Ask Auntie P – Where Do We Stand on Feature Walls?

A real life friend of mine is wondering whether to do a wallpaper feature wall, and I thought I’d put it to you guys as well to see if you could help.

Said friend is doing up a sixties cottage in Northern Ireland and is wondering whether to do a feature wall with wallpaper.

First up, I much prefer feature/accent walls with wallpaper rather than paint. A painted feature wall often looks like you’ve just run out of paint. But wallpaper feature walls are a good way of using pattern without getting too overwhelmed, and can let you indulge in expensive wallpaper on a budget.

For me a feature wall can be great as long as they’re used sparingly and for a reason.  I grew up in London suburban semi-detached house with psychedelic seventies feature walls in every room, and that was definitely overkill.

Feature walls draw attention, so I think the key point is to think about what you’re drawing attention to and whether it’s actually worth focusing on. And of course they’re great ways of injecting colour and pattern into a room (though they might make it more problematic to use colour and pattern in other ways such with curtains or cushions).  And you can use them to delineate space – such as separating out a dining area.

Here are some feature walls which I think work. 


From Elle Deco UK (Jan 2010). I absolutely LOVE this New York loft.  The feature wall here draws the eye upwards to emphasize the ceiling and injects a splash of beautiful colour.  But note how minimalist everything else is.


From Ideal Home (Nov 2009).  It delineates the dining area beautifully. But again everything else is incredibly spare.


From Graham & Brown’s website.  This is quite subtle and mostly adds texture rather than emphasis.



This accent wall from Living Etc is reflected in a mirrored wall. It probably looks like a brothel in real life. But everything else is plain, uncluttered and subservient to the paper.


This comes from though I’m not sure where it was sourced originally.   The feature wall is nice, but it’s starting to clash with all the other clutter in the room.


This last is fabulous. It works because it is subtle despite the scale of the pattern, and again because everything else is kept so neutral and uncluttered. {From Colour Me Happy}.

What do you think? Would you do a feature wall in your home? If you’ve got a feature wall, do you have any advice for my friend? 



  1. says

    every time i have seen a feature wall in someone’s home, i just seem to find it too loud. that probably doesn’t make sense but i guess it’s because the design chosen is usually so bold that anything else the room has to offer just doesn’t complement it well. i like the examples you have given above though, as they confirm my point. if you’re going to have a feature wall, especially using wallpaper, you need to furnish the room to support the boldness of that wallpaper and not let the wallpaper be the only thing you see in the room.

  2. Hilary says

    It can look great but only if there’s a minimalist sort of thing going on in the rest of the room, otherwise it can take on that cluttered Victorian thing that smells of old people!

  3. mlle paradis says

    Oh no I don’t agree about the minimalism but I do agree that it either needs to be subtle as in the last picture which works just as you say it does, or there should be pieces in the room that refer to and harmonize with it. Sort of like starting your decorating with a great carpet and then adding and layering furniture that use the same colors or color family OR accent them. And they can’t all be small scaled – it needs at least one big piece to balance it.

  4. says

    I had to do one after chucking a giant glass of red wine over the wall. It’s worked pretty well but hubby hates the colour I painted it, so I need to find some wallpaper to change it. But even in the colour I painted it the room looks brighter/more interesting. I think it’s a good look but hard to get it just right.

  5. says

    L, WHY you were throwing red wine at the wall? It seems like a terrible waste.
    Mlle, thinking about it as the starting point as you would a striking rug seems like a perfect analogy to me…

  6. Lucy Gray says

    agree that FWs are back on the up. They used to have a 70s/ Llwellyn-Bowen-paint-chimney-purple aspect, but with some of the stunning papers around, I think they are great way to edge away from the noughties minimalist hegemony. Plus adaptable – if one has been too brave a single wall is relative easy to change after a year or two.
    The only direct experience I have had was in the mid 1980s when my father decided to try out some cream paint on the enormous chocolate brown breakfast room feature wall wall of a newly bought house we were renovating, and then didn’t get round to actually decorating that room for about 5 months. Wouldn’t have been too bad if had just painted swatches, but instead had carefully daubed “Arthur Scargill is a marxist pig” in 30 cm high letters. Cramped our social life a bit.

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