In recent years, the use of accent walls has become increasingly popular in interior design. An accent wall is a single wall painted or wallpapered in a bold color or striking pattern to add visual interest to a room. However, some designers argue that the accent wall is an overused trend that can make spaces feel chaotic and disjointed. Here, we’ll examine the case against accent walls and alternatives that create harmonious, sophisticated interiors.

Accent Walls Can Look Unbalanced

One of the main criticisms of accent walls is that they often appear visually unbalanced. When a single wall is dramatically differentiated from the others through color or pattern, it can dominate the room. The eye gets drawn to that wall, making the rest of the space feel plain and unconsidered by comparison. This lopsided dynamic creates a sense of discomfort rather than the visual interest the accent wall was intended to provide.

They Can Make Rooms Feel Smaller

In smaller rooms, an accent wall can also have the unintended effect of making the space feel even more cramped. A bold color or print on a single wall highlights that surface, drawing the eye and creating a busyness that overwhelms the room. Opting for a more muted, neutral wall color allows the eye to move freely around the space, creating the illusion of more square footage.

Accent Walls Disrupt Cohesion

Interior design professionals argue that a room should have a coherent color palette and design concept that harmonizes furnishings, accent pieces, and décor. An accent wall can disrupt this cohesion, sticking out like a sore thumb against an otherwise thoughtfully designed space. The aesthetic intention gets muddled, with clashing styles competing for attention. Rather than accentuating the room’s strengths, the accent wall ends up creating visual chaos.

They Quickly Feel Dated

Trends come and go, and accent walls are no exception. What may have been stylish a few years ago can quickly start to feel stale and dated. Tastes evolve, but loud accent walls locked into specific colors or prints don’t. As a result, accent walls can make well-designed rooms seem frozen in the past, unable to adapt to changing styles. Their eye-catching qualities become visual drawbacks over time.

Sophisticated Alternatives Exist

Thankfully, creating compelling interior spaces doesn’t require utilizing accent walls. Plenty of sophisticated alternatives add depth, texture and visual appeal without dominating the room:

  • Texture – Consider a subtle textured wallpaper, shiplap planks or moulding to add dimension to walls.
  • Tonal Variation – Paint walls in slightly different hues of a single color to create soft contrast.
  • Natural Materials – Incorporate wood beams, stone accents or a slate fireplace as a natural focal point.
  • Artwork – Hang a stunning piece of art or gallery wall for an artistic accent.
  • Layering – Add interest by layering rugs, throws, pillows and drapes in bold prints or colors.

These approaches make walls supporters rather than competitors of a room’s overall design. They provide visual spice while maintaining harmony and balance.

When Accent Walls Work

Accent walls aren’t universally bad. When used judiciously in specific contexts, they can liven up a space without dominating it:

  • In a large open-concept room, an accent wall can add needed visual anchor.
  • On a small wall space like a niche or hallway, a bold color can provide a fun pop of color.
  • In kid’s rooms or dorms, accent walls allow creative personal expression.
  • In high-ceilinged rooms, accent walls bring the eye down to a more intimate scale.
  • In bedrooms and offices, they can boost creativity and energy levels.

The key is thoughtfully using accent walls in moderation within rooms where they enhance – rather than fight against – the existing design.


Accent walls boomed in popularity because they promise an easy decorating shortcut. Yet as a dominant interior design feature, they often create more problems than they solve. A carefully planned, holistic design scheme creates rich visual interest without overwhelming the space. There are plenty of less intrusive ways to add depth, texture and color to a room. Used strategically and sparingly, accent walls can play a supporting role in achieving this goal. But the case remains strong for avoiding accent walls as the default design solution. Thoughtfully designed interiors render them unnecessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about accent walls and design alternatives:

What are some disadvantages of accent walls?

Accent walls can make rooms feel visually unbalanced, smaller and disjointed. They also quickly date and disrupt an otherwise cohesive design.

What are some sophisticated alternatives to accent walls?

Instead of accent walls, use texture, tonal variation, natural materials, artwork, and layered textiles to add visual interest.

In what scenarios can accent walls be effective?

Accent walls can work well in large open spaces, small niches, kids rooms, high ceilings, or as energy boosters in bedrooms and offices.

How can you add color without using an accent wall?

Add pops of color through artwork, pillows, rugs, flowers, books, and other décor items scattered throughout the room.

What are other ways to create focal points besides accent walls?

Hang large artwork, create a gallery wall, install architectural details like beams or pillars, or place eye-catching furniture like an ornate mirror or cabinet.

How do you make a small space feel bigger instead of using an accent wall?
In a small space, opt for lighter neutral wall colors, minimal furnishings, multifunctional pieces, and visual tricks like mirrors to open up the room.

Final Thoughts

The accent wall trend reveals our desire for quick, dramatic changes to interior spaces. But thoughtfully curated rooms with harmonious designs stand the test of time. Alternatives to the accent wall create rich visual interest without disruption. Strategically used accent walls still have their place. But in most cases, opting for a peaceful unified design averts the need for an accent wall at all. With some creativity and design know-how, rooms feel fresh and intriguing without succumbing to this dizzying trend.