Space for Change

May 6, 2013
Splurge on an expensive wallpaper to maximize the impact of your feature wall.

 Q: I have a large living room and would like to create an accent wall. What is the purpose of an accent wall and how do I decide which wall?

A: An accent wall also is known as a focal or feature wall. When you enter the room, your eye will be drawn to it first. In a living room, for example, if there is a fireplace, that would be the natural focal point of the space. If you do not have a fireplace, there may be another major element such as a large armoire or media center. The accent or feature wall can be decorated to heighten and take advantage of its importance in the room. Often a bold or contrasting paint color is chosen, perhaps a color that would be too much for the entire room but stunning on just one wall. This is the place to apply an expensive wall treatment, textured wallpaper, stone or wood finish, or even fabric.
In a large living room that I designed for a new home, the long back wall has a custom-made desk and computer center, and the cabinetry extends almost the full length of the wall, with the television above that. There is no question where people will be looking. The dark hardwood floor and wood built-ins anchored the room, and I chose to lighten the walls with a soft blue-gray paint color.
Take cues from whatever you apply to the accent wall to strike an inviting rhythm throughout the space. The wallpaper on the feature wall has a slight shine to it that is picked up in the chair cushions. There are so many incredible wallpaper patterns out there that are really art on the wall, but if you tried to do the entire room in this paper, it would be overwhelming. The accent wall allows you to enjoy a special paper or finish without it taking over the room.

Q: I have a small home with two bedrooms and a bath. I have enough money to do one project: either update the kitchen, which is OK but dated, or add a third bedroom and bathroom (en suite). Which do you think would add more value to the house?
A: Although a brand-new kitchen is a big draw for most homebuyers, the added space of a third bedroom and second bathroom is a much bigger selling point. Definitely do the addition. And you can always update your kitchen cost-effectively with a coat of paint on the walls, some stylish new cabinet hardware and a colorful tile backsplash that will create a fresh focal area.

Q: I would like to stencil or paint my house number and street in a decorative font to the siding of my house above the door. Are there kits you can buy? What type of paint would I use?

A: A great idea. Use exterior acrylic paint and prepare the surface as you would for any exterior paint project (clean and prime). To make a neat job of it, use stencils and lots of careful measuring and marking to get the best position. You can find letter and number stencils in a range of styles on the Internet; is one source. The largest these stencils are offered is 6 inches high, which seems adequate for your plan.