptical because there technically isn’t much “wall” on that wall. I’m afraid to paint one or both of the side walls for fear that it will make the room seem smaller. Am I over thinking this?

  25. Julie says:

    Amy chance of finding out what color you used on the walls? I’m having a tough time trying to find a color that works so well with the cyan… I could use your help.

  26. Jill says:

    Love the color choices. I know this post is a few years old, but please tell us the color and company you used on the walls! Thank you!!

  27. Marine says:


    First, I want to say that I am not afraid of painting all the walls with color. I had a red living room for years and loved it. But now, I am in a limbo. We have an adjoining dining room and living room, separated by just the rest of beam with moldings. My husband wants light but he is not against color. Our furniture is very much like a Ralph Lauren type of room with old leather chairs and such, lots of brown, gold, green, red, warm colors with warm undertones. We have lots of antique furniture and gold frames, paintings etc….

    I cannot stand the idea of a white room, we are not in a sunny area or by the sea. What can I do ?
    1- I thought of a luminous (not too dark) green accent wall but how do I link it with the adjoining room ?

    2- What about a touch of color on the trims ? Gold. How do I avoid looking tacky ? Is it a good choice when one does not live in a Parisian palace ?

    In great need of help. Please

    Thank you.


  28. Terri says:

    Love it! I have a D/R i want to repaint. Bottom half is wallpapered with a flowered print with a warm yellow background. Upper walls are same warm yellow as in wallpaper. I am wanting to go bold with a darker color pulled from the wallpaper. Will I regret this? Should I just paint one or two walls the darker color? and if so, which walls? the room is rectangular. Short walls have either an open doorway in center or full set of windows (front of house). Longer walls have either an open doorway (from hallway) or a normal width window (side or house). Current ceiling color is white and ceilings are 9′.

  29. Laura says:

    I know this is an old post but… I’m repainting my bedroom and I’m thinking of using BM Aplomb with BM linen white. The room is 11.5×11.5×7.5 with windows on the back and left walls and a 6′ long closet on the right side. I currently have the headboad lined up over the window on the left so I’m not sure about using that wall as an accent since the window would break up the color right in the middle of my (open, wrought iron) headboard. Do you think this room is too small/low to paint the ceiling? Or is there another place I could use the purple color?

  30. Barb says:

    Love the colour scheme you chose! Could you let me know the colour of the walls.
    Would you accent a wall in a med to light grey that has a fireplace, window and a sliding glass door on it with the rest of the room walls a light neutral colour like the one you chose. I have one full wall with white built ins.

  31. Marcie says:

    I need some serious advice! Please help I am in need of color, an accent wall. My living room is so depressing. I have chosen an aqua blue but not even sure if that’s the best match for my living room or which wall to paint if not more than one??? Any suggestions

  32. Cassandra says:

    Hi there! I can see that your trim in the dining room is white, but are your walls or are they another neutral? They look like a very light grey but cannot tell! thank you!

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