Feature wall ideas
As a great way to inject visual interest into a room, the feature wall has been an interior-design staple forever. But nowadays it’s about much more than just painting one wall of your living room in a different colour and hoping for the best. Here are some of our favourite feature wall ideas, from acrylic panels to murals, sequins to tapestry.
A feature wall can be a vital focal point that can reflect not just key style trends, but broader cultural concerns, or our own unique personality. And at a time when so many of us need to watch our budgets, making over just one wall is a cost-effective way to change up your look without having to transform the whole room.
The world outside is frightening: what with the cost-of-living crisis, wars raging, and so much talk of imminent eco-geddon. This charged, almost apocalyptic zeitgeist is driving two opposing interiors trends: towards luxe escapism and excess, on the one hand, and all things sustainable and natural on the other. Either of these directions can be expressed through the right feature wall.
Pure luxe escapism
If you do just want to deep dive into deluxe, and money is no object, the most decadent, luxurious of wallpapers make divine feature walls, as this gold paper from Avalana shows.
Meanwhile, if you like your metallics more fun and sparkly than sophisticated, what about a sequin wall from @allthingsdecorltd? Originally designed as temporary backdrops for events, these also work in the home, and you really could put the kit(s)ch into kitchen with your own ‘glitter wall’.
For those leaning towards green, the perception always used to be that sustainable paint and wallpaper choices had to be drab neutrals. But if you’re looking for an environment-friendly feature wall that’s also bright and beautiful, the latest generation of sustainable paints and wallpapers are as bold as can be.
Farrow and Ball’s new Carte Blanche range, for example, features wonderful bright paints and the most striking of sustainable wallpapers with stunning graphic prints, which would make for incredible feature walls. The range is the result of a collaboration with fashion designer Christopher John Rogers. The colours inspired by food are positively edible.
Another great sustainable paint choice, Victory Paints has a good range of bright colours and stunning sustainable wallpapers too.
Don’t forget, one of the most sustainable wallpapers of all is woodchip, because it contains up to 80% waste paper. Is anyone brave enough to bring that back on a feature wall? It’s probably only a matter of time.
It turns out there might be a scientific reason why nature-inspired interiors are back in fashion in these challenging times. Neuroscientists are discovering more and more about how our brains are soothed by nature, its textures, and patterns – and by things that mimic these. This phenomenon is called biophilia, and we have looked at it, and the biophilic design inspired by it, here.
Biophilia likely explains why nature is such an evergreen (excuse the pun) theme in interior decor, with nature-inspired patterns and textures coming back into fashion time after time.
And they are bang on trend again right now: a nature-inspired feature wall is the perfect way to bring a touch of the outdoors indoors – and make yourself feel calmer at the same time. Something particularly valuable in trying times.
You could even go for an actual natural wall, well a wall covered with house plants. Take a look at the elho loft urban planter collection: the indoor equivalent of a fashionable architectural living wall.
Another big cultural trend right now is pushback against minimalism. Think: maximalism; the trend to texture; and the personal touch of hyper-individualised interior décor, exemplified by the almost limitless ultra-niche cores.
It’s a sentiment that’s in the ether: expressed very cogently this week in celebrated designer Thomas Heatherwick’s new book Humanise, a diatribe against what he calls the ‘blandemic’ of minimalist architecture, which he believes is detrimental to our wellbeing. (There’s a new BBC Sounds series called Building Soul in which he explores the same issues.)
Heatherwick focuses on the built environment, but his plea for greater visual interest applies equally to interiors.
Not all of us can cope with the sensory overload of living in a fully maximal home. At its most full-blown, this is perhaps a trend that works better on Instagram than in lived-in spaces.
But a maximal feature wall is a way to embrace colour, texture and pattern without feeling overwhelmed. And there are so many interesting ways to achieve this.
Texture is an antidote to bland, flat surfaces. Marie Goodwin, head designer at decorative fabric specialist Prestigious Textiles, sees the fabric wall-hanging as a great new way to bring texture, as well as pattern and colour, to smaller feature walls.
“A wall-hanging, or tapestry, can easily transform a plain-looking space and is a different approach to the usual mirror, paint or artwork solution,” Goodwin says.
“A fabric wall-hanging adds some welcome colour and interest when you’re looking to make a feature of a chimney breast or wall in a box room. Opting for fabric when it comes to wall décor is also perfect to soften a space, add warmth or layer textures to bring a sense of depth to your room.”
Another great feature-wall treatment bringing in texture and nature would be cork wallpaper, like Osborne & Little’s ultra on-trend Kanoko.
Social media has given us the chance to flaunt our individuality in everything from our opinions to our clothes. So it’s no surprise that, as Mark Wilman, Director of eclectic interiors company Where Saints Go, states: “Our homes are continuing to be an extension of our personalities.”
If your tastes aren’t mainstream, a feature wall is the perfect place to show off your unique style; or perhaps patterns and textures representing your cultural heritage. Or even your own art work.
On a practical note, if you ever need to neutralise the décor for a sale or at the end of a tenancy, there’s just the one wall to redecorate. Take inspiration from Spoonflower’s range of quirky, artist-designed wallpapers, which has something for every taste, from somecallmebeth’s Alien Abduction toiles…
…to tattoo-inspired wallpapers like Tattoo Me, Tattoo You.
Another great way to create a unique feature wall that reflects your personality is with a mural. Talking of woodchip, as we were: why not start with Woodchip and Magnolia’s beautiful murals?
According to Wilman, “Natural landscape murals offer a much-needed sense of escapism from our everyday lives. While you’re working from home, you can picture yourself in a serene rainforest or fresh botanical garden. They’re also great for opening up a space, giving the illusion of depth and blurring the boundaries of the home.”
We’re back to biophilia again. Wilman, who sells a whole range of quirky and cool wallpapers on his site, continues: “Murals have come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years. Rather than simple photographic images, we’re now seeing well-designed, subtle prints ranging from large swirls and graphic designs through to realistic and stylised animal motifs, offering a much more sophisticated and put-together look than people have been able to achieve previously.”
Wilman’s also right when he reminds us of the feature wall’s potential, in these days of hybrid working, as superior Zoom background.
If you want to go bespoke, you can hire pro muralists, such as Clara Wilkinson and Mary West of Living Wall Murals.
Or you can have a go yourself. Painting your own mural is easier than you might imagine, and fun too. Wilkinson and West’s great book Making Murals is a good place to start.
If you’re brave you can freehand it, but using an art projector can really help get a great result. It’s not cheating. It’s what (lots of) the pros do. In fact, scientists now suggest artists were using projectors as far back as the 15th century. If it was good enough for the Old Masters, why not for you.
Here are some art projectors that you could use. Or this video shows you how to make your own for free from an old cardboard box.
There’s no reason why feature walls should only feature in the living room and bedroom. As Wilman says, “Now we can expect to see a shift, with feature walls extending themselves to the rest of the home.”
So what about a feature wall in a bathroom or a kitchen? Confounding expectations is an important part of creativity, after all. Showerwall‘s acrylic panels let yot create a feature wall in a bathroom, and you can even use your own image.
There are some beautiful tiled murals around for bathroom feature walls too, like these from Hyperion.
In a similar spirit, another way to change things up and get interesting results is to use materials in unexpected places. This hyper-masculine media wall features not only wooden slats but also Laminam ceramic panels, which you might expect to see on the floor or in the kitchen. Laminam also has some interesting faux concrete, if you’re not quite over minimalism yet.
Similarly this marble wall from Gerald Culliford uses marble in an unexpected context. And is all the more effective for that.