Whether building a new home, remodeling a current space, or simply updating a tired room, design decisions can be overwhelming, and so can the design style. Traditional or modern? Country or contemporary? Industrial or rustic?
While many homeowners discover their personal likes and dislikes, and keep a consistent style theme throughout the home, there is also a growing trend to occasionally mix it up and make a statement. One straightforward and uncomplicated design choice is a focal wall, which can create a powerful, dramatic, and even “edgy” effect if used correctly.
“Sometimes people want to express themselves in a new and different way, but are hesitant to implement that expression across an entire room,” says Paula Boehm, of Paul Davis Design in Detroit Lakes, Minn. “With a focal wall, they can think outside the box by painting that wall with a contrasting color, or using an additional material like wood or tile, or by adding a different texture to the drywall.”
A focal wall, or accent wall as they are sometimes called, can be described simply as a wall that has a design somewhat different from the design of the other walls in the room. It’s a deliberate attempt to take the emphasis off the pattern created by those other walls and focus attention on the wall that is different.
“This type of feature draws your eye to that one wall,” says Boehm. “Depending on the traffic flow of the home and how you enter each room, you always want that first impression to be an ‘Ahhhh’ moment, and a focal wall is a great way to achieve that.”
Wallpaper Making a Comeback
A focal wall can also add impact and interest to a home – and even a little drama, according to Ruth Grundman of Ravnik & Company Interior Design in Alexandria, Minn.
“Some homeowners like to mix different styles together for more of a transitional look, like adding some modern to vintage or throwing a few industrial elements into traditional,” she says. “Besides using a different color of paint, we’re seeing other materials used on these focal walls, including wallpaper – especially natural and textured wallpapers.”
A number of different types of grass cloth wallpaper are available, and putting it on one wall can take a room from a casual to a more formal setting. Grundman adds that texture can also add dimension to a room that needs more than painted walls and simple lines.
Wood on the Walls
Tiffany Bladow of Bladow & Sons in Battle Lake, Minn., isn’t sure if she would call this renewed interest in focal walls a trend…yet. She says there do seem to be more homeowners who are looking for different ways to highlight special features or walls in new ways. Since they’re only putting a dramatic idea on that one focal wall, it’s a way for them to accent a room in a new way without covering all four of the walls.
“Painting one wall a different color or putting tile on a wall were generally the most common ways to accent a singular wall, but now we’re seeing more and more interest in reclaimed wood, old barn wood, even old pallet wood,” she says. “In my basement I used raw wood that was just cut off the pallet. It’s a neat look, a more rustic look, but it also can come out to be less expensive, too.”
Add Some Stone
The classic look of brick or stone on an entire wall can make a statement of sorts, whether it’s an extension of a natural fireplace – or the wall behind a headboard in the bedroom. Natural brick or a stone like marble or slate have a beauty that comes in many shapes, colors and sizes. The cost can be prohibitive for many homeowners, but Grundman notes there are currently some new products on the market that are actually micro-thin slices of genuine slate and can be applied to any number of surfaces for an attractive, natural look.
“It’s lightweight, it’s durable, and also very functional,” she says, “and it can be a less expensive way to achieve the impact desired from a focal wall made of stone.”
So Many Options
There are as many different ways to design a focal wall as there are people who desire them, and Boehm says designing a focal wall can also be meaningful to everyone involved.
“When we had to demolish a 100-year-old lake home, we collected some of the original home’s exterior siding, along with birch trees from the property, and created a special ‘nook’ for the new home,” she explains. “This built-in cabinetry not only draws attention to that wall, but it has special meaning as a sentimental focal point for the homeowners.”
Sometimes it takes courage to move ahead with a creative idea that could possibly be extraordinary. In one home where a bathroom wall has horizontal wood on it, an old-fashioned boathouse sign seems to hang on that wall. Upon closer inspection, it is actually a painting right onto the wood.
Boehm recalls another property with a full-sized outdoor scene that seems to be a part of the entire wall. A local artist created the work of art by “freestyle painting” the drywall when it was wet mud, and it dried into a textured masterpiece, creating an extremely personal area in the home.
“These focal walls are something that can represent you on a special level,” Boehm adds. “We encourage people that if they want a focal wall, they should dig deep for the kinds of concepts and ideas that will represent who they are, and sing to their soul.” ~L&H
by Patrice Peterson