I love colour. In every setting, at any given moment, on some level of consciousness I am assessing the colour combinations presented by my surroundings. Ugly ones affect me almost physically, provoking a mental mini-vom. Ones I find especially pleasing however can make me salivate in a good way; I mentally file those for possible replication in future projects. As I have a disappointingly finite number of rooms at my disposal, I always have a surfeit of colour schemes up my sleeve.
So what’s the problem then? Well, I have also an another interiors love: light airy space. The voluminous clean minimalism of a cool white room, striking brightness into the darkest of days? Well that’s hard to resist too. For an indecisive designer this presents the trickiest of challenges.
So…. how to reconcile these two interiors passions? A: the feature wall, of course. Over the tut tutting of interior designers the world over, you might well ask: Isn’t the feature wall a naff nineties throwback – the stuff of new build show houses on starter home estates?
Not so. As least not in my designphobe guide book. There is quite simply no better way to create an interesting, uniquely you, statement than by means of a feature wall. Colours or patterns which would be gloomy or overwhelming busy were they applied wall to wall, become a manageable window to your personal style; rewarding to look at but easy to live with. You can be as bold as you like, free from risk of straying into the worst excesses of design “statements”.
New takes on feature walls
Among professional designers the use of feature walls has morphed and while it may not always be labelled as a “feature wall” these days, the approach of creating accents within a room by using wall treatments has a definite and worthy place in contemporary styling. The use of feature walls has evolved away from solid bold paint colours or wallpaper. Interiors mags abound with more adventurous covering like tiling and fabrics and industrial and distressed plaster finishes are having a moment too. And the trend is for features to only partially cover a wall. Panels are added to highlight a particular item in the room – for example, a panel behind a bed, or on a chimney breast wall surrounding a fireplace.
When these approaches work, the results can be stunning, and very unique. It is however a fine line between wowing your guests with an edgy, subtlety space-defining feature, and causing them to ponder whether your wallpaper ran out before you could finish the job. In my view, these more directional approaches are perhaps better left to the more confident and experienced designers among us. I’m not there yet. For the time being I’m sticking with the full feature wall in traditional paint and wallpaper. I’m relying on the choice of colour and the overall styling to keep the look fresh and modern.
In my last decoration project I did however try something new to me – two feature walls! I had seen so many luscious wallpaper designs, I was itching to try one. However, I was also desperate to give my favourite colour of the moment – Farrow and Ball’s Hague Blue- an outing. So rather than have to plump for just one, I chose both and applied them on opposing walls in our day room (the family sitting/dining room at the back of the house).
I wanted to lend the dining room end of the room some drama for evening entertaining, but add informality and interest at the sitting room end with a patterned wallpaper. By keeping the long side walls a pale colour, the room still feels bright during the day, and the features haven’t had the effect of closing the room in. I think it rather works.
Personally, I’m satisfied I haven’t created a look that’s stuck in the past. For me, feature walls remain a gift to an indecisive designer; a chance to explore braver style choices without leaving the comfort and safety of expanses of pale, plain walls behind. My conclusion: feature walls in all their many and various incarnations are absolutely still in. I’d love to know what you think though?
If you’ve had some success with a feature wall or been brave enough to do a more experimental covering or panel, please share a picture. Perhaps you can inspire me to push some boundaries for my next project.