Painted feature walls.

Dear Reader,  

Thank you for suggesting I write about the topic “Feature walls, Yay or Nay?”  I was wondering the same thing.  It is with pleasure that I present to you my entirely unqualified opinion on the matter.  

Yours sincerely,

Johanne at House By The Water.

Yay or Nay?

5 rooms that definitely say “Yay”:

The colour adds mood, without drowning the whole room.  Source:  Lonny.

The colour adds mood, without drowning the whole room. Source: Lonny.

Black wall adds depth.  Source:

Black wall adds depth and definition. Source: Home Adore.

Framing a view, creating a division of space.  Source:

Framing a view, creating a division of space. Source:  Home Adore.

Background colour highlights the pendant and fire.    Source:  Cote Maison.

Background colour highlights the pendant and fire. Source: Cote Maison.

Grey wall frames art.  Source: Lux Interior Design.

Grey wall frames art. Source: Lux Interior Design.

When to use a feature wall:

  • to create mood, without intruding on the feeling of space and light.
  • to frame a feature such as a view, painting, fireplace, special piece of furniture, architectural detail.
  • to create depth and interest.

Simple, hey?

Wrong.  I’ll use my dilemma area as an example.  Our fireplace.

Display home version of our fireplace.  By Webb and Brown-Neaves.

Display home version of our fireplace. By Webb and Brown-Neaves.

Firstly, I can’t decide whether or not our fireplace wall should be “a feature”.  Giving it a colour of its own, would highlight the fire and provide a nice back ground to a large pendant light that will hang in the room.  On the other hand, we’ll already have the canal view as a feature (at least in the day time) and I have plans for a big piece of art for the large bare wall, shown on the left side of  the photo above.  Is that too many features?

Secondly, for every beautiful feature wall I’ve seen, there is an equally beautiful room that is elegant in its simplicity.  (Plain in the left column, “feature” walls on the right.)

Photos sources:  1. Zusss.  2. The Style Files. 3.  Remodelista.  4. Plastolux.  5. Zuster. 6. Contemporist.  7. Milk Magazine. 8.  Nixon Tulloch Fortey.

Thirdly, try searching “feature wall” on Google or Pinterest.  You’ll find all kinds of “nay” happening there.  Pulling off a feature wall takes confidence and skill.  A feature wall, well, features in a room, so you’d better love whatever colour you choose.

In the case of our fireplace, I don’t think we can go wrong.  The easy answer is “no feature paint” but I don’t want to miss an opportunity.  With the double height wall, painting it  later would be a saga.  At this point, most people would buy a couple of sample pots and paint a wall to make a decision “on the ground”.  We don’t have this option right now.  The next time I see House By The Water will be for the “Practical Completion Inspection”, when the interior walls will have long since been painted by the builders.

To resolve the issue (again), I turned to my new favourite time-wasting activity, mood board creation.

Open living at House By The Water.

No “feature wall” in our open living area.  Kitchen, living and dining all in one.

So for our fireplace, I’m saying “Nay” to a painted feature wall.   An additional block of colour seems to detract from the rest.

I also considered a painted feature wall for my son’s bedroom.  We are going for an industrial/coastal style there.  (There’s a new combo for you!)  A charcoal colour would go nicely, but there was the question of which wall to paint. In the end I’ve decided it’s all or nothing.   (Another post, another day.)

Of course, there are alternatives to painting a feature wall.  Wallpaper is big right now.  But if you think I have commitment issues with painting a feature wall, I am down-right scared of wallpaper.  I don’t think I’ll ever recover from the time we removed the old wallpaper in our first house.  It was not fun and it went on for days.  Timber panelling, exposed brick, raw concrete and stone are all high-commitment options for feature walls.   Although they usually require thought in the planning stage of a build, I consider some of them to be low risk options.  Rarely do I see a stone or timber wall that I don’t like.

And, for the complete “feature wall” chicken, here are some gorgeous wall hangings that I love:

These are from Restoration Hardware in the United States.  Unfortunately, they don’t ship to Australia.

So, dear reader.  Are you still there?  I’m voting “yay” for feature walls, but not always.

Your turn:

Are you planning a feature wall?

Have you painted a feature wall that you lived to regret?

How about one you love to bits?

Has anyone tested out the new so-called “removable wallpaper”?



27 thoughts on “Painted feature walls.

  1. Thank you! Most of the spaces where I think the feature wall works best are spaces that are non-traditional rooms. Rooms without four walls. Would that be right?
    Now, my opinion on your fireplace wall. I think you should paint it! I think the fireplace wall in white will be too bright and create a visual block /distraction to your view. The view of the canal should pop out more than the wall. A light grey (the gorgeous warm grey with cat!!) would work well there, take the potential glare away (mandurahs natural light is soooo bright), and possibly help cover any discolouration created by you fire. Just my opinion. ️Xxx
    Ps. Dear Dolly Doctor, I still don’t know what to do with my place!! Xxx

    • Was that you who suggested this post, Aunty Kate? It was on the poll comments about a month ago, but did not identify the commenter. Yes, I have read (Abigail Ahern) that painted features walls are not usually required – why not go the whole hog and paint the whole room in your colour of choice? With exceptions for walls that are kind of on their own anyway. I should have mentioned that I’m not planning to have any white walls anyway, but instead a light shade of cool grey. Shouldn’t be too harsh on the glare factor. Does your opinion for painting the fireplace wall still stand? Shouldn’t have any discolouration from the fire – it has a door.

      • Yes, that was me that was pondering feature walls. A cool grey will be nice. I would leave making a choice about feature paint on your fireplace wall until you are home and can do some test patches. The cool grey could well be enough, but I’m still thinking a slightly darker grey might work well there. Xxx

  2. Interesting reasonings here as to yay or nay, you’ve made me stop and think. I had already decided on a few key feature walls, now I’ve had to see if I feel the same way – and the answers yes to:
    Fireplace wall
    Master bed pop out bed head wall
    Butler’s Pantry end wall

    The jury’s still out on hall niche depending on how the artwork looks in situ.

    P.s I think my 88 year old father is reading your blog as he asked me whether I had created any mood boards!

    • Wow, I’m impressed that your father knows what a blog is, let alone a mood board! My Dad quietly reads, then next time we chat on Skype, he tells me that one of my ideas won’t work! I think most fireplace walls suit a feature colour. Our large open living area really only has two walls! One with the fireplace and the other beside it – both double height. Making a feature of one, singles out the other! Oh, so confusing! I think that the only rule with this issue is that there are no rules.

  3. booksinthebush says:

    In your style of house, I would definitely go with a feature colour or strong neutral for the fireplace wall. That way it will still be interesting even when the fireplace is not in use, which over there would be a fair part of the year. To test out a colour, you can do a trial run, even at a distance. Paint several large sheets of cardboard (repurpose large cardboard boxes or buy big sheets from Office suppliers). At least that way, you know you will love a particular strong colour. The light in your living space might be a bit different, so the colour may look a little different when in situ, but you can get a good indication that all the colours in the room work together.
    I was going to do feature walls in a few strategic areas in our house, but our style isn’t totally complimentary to it in the living area – my premise being that if a wall doesn’t strike you as different to the others in some way, or doesn’t “need it”, then don’t make a feature of it. Consequently the only room in our house that might have a feature wall is the master bedroom, but at the moment it is in the too hard basket to even get it painted the same as the others. We have a new puppy in the house and the paint brushes and rollers have been put aside in favour of house-training! (Not fun with new carpet, I can tell you.)
    You have a bold space with great architectural detail, so go for it! As long as you love the chosen colour I don’t think you’ll regret it.

    • Sarah, that finish looks great. I love it. At this point, our only option is same paint as other walls or different paint. The builder is painting before handover, that’s what is included. We’ve often thought about stackstone which we will keep in mind as a post-handover activity. Our concern with that is keeping it looking good, with dust and spider webs and a difficult to reach spot. Not too mention thousands of $. Is your fireplace wall going to be single storey height or greater?

  4. Well you know I love white. But in all those pictures I loved they fireplaces that had a feature color. I think any form of grey to charcoal would be amazing. I actually love the pic of the black accent wall. But that is serious commitment. I was worried about an accent wall in my big kids rooms. But love how the darkish blue and pink ended up looking. Both are on their walls that their beds will go. Plank walls are awesome to as far as little guys bedroom. We are doing a brick accent wall in the screened porch. A bit nervous as to how it will look as we have no other brick in the house.

    • Planks walls are great. Will keep that in mind as a later addition. Husband says no to black for the fireplace wall, my initial thoughts were to have a slightly darker shade of grey than the rest of the walls, but my mood board exercise says no! I adore your stone. Any ideas if you are going to have an issue keeping it clean of dust, webs? We are having a stone column on the exterior of the house, so it would be in keeping with our style.

      • I am sure the rock will get dusty…..but I think so will all our trusses. (Long armed vacuum????? 🙈). I am hoping the neutral colors will hide it.

        I think rock would look awesome on your fireplace too, the naturalness of the stone with the canal in the view, that would be amazing. I think black would be too dark. Gray would look beautiful too. I vote (ignore the mood board and) go with your instinct. That whole wall is so unique…it needs to be accented. But what ever you chose. It really is such a beautiful wall with that view. I don’t think you can go wrong.

  5. I like the fireplace feature columns a lot. Yay (though as you said, either option is a winner)! Any medium-dark neutral would work.

    … Love the floating hearth, too.

  6. Not sure if you saw my mock up for my fireplace, but we are doing a feature colour above our fireplace.

    As for feature walls in general. I hate them in a square box room. But if is it a more subtle and integrated colour that is highlighting an architectural feature I think it is great.

    In my boys room I want to plank on wall behind his bed and paint it. (I want blue-grey but he wants green 😦 )

    • Oh yes, I’m envious of your fireplace set up! It’s going to be lovely. Yes, the issue of children’s wishes for colour, versus ours! I’m not as kind as Happy Laughs (who let her two oldest children choose their own feature wall colour). My kids are allowed some influence on colours of the less permanent features of their bedrooms!

  7. trixee says:

    I love a good feature wall, and black ones are “bang on trend” by the looks of it. And I think they look gob-smackingly gorgeous. But you have to do what’s right for your features and style. I’ve never been brave enough to try a feature wall yet, but I’m planning on several. 1) My lady cave – Cole & Son woods wallpaper – love love love it! 2) TV wall – I’m thinking black but it will probably be a hard sell to Mr T. 3) Master bedroom with the bedhead, not sure if I will wallpaper or paint. 4) Possibly the laundry, good opportunity for something wacky before we get the cabinetry in. 5) Maybe the entry hall, haven’t quite worked that out yet though. It would require something elegant and subtle.

  8. At colour selections, I went a bit overboard with feature walls and I’ve now decided to pare back and only do a couple. I also want to change the home theatre paint to a darker grey, maybe Dulux Domino but my husband is not playing ball! All the bedrooms will have a feature wallpaper. For the master, I have my heart set on a grasscloth aka Dea & Darren’s bedroom on the Block. Our older girls are insisting on a wall mural of NYC which I was taken aback as it’s quite sophisticated. For our 2yo, we’ll probably do Cole & Son ‘Woods and Pear’.

    • I’ve seen a great pull down blind with a night image of NYC on it. Actually I have another whole post worth of great murals I’ve been saving, but we aren’t having any of them. I think this kind of extra “something” is great for homes that don’t have an exterior feature/view to focus on. I just checked out the wall paper at Cole and Son. 970 options!! Love the woods and pear.

  9. Wow those pics with the feaure walls look fabulous and you could tempt me to convert to the dark side and have a feature wall as they certainly add depth to the rooms. I’m starting to feel like ‘plain Jane’ with our off white walls.
    I do love stone fireplaces and think that would look beautiful in your place with the wooden floors and water backdrop.
    As always you’ve posted stunning pics and got us all thinking ☺

  10. I actually don’t think you need the feature colour on the fireplace, because it stands out quite uniquely due to its depth and design. I also think there will be a wide variety of colour variations in your grey based on the light and wall depth. Grey is sneaky like that.

    That said, I don’t think a feature colour would be wrong either.

    I think it comes down to loving the colour and you being happy to live with it.

    My dining/office had a green feature wall.
    It was awful.
    They had painted the biggest blank wall a mid-green in the darkest room in the house (not a single window in that room). It was oppressive and made the room feel even darker.
    When I repainted, I did a POP of bright blue on the smallest wall, and the rest bright white, and I love it. And I think the bright colour it really helps set off the architraves around the door, which are otherwise invisible on the white walls, and are a feature I really like in this old house.

    • I know what you mean about grey walls Blackwood Lady, soon to be known as Queen of Paint. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if all the walls of a room are the same colour or not. I think getting feature wall right is really tough. I

  11. I am over the feature wall!!! We moved into our house at the height of the feature wall craziness. So it already had feature walls in all weird and wacky colours and in my early 20’s naivety, I have added to it. Now I’m over it. I did however, do a wallpaper one in the nursery for Mr Toddler. His room had a travel theme, so it was a giant vintage looking world map. A couple of weeks ago I went to get him up for the day and found that he had decided to pick at the wall and rip a massive hole in the map! I had 48 hours to strip the wall, strip the underneath layer of paint off the wall which had bubbled a little I suspect from the moisture of the wallpaper glue and Mr Toddler had started peeling off anyway, and repaint the wall, before we had a house inspection. It was not fun. I do not ever want to have to go through that again. It is big pieces of art and neutral colours from here on in!

    • No indecision from you on this matter Lauren! Very wise. Selling houses with little kids still living in them is definitely a nightmare. Glad yours is over.

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