When and How to Use Them
Accent walls give interest and break up the monotony of a space by infusing color, pattern or texture to the wall. They can be used in entry ways, just opposite the door, creating a dramatic and memorable entry. Or sometimes they’re used in the bedroom to anchor the wall the bed sits on. They’re great with infusing the homeowner’s personality into the space. Accent walls can be made with paint, wall coverings, or textural elements. Really the sky’s the limit.
If you’re staging your home for sale, its an entirely different story. So far, I’ve never recommended anyone to create an accent wall to make the room more appealing for their sale. There’s a few reasons for this. Let’s go over some of them.
Accent walls represent the Seller
Accent walls really represent the Seller’s taste and personality, which is great when the Seller is living in the home, but not so great when you’re trying to sell it. Rule #1 of selling a home is to depersonalize it. In order for buyers to envision it as their home, remnants of the seller’s taste and personality just reinforces that it’s the seller’s home, not the buyers.
Distracts the buyer's eye
An accent wall in a room is exactly that … an accent wall. It’s meant to pull your attention away from other elements in the room and commands you to pay attention to that wall. When you’re selling a house, you want buyers to be able to move their eyes comfortably through the space. Unless the room is expertly staged and styled, an accent wall will stop the natural movement of the eye, disrupting the cohesion, balance and harmonious feeling in the space. Creating harmonious spaces is what makes people and buyers feel good in a space, which in turn motivates buyers to submit offers.
Color could turn off some buyers
Once you paint or install an accent wall, you’ve now narrowed your pool of potential buyers because an accent wall is by its very nature a color and style choice that you’re affixing to the house. You’ve now limited the buyer’s interior decor choices dramatically as they’ll be limited to decorating their home based on that accent wall, or they’ll have to paint over it or remove it. In today’s market, many buyers want turn-key and don’t want to be bothered with a can of paint, especially after the exhausting task of buying/selling and moving.
And color can be a strong factor for many people. A certain hue, tone or tint could be loved by one buyer, but be a serious turn-off for another.
For these reasons, for staging I typically recommend painting over accent walls to make it cohesive with its surrounding walls. The mood and focal point will be created using furnishings, art and decor, which aren’t fixed items of the home. Any color disconnect with the decor will be less harmful than a color disconnect with an accent wall.
Improper use of accent wall
Many times I see accent walls used improperly here in Hilo. Used improperly, they could subconsciously devalue the house in the buyer’s mind. Buyers typically don’t know what’s wrong with a room when they’re standing in it, but they’ll instinctively know that something doesn’t feel right. And by the very nature of an accent wall, it’ll be the elephant in the room that cannot be ignored. If it’s off balance, or used improperly, buyers will feel the room is awkward and not harmonious. Thus for staging, unless you’re guided by a trained and experienced stager, Seller’s should paint over their existing accent walls to match their surrounding walls.
When can I use an accent wall?
If you’re not selling your home and want to create interest, drama or a certain mood in a room an accent wall could be an option for you. The accent wall becomes the focal point and backdrop for whatever is fronting that wall, so keep that in mind. The rule is a wall that doesn’t have any breaks in it like doors, windows or other openings, would make a good candidate as your accent wall. IF there are windows, they MUST be symmetrically placed on the accent wall to achieve balance and harmony. If not, choose another wall that fits these parameters or abandon the accent wall intention and use other means to create your ambiance.
Can the accent wall rules be broken?
All design rules can be broken, but keep in mind that very few designers can break the design rules and do it well. So its best to stick to the rules unless you really know what you’re doing. And remember, what you see in a magazine shot isn’t the whole story. You can’t fully see and feel how that one shot of the room relates to - or balances with - the other side of the room unless you’re standing in the room. So use the accent wall rules to guide you if you want to add a wall of drama.
I was terrified!
I had a Hilo staging job a couple years ago where the accent wall broke the rules. I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to calm the disharmony in the room. To make matters worse, the accent wall covering was a very busy pattern. Painting over it simply wasn’t an option for the Seller. Therefore I used color to create the cohesion in the room and balanced the accent wall with a large piece of art over the fireplace. For the MLS photo, I cropped out the portions that would show the bad accent wall design issues. The end result? Check out the photo below. Do you think it turned out alright? Balanced, luxurious, inviting? Thankfully my terror ended with a happy seller as house sold in 15 days.
Realtors know vacant homes can be difficult to sell and often sit on the market long. Buyers have difficulty imagining what a space would look like filled with their belongings. Size, scale and layout become challenges in their mind as they view the space. And if the space is vacant, then the challenges are compounded. Add to that, sometimes Buyers don't know how they could use a space, and thus don't see the potential value of a property.
Professional staging eliminates those problems and helps draw in Buyers by giving purpose to the room, as well as warmth and harmony. The furniture and decor is carefully chosen to defend the space and accentuate the architectural features of the home, while drawing the Buyer in, helping them relate to the personality of the home. Here's an example of a vacant space. With no furniture and decor, its difficult to grasp the size and what the rooms is. There's nothing there for us to relate to, or to be drawn in with. Is it a large bedroom, a dining room, a living room? It feels cold and empty
Once staged, you can tell what the room is at a glance. Staging defined the room as a living room, gave it size, scale, warmth, balance, harmony and personality. It created a welcoming feeling that Buyers can relate and aspire to, drawing them into the home and motivating them to visit and even submit offers.
This Ainaloa home was on the market for 2 months when the Seller called us. We staged it and they were in escrow 11 days later at list price!
Simply placing furniture in a room isn't enough to motivate Buyers. Professional staging incorporates design and psychological techniques to help Buyers see the home's true potential and helps Buyers make that emotional leap, the decision, to buy the home.
Many of us living in Hawaii see how the Pacific Ocean creates a long tail with the East Coast being at the head and Hawaii at the tail end. Sometimes being at the tail end is a good thing. I've sat in on a few of Paul Brewbaker's, Chief Economist at Bank of Hawaii, predictions and he would describe how Hawaii's economy lags a few years behind the mainland. Design trends lag too.
With the advent of smartphones, it has brought our world smaller. I can talk to my friends in DC and cousins in Sāmoa, in a blink of an eye. How awesome is that?! But for me, I interpret this shrunken world to mean we can't lag behind on trends like we used to. Especially when we're selling much of our product to mainlanders. Many of our homes in East Hawaii have wood-stained cabinets. But one of the quickest, easiest ways for our homes to look dated and old is to have wood-stained cabinets. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE beautiful woods and how they bring warmth into a space. And there are indeed many timeless and beautiful wood stained kitchen cabinets. But on the whole, many of them just scream outdated and passé. Even ones just installed. Not sure if this is true? Go to Houzz.com and check out the kitchens showcased there. Then go to Zillow and search homes in our area and look at the cabinetry. Yes, we are experiencing a very long tail whip here.
Wood is a gorgeous building product. Many woods feel so luxurious underfoot, and they have natural dimension and shimmers that just bring depth to a space. But if we use too much wood in a space, the wood gets lost. We feel "dizzy" in the space and its not a harmonious, luxurious feeling.
One of the easiest ways to modernize a kitchen is to paint over the wood cabinets. The home we staged last month didn't extend their beautiful wood floor into the kitchen, which was wise so their wood floors didn't compete with their wood cabinets. But they could have if they painted their cabinets the right shade of white, or rather a cream white. Instantly adding elegance to the kitchen and modernizing it.
I'm Ululani and have been staging homes in Hilo since 2013. I'm passionate about staging, design, color and photography. I'm also about slow food free of pesticides, chemicals and genetically modified organisms for healthy balanced living for our 'ohana and communities.