Understanding feature walls in your home

Thinking of including a feature wall in your home? Read on to find out which room, which wall and what colours you should be considering.

If you’re thinking about decorating but don’t have the time, budget or energy to do an entire room, then a feature wall might be the way forward. A feature wall is a great way to experiment with colour and bold pattern and if used properly and considered within your existing design, is a simple way to make a room look sophisticated, stylish and chic.

What is a feature wall?
A feature wall is one wall in a room that you’ve decided to highlight in a bold colour or with wallpaper or other materials, to show off its features and add interest, style and energy to your room.

[Related feature: The 10 biggest decorating blunders]

Should I have a one?
If you’re a colour commitment phobe or worried that wallpapering an entire room is too over the top, then a feature wall is what you need. Think of it as the speed-dating of decorating: it’s a simple way to inject personality and interest into a space without having to commit to bright colour in the whole room. And when you get tired of the design, it’s quick and easy to redecorate too.

Which wall is best?
As a basic rule, choose a wall that’s as plain as possible, without doors or windows. Interior designer Joanna Wood says it’s important you don’t just think of walls, either. “A chimney breast or alcove both make great features,” she says.

And, says Joanna, as you’re going to be drawing attention to your chosen wall, think hard about whether it’s worth showing off. “Does it have beautiful architectural elements or will you be highlighting a piece of furniture that you really love,” she says.

Placing your bed against a feature wall makes for an unusual and striking bed head, for example. Paint the wall in a bold colour (strong and sexy shades such as plum and sapphire can work well) or for a more sophisticated and glam touch, cover you wall in a material like velvet or silk.

How do I choose the right colour?
For a subtle effect, choose a complementary shade to that of the rest of the room; a darker or lighter intensity of the same colour as the other three walls can really work well. If you’re into a bit more drama then pick contrasting colours - those that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel (a warm brown with duck egg blue for example). For a bit of help getting started with your feature wall colours, try an online tool from Dulux.

Paint, paper and lots more
Don’t just think of paint and wallpaper when creating a feature wall. “You can use a huge variety of materials,” says Joanna. “Materials like suede, silk or wood add texture and interest. And if you have a dark room or corridor, mirrors or metallic reflective wallpapers, which are very on trend right now, are a great choice. They feel opulent and also bounce and reflect light around the space.”

Paint is the quickest and simplest material to apply. Big paint manufacturers have a range of feature wall colours that are specially designed to work as accents. Wallpaper feature walls are also right on trend – citrus yellow, teal or fuchsia are the shades of the moment. Floral designs are big right now too.

“Be brave,” says Joanna. “Small patterns don’t make good feature walls. A bold pattern or strong plain colour is best.”

Advances in digital printing mean you can now have a huge variety of photographic images blown up to wall size, if you are looking for something different. Or go 3D: a collection of objects can make a striking wall feature. Hang framed photos across an entire wall or make a feature of your album collection.

Mistakes to avoid
According to Joanna there are two key mistakes. The first is choosing the wrong wall. “Often people don’t think through the word ‘feature’. Think about what you’re trying to accentuate. You should be aiming to highlight something special, something that adds to the room or shows off your favourite furniture or paintings,” she says.

The second common error is having too many feature walls. Less is definitely more here, so don’t get carried away and have a feature wall in every room. “Use the concept sparingly,” says Joanna. “It looks really weird if you have too many different feature walls.”

Your turn
Feature walls are a simple but striking way to update your room. Choose the right wall and be bold with colour and you’ll soon have a room that hits all the right notes.

Maybe you already have a statement wall in your home. How do you like it? And do you have tips for others thinking of taking the plunge?