Ask an Expert: What’s the Future of the Feature Wall?
There are many ways to create a statement wall, with new materials and styles constantly cropping up. Read what the experts have to say...
Professional advice from
Vikki Montalban of VM Design
Amanda Kiley of OMNI Interiors
Carole Tretheway of Carole Tretheway Design
Aaron Wong of Alexander Pollock Interiors
Holly Clarke of HC Interiors
Kristie Howden of Howden Homes
The feature wall as a design device has a long history. Vikki Montalban – who prefers the term ‘accent wall’ – says, ‘Not all rooms need one, but they are a great tool to balance the shape of a room and to manage focus in a space. For example, as a contrast to draw attention to a headboard, or a dark wall to de-emphasise a TV screen.’
Amanda Kiley adds that a feature wall provides a starting point for a room’s feel or aesthetic, bringing colour, pattern and texture together into a cohesive whole.
Carole Tretheway says she uses the painted wall less frequently now, in favour of other materials. Montalban also sees a move away from the use of a single block of colour to more textural surfaces, such as timber, wallpaper or tiles.
Aaron Wong says he’s never favoured the painted wall as the hero feature, and he believes we have progressed from that concept.
Kiley, however, argues that it comes down to personal taste. ‘I always tell my clients that if they like them, they should have them. I love them and have them in all rooms of my home. If you tire of the colour, it’s only a coat of paint to change.’
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The current trend moves more towards natural, recycled and sustainable finishes: refined, seamless timber cladding, rustic recycled planks, stone and bricks – either exposed or painted to coordinate with the room.
‘Timber cladding and tongue-and-groove panelling are big trends at the moment, as well as exposed brick,’ says Holly Clarke. For Montalban, the popularity of earthy, natural, textured materials is linked to the black and grey colour palettes currently in vogue.
There’s a growing preference for designing a feature wall using artwork, mirrors, built-in storage and lighting. Wong likes to focus on layering objects rather than using a specific wall treatment. His favourite strategy, he says, is ‘a mirror or important artwork in the middle of two wall lights, with a console table underneath. I’ll then layer the console with interesting objects.’ He also uses patterned wood panels covering the entire wall, and feature fireplaces.
With advances in bespoke digital printing for murals and unique tiles, the possibilities for using graphic images are endless, and they’ve burst onto the scene with a flourish. Some of Howden’s clients, inspired by an episode of Australian TV series The Block, added humour and character to a bathroom with these fun custom-made graffiti tiles from Walkers.
Enthusiasm for wallpaper among our experts is unanimous. ‘You can achieve any mood for a room through a wallpaper feature wall: vibrant, dramatic and playful, or quiet and restful,’ says Tretheway. ‘Even if the wallpaper is expensive, in a small space you don’t need much to make a huge impact.’
Wallpaper and murals are by far Kiley’s favourite treatment. ‘The colours, designs and textures are endless and so beautiful. It’s a great way to make your wall come alive.’ She suggests starting with the wallpaper or mural, then furnishing and decorating the room around it.
Clarke agrees. ‘Wallpaper just grows and grows in popularity,’ she says. ‘We’re using fabric wallpapers more and more in gorgeous linens and luxurious silks. Clients are really embracing it now and we love that – we can push the boundaries a little more.’
While the painted feature wall continues to hold appeal for some, there is an increasing willingness to experiment with different materials and looks. This is due to a desire to create more unique and personal rooms throughout the home.
Montalban predicts the continued popularity of natural materials, and a trend towards merging joinery – in desks and entertainment units – with a similarly clad wall behind. The result is seamless and uncluttered.
For Tretheway, ‘it’s an exciting decorating era where we’re creating interiors that reflect the occupant’s personality – feature walls are expressing this individuality.’
Kiley says people are becoming more adventurous, and tend to favour looks unique to their homes. ‘Wallpaper, wall murals and paint will continue to be used,’ she says, ‘and I see a swing towards the use of mixed materials, such as painted sections with timber moulding or feature tiles.’
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Clarke and Wong put an interesting spin on the debate. ‘Although we still use them, we think feature walls in general are slowly becoming less prevalent, as people become more courageous and treat all of their walls instead of just one,’ says Clarke. ‘We encourage this, as it makes a real impact and can make a room feel more complete. It’s quite a European way of treating walls, with beautiful details in ceilings and mouldings.’
Wong is also exploring this technique. He doesn’t see the one-wall approach as the only way to perform the traditional tasks of a feature wall. ‘Personally, I prefer wall coverings that go around the entire room, creating an atmosphere,’ he says.
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The verdict is in. Although it’s being interpreted in many new and different ways, we are definitely not finished with the feature wall. Whether painted, layered or wallpapered, decorated with bold graphics or textured with natural materials, this technique is providing a fantastic opportunity for designers and homeowners to define the essence of a home.
Feature walls are definitely still being used to create glamorous, elegant, restful and playful rooms. With the imagination of designers and increasing confidence among homeowners, these accents will continue to shine with a new panache and personality.
We’d love to hear what you have to say about our experts’ views. Have you been adventurous with feature walls in your home? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.