Black is trending everywhere, and now it’s showing up as an accent wall. Have you noticed it too? Paint is an easy and inexpensive way to indulge in a colour trend, but is a black accent wall for you?
Recently, I was searching AirBNBs in Whistler and I noticed a pattern. Almost every single RENOVATED condo had a black accent wall.
Since I started writing this blog, before the grey trend started, and all through the 10 year life span, it never occurred to me to write a post about charcoal accent walls because they just weren’t a thing.
However, we did see a lot of charcoal dining rooms.
Why are black accent walls trending?
The reason black accent walls are suddenly trending is because it’s the strongest colour trend happening right now. So while it’s hard to imagine an entire room being black, everyone can commit to painting 25% of the room in a stronger, deeper colour.
Also, once your entire house is white, that might seem a bit. . . dull. Like maybe we need to add SOMETHING. I know BLACK?
So it seems right now, black accent walls are having a moment.
Many, many years ago I helped my sister inject a little colour on the walls by painting a blue accent wall in her family room. She really wanted blue kitchen walls, but I said “no” because it would look like she was ignoring her earthy kitchen finishes. So instead, we added some blue to a wall that could be seen from the kitchen.
Accent walls are much less of an undertaking than painting a whole room. In under two hours, she had a lovely pop of colour in her space. So perhaps, if you are looking for an easy way to incorporate trendy black into your living room, the accent wall is least expensive and most flexible way to go. After all, it’s just paint, right?!
A Caveat about Accent Walls
I’ve been known to say often that accent walls don’t work for many situations. They can be difficult to balance visually (hoarding all the drama to one side of the room).
And they can quickly create a choppy look. Because where the contrast is, is where the eye lands. So you need to create enough interest to distract the eye away from the edges of your accent wall.
However, I get that in many cases, it’s a way to inject some energy and drama into a room quickly. And again, it is just paint after all.
Where to Consider an Accent Wall
Where accent walls DO work well is when you want to create or emphasize a focal point in your room.
The end of your dining room where the credenza is topped with lamps and art is a good spot. As is the headboard wall of your bedroom, or the fireplace wall of your living room.
Just be mindful of where you place it. Adding random accents to unimportant architectural features and weirdly jutting angles for no reason is where an accent wall idea really goes sideways.
Don’t Leave your Accent Wall Bald
Always layer an accent wall with art, lighting, mirrors, furniture, etc. DECORATE IT because it is now the focal point and the eye wants something to look at.
I’m also noticing more accent walls with a geometric take on traditional board and batten wall paneling. And then, to embrace the current trend, but with a little more texture, they are being painted out in a solid. Again, make your accent wall interesting.
Where a Black Accent Wall Works Best
Black happens to work beautifully with brass accents, warm wood tones and crisp white. Oh and green, black white and green is always a winning combination. A dramatic black backdrop can make a washed out room come to life.
This black accent wall helps the warm brass accents, wood furniture, and pale beige upholstery look even richer in this room. And, by contrast, elevates this classic millwork fireplace, rather than having it fade into the background among all the other millwork on the walls.
The pretty architecture of this ceiling is highlighted by this black shiplap wall (below). Notice how this room avoids looking too harsh or heavy because there’s a nice balance of contrast with these warmer, classic and timeless hardwood floors.
Adding black to even the smallest accent wall in your home (i.e. inside a closet) is also a lovely way to fuse some contrast into an all-white room. This almost-black paint colour instantly transforms this closet desk into a custom-looking built-in furniture piece. And again, layered art and warm brass to make it come alive.
Homemade by Carmona | Paint Colour: Behr Winter Way
Black does best contrasted with warmer wood tones and rich accents like brass. If your room and floors are already grey, you might want to consider a warmer accent wall like mustard, cognac or a terracotta pink to bring in the warmth for balance.
Read More: Should I paint my doors black?
Other Accent Wall Colours to Consider
Perhaps the black accent wall has become the norm (seriously guys, EVERY recently decorated AirBnB I looked at) because it is drama without a specific colour commitment. Most people, especially in the current trend, have some black in their room (large unsightly TV screens I’m looking at you).
I like how this television is almost camouflaged by the dark accent wall. Totally genius.
Read more: 7 Best Ways to Decorate around the TV
But any deep and dramatic colour can work the same way.
If your room has an earthier palette? Try a deep greyed bronze. Same drama, warmer look that will harmonize better than stark black.
Notice the savvy way this designer sort of neutralized all the earthy colours and textures in the room with this greyed bronze accent wall? There’s a lot going on in this room, but the dark wall is like a heavy blanket wrapped around the room, softening all of the little details.
Kristen Kong | Paint Colour: Sherwin-Williams Black Fox
Before you grab that can of black paint, take pause to consider whether another deep and dramatic colour might give your room a bit more personality and dimension. Great options are dark moody blues, rich dark greens and even dark aubergine or wine tones. They are equally beautiful with neutral furnishings, brass and wood.
And as I mentioned, if your room already has quite a bit of black or grey, you might be happier with a warmer tone like mustard, mauve, terracotta or cognac to bring some life and balance in.
This bedroom below could have had a black accent wall, but the deep muted green gives it more personality.
While black, or any other colour accent walls are not the solution for every room, and should never be bald, they can be a very good way to take a step towards some bolder colour and drama in your room. So try it out! It’s only paint.
If you need help choosing the right colour, I can help, check out our virtual paint packages here.
What Everyone Should Know About Black
Solid advice re: accent walls. Where were you with this 12 years ago when I learned the hard way that painting a random wall a different color doesn’t work unless there’s an architectural reason to do so? I painted one (small) wall an accent color and painted over it as soon as it was dry enough to do so!
I might have learned my lesson with that (other) accent wallpaper wall I papered, OR, i just remembered this, the hours of stenciling i put on yet another wall, but no, I had to take three swings at bat to strike out!
Maybe your post will save some other hapless schmo from making my mistakes (please listen to Maria, people).
You are hilarious. I too have had many goes at learning the same lesson.
Priscilla, I can commiserate, having made so MANY mistakes–and still counting! Maybe it’s because we can’t visualize….?
Maria – excellent article. Yes, an accent wall is only paint, but it’s wise to consider the factors you cited BEFORE you grab a can of paint and buy accent pieces to make it look right. Here’s another factor – black accent walls work best in rooms that you use at night, i.e., a formal dining room or living room, or a bedroom. What looks dramatic at night can feel gloomy on a sunny day. Many years ago, I bought an older home where the dining room was wallpapered in dark red, even on the ceiling. It had beautiful white molding and chair rail, gorgeous chandelier. It was stunning. When I toured the home I loved it. After living in the home for a year, I wanted to get rid of it. Even though it was a separate room, it was “bossy” as Maria would say, and limited how I would decorate in adjoining rooms. Lesson learned. What can be dramatic and appealing in the moment, may lose its charm when you live with it.
I noticed from the pictures that it also helps to have a large window.
I’m wondering how many colors of black there are. Aren’t there… undertones?
Yes! Black can have brown, green or blue undertones that are evident in certain circumstances. I recently painted my shutters black and my husband thought I was nuts trying to decide which black would be the right black. I think Maria’s “White is Complicated” book could have a companion piece titled, “And Black Isn’t Simple, Either.” 😊
LOVE IT! LOL!
Joanne–LOVE your title idea for a companion piece (maybe an addendum?) to Maria’s “White is Complicated” book. Quite creative of you!
Really informative post.
I cannot think of nothing more depressing than a black accent wall. They are ‘black holes’ for light, yet are not cozy, either. Black does not say sophisticated to me, it says tacky. Just no.
I agree Jan. I’m surprised this trend is still going strong given the COVID lockdowns – I want to see green and light colors not darkness…. But hey, ,maybe people find black comforting.
Always good advice, Maria, on keeping us up to date on color. Love the little closet office. Thank you.
I’ve used Sherwin Williams Black Fox as an accent in my more earth-toned home. It’s a gorgeous grayed bronze in cases like you mentioned!
I lived for many years with a black entertainment center that loomed over the entire area and that was even with a couple of other dark pieces in the space for balance. It took me many hours to disassemble to unit and repaint it to same color as the walls. Much better.
The other, more practical consideration is how much dust collects on dark walls. I love the herringbone wall in the bedroom pictured above but it would be a nightmare to keep spotless.
I tend not to love accents walls, preferring color on all the walls. That said, once in a while a room screams for an accent wall. My sister whitewashed a bland beige brick fireplace and painted the fireplace wall black to balance out black kitchen cabinets at the opposite end of the great room. It does the trick and looks 100% better than when they moved in.
You need to hear hilarious designer Kevin Bell’s take on accent walls. Every Monday on IGTV (instagram) he posts a short, sometimes snarky comment on design trends.
I painted SW Anchors Away (very dark Navy blue… think baby pea coat color) behind the TV. Since Navy is the accent colors in my Scandinavian styled home the color is perfect for camouflaging the TV and keeping my fireplace the focal point.
Well, you nailed it! When I renovated my ski hill condo 4 years ago…black accent wall (and fireplace wall) was the trend. BM wrought iron has been my go to accent color for all interiors done in the last 5 years.
I’m finally starting wane on the trend and moving into more of a cohesive beige and green scheme.
Love the photo you posted of the bedroom with that muted green wall!
I noticed it from the pictures that it helps to have a large window.
Love the encouragement and solid advice about choosing the accent wall wisely. We have a huge distressed brick corner fireplace with a very flat, tall wall from the top of the mantle to the peak of the cathedral ceiling. So boring! About the time we bought a cognac couch 10 years ago, we balanced all the warm tones with a black/brown deepest satin paint color on that tall wall, then put a large square brass mirror just over the mantle. It’s held the test of time and it’s beautiful!
Sounds gorgeous. High ceilings can really make a room uncomfortable. You have great taste!
I do not like it! Not a trend I will embrace, but I agree that it is now everywhere. And it’s quite unfortunate when it’s done wrong, as it commonly is, because it’s hard to paint over. That first picture from Architectural Digest shocked me because the chairs have what look like a dusty mauve fabric. It’s like “old chairs, new paint.” It looks terrible.
Dear Maria. I continue to be amazed at how you find such beautiful photos to share with us in order for us to see the point you’re making. Thanks for all you do to bring joy into our homes and world!
Maria, I’m so happy that you approve of a black accent wall (as long as it is done correctly, of course). I thought it would be a hard “no” for you. I painted a black accent wall in my son’s room about 6 months ago. I had zero reservations about it, albeit my husband was DYING at the thought of painting a wall black. It turned out exactly as I imagined and everyone loves it. I haven’t really thought about it much until now, however I have ALWAYS mulled over paint colors. I have made so many mistakes in the past, but the last few rooms I have painted have been right on the money. I also picked my exterior home colors and I get compliments all the time. I feel more confident about colors thanks to you, Maria!
Love this article and your photos Maria! Especially in that gorgeous living room with white fireplace and brass accents. We used SW Caviar (black) on accent wall in our powder room, other 3 walls are the soft Edgecomb gray, with a B&W marble floor, and a 1930’s mahogany buffet and antique gold mirror/sconces on the black accent wall. Absolutely love it, and might be my favorite room in my house! Wish I could upload a photo.
People are using black paint to hide the exercise equipment they have hd to add to their homes. Example here with a Peloton bike: https://images.wsj.net/im-284355?width=1260&size=0.6666666666666666
Awesome photo. Thanks for sharing.
No thanks on the black. But interesting about the accent walls, because I like them but all the ones I have done are in rooms which don’t have other big walls. The other walls either have a lot of glass or open to other rooms/halls/half walls. I guess I naturally figured out where they would look good.
What do you think in general about colored walls which have a huge amount of glass? It’s always seemed to me those should be neutral, because seeing color in small areas around the windows seems odd.
Maria, just seeing this pin because I just had my fireplace accent wall painted a dark gray (SW Peppercorn). I adore the painting in the first part of your article, the dining room. Is there any way of finding that same picture, or is it an original? Thought I’d give it a shot. Please respond here or at my email below. Thanks so much!
Cheryl in Cincinnati
Oops, thought I was making a comment, not a reply!!!
Search the art in google images. Hope that helps, Maria