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CONNIE OLIVER: Get bold with focal wall

Right colour in right setting can do wonders for decor

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The layout of the kitchen in our feature photograph is perfect for creating a focal wall.

The bold CIL colour called Blazer Blue looks stunning against the white cabinets and baseboards. This goes to prove you don't have to paint every wall to make a visual statement.

Without colour, this kitchen would be very plain. White cabinetry covers most of the wall space and while the touches of black are dramatic, the space is taken to a new level with the addition of the bold blue wall colour. The great thing about this space is the focal wall can be transformed at any time with the addition of a new focal colour. Any colour can work with a black and white scheme so updating this kitchen is a snap. Imagine a focal wall in red, yellow, orange or olive and the room takes on a whole new look.

One wall of bold colour in the right setting can do wonders for your decor and is easy on the budget. Let's look at some ideas for how to add a splash of colour to other rooms in the home.


The wall behind the headboard is the most common place to add rich colour. This technique brings focus to the bed (which is the largest piece of furniture in the room) and creates a sense of drama.

However, if the configuration of the bedroom doesn't warrant colour on that wall, you can certainly create focus elsewhere. The wall that you see upon first entering a room is another likely choice, especially if it features the main window in the space. You can then play with wall colour and curtains to create a co-ordinated, dramatic focal wall.

Family room

Rich wall colour surrounding a fireplace or entertainment wall can do wonders for a lacklustre family room. Choose a colour conducive to the activities in the room and co-ordinate the look with decorative accents such as throw cushions and area rugs.


A splash of vibrant colour at the end of a long, tunnel-like hallway will not only add spice to the space, it will help make it more visually proportionate. Layer the wall with dramatic artwork for a stunning vignette.


Smaller rooms like a bathroom can benefit from a bold splash of colour. Because the space is small you want to be careful to choose a colour that will open up the space and not make the space feel even smaller. Steer your choices toward colours that visually expand a room such as yellow, light shades of purple and light to medium-toned blues or greens.

Dining room

A dining room can be a dramatic dining space for your family and friends with the inclusion of a dazzling focal-wall colour. Rich red, deep orange and even black can be included in the overall scheme to create an elegant dining room.

How to make it work

The trick with a focal colour is it has to make sense to the rest of the room. In our feature kitchen, the blue wall can stand alone because of the architectural elements of the cabinets but this is not usually the case in other rooms. In a bedroom, for instance, with four regular walls you need to ensure the rest of the dcor supports the focal-wall colour.

If, for example, you paint one wall red in a bedroom and the rest of the walls are white, the focal colour will stand out like a sore thumb. If, however, you include co-ordinated bedding, draperies and accessories, then the focal colour starts to relate to the rest of the room. Add in a secondary, neutral wall colour on the remaining walls and the room really comes together. Throw in some stunning artwork on the walls and voila!

Now that the other walls are painted in a neutral colour, you can change the focal wall by painting it in a new colour and changing out the bedding and accessories as desired.

Darker colours need contrast to work. Note in our feature photograph the baseboards are white, which makes the blue wall colour pop. If you're painting a dark colour, like red, and your window, door and baseboard trim is brown, you won't get that dramatic look you desire because the trim will visually blend into the wall colour. If, however, the trim is white, then even a black focal wall can look stunning.

Layer the dramatic wall colour with a great piece of artwork to take it to the next level, as was done in our feature kitchen.

Use rich colour to visually balance a space. In a rectangular space, such as a hallway, don't put the dark colour on one of the long walls, as it will make the space feel even smaller. Instead, use the focal colour on one of the end walls.

Dark colour will suck up the light in a room so forgo using darker focal colours in a dim entryway or home office where lighting is key to function.

Focal walls can dramatically change the look of a space. With a little planning and courage you can update your space in a weekend.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2013 F2

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