Interior designers reveal 2 basic feature wall errors everyone is making

You can go wrong with feature walls, here's what not to do when designing yours for impact

Boldly painted wall paneling behind sofa with throw cushions
(Image credit: Annie Sloane)

Most modern homes now naturally feature an accent wall or two. What started out as a trend has turned into a permanent fixture, one that should in theory guarantee design interest and a talking point among guests. 

International designer Laura Hay of LH Decor and Design notes how feature walls are usually a failsafe option to add character to all types of homes: ‘When looking to add some visual interest and bring in some personality to a room, a feature wall is a perfect fun and smart design option.’

Kate Davidson, Principal Designer of Kate + Co Design Inc adds, 'Accent walls still can be effective and work well in many interiors today. Though they have certainly evolved from when they first came on the scene a decade ago.' Noting how 'Spaces need a place for the eye to focus on, and impactful feature walls are important in creating a natural focal area.'

However, if your feature wall is drawing up some (unwanted) conversation, or if it fades into the background of an already vanilla space, there's a chance that you've made a couple of really basic design errors.

Paint won't cut it

Sure a lick of paint can brighten up a room and we've definitely recreated many wall paint ideas to carve out and define a living room corner or WFH space, but it seems that feature walls have now come such a long way that their designs need to work harder to stand out and live up to their name.

‘Simply painting a feature wall isn't enough, today the trend today is to add more than just a contrasting colour, but also bring in texture.' Says Hay. 

'I love a simple recessed panel or vertical board (think beadboard). Alternatively, there are gorgeous wallcoverings (think murals and botanicals). Many options today from porcelains, woods, stone veneers.' 

Davidson adds, 'Today creating a feature wall is more about working with cabinetry, adding loads of textural classic and timeless materials like woods and natural stones. Slabs of porcelains and Tambour board have become really popular right now.'

Black painted feature paneled wall in bedroom with white patterned bedding

(Image credit: LH Decor & Design)

Design must-haves for a successful feature wall

So installing beadboard or another type of wall paneling is a safe option for success, but Hay continues to say that another common mistake she sees regardless of material choice is with color. Maximalists, en garde: 

'Your feature wall should pull a colour or a detail that is repeated somewhere else in the space so the look is overall cohesive.' So that's not to say that contrasting colors are out of bounds, but it shouldn't be overly eccentric and there should be some hues in common with the rest of the space also.

A bold living room with pink, orange and red wall decor using chalk paint by Annie Sloan in shades Antoinette, Barcelona Orange and Emperor's Silk

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Add depth with wall paneling to bring in different materials and nod to existing colors around the room, and you're golden. As with any new decorative addition, placement also matters, especially if you want a balanced living room layout:

'A room typically offers an obvious focal point and here your feature wall should be either the wall that has this focal point (fireplace, TV or bed/headboard for example) OR the exact opposite wall as this will create a sort of visual balance within the room.' Says Hay. 

We're invested in Davidson's top tip also: 'I like to bring feature walls materials onto the ceiling as well to elevate the height and drama in a space'

Follow in Hay and Davidon's footsteps, consider using the best paint for wood to jazz up textured wall paneling, and instead of inviting a less than inspiring feature wall into your home, you're sure to create a design that elevates your space on all levels.

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Former Deputy Editor

I'm Cam, the former deputy editor of Real Homes who worked on the site from 2020 to 2023. As a renter myself, sharing a home with two friends (and my cat) in London, I know all too well the challenges that this can pose when it comes to creating your perfect setup. As someone who has always loved everything interior design-related, I cannot rest until a home feels right and I am really passionate about helping others get there too, no matter what their living situation, style, or budget may be. It’s not always the easiest to figure out, but the journey is fun and the results are so worth it.

After interior design, travel, art, and photography are my next big passions. When I’m not writing or editing homes content, I’m usually tapping into other creative outlets, exploring galleries in London or further afield, taking photos, scribbling, or drawing!