Accent walls have long been an important feature of design. You’ve probably noticed that lately reclaimed wood has become a big trend. There’s great reason for that. Depending on what kind you pick, wood adds warmth, texture, color and dimension to a room. There are several ways to accomplish this look and there are options for nearly every budget and skill level. We’ll cover some of the basics to get you started but once you get the hang of it, the only limits are your imagination.
Genuine reclaimed wood can be a lot of fun to hang up in your home. Not only does it add aesthetically to the room, it can make for a great story. For instance, we recently updated a home that needed a new garage door. We used the original wood from the garage door to create an accent wall in the living room. The benefits were threefold: we saved part of the original house, created a cool decorative element and added a fun story to the house’s history.
You can use all kinds of things; some people use old pallets, old barn wood, old houses … garage doors. You name it. A couple of things to keep in mind are the height of the boards. If they’re too thick, that can be heavy and might be harder to install. If they’re too thin, they might warp over time. This is especially true if you live an area that experiences fluctuating weather or humidity.
Before you get started with reclaimed wood, you’ll want to clean it up and prep it. Start by scrubbing the boards with a steel brush or a hard bristle brush to knock off excess dirt and giant splinters. Then scrub them down with borax and water. This helps in case of any insects or mold. That’s not usually a problem so don’t panic. It’s just to be safe. Let the wood dry completely. Ideally, you’d do this outside. Once they are completely dried out, bring them inside and let them sit for a while an acclimate to the house. This is kind of like what you’d do with a new wood floor.
We recommend sanding the boards a little bit to remove splinters and bring out the natural look of the wood. If they’re painted colors and you want to keep that look, take that into consideration when you’re sanding. You don’t want to remove too much of the paint color. Finally, you can seal the boards with a matte finish but it’s not truly necessary unless you’re putting the wood in an area where it might get wet. That step is up to you if the boards are in, say, the living room.
You’ll need to take the actual wall into consideration. If you have a white wall and brown barn wood, you’re going to want to paint the wall a color to match the wood. These types of boards are rustic, which is part of their appeal, but they don’t fit perfectly together. There’s a chance you might see the wall peeking through in some areas. If the wall matches the boards, it’s not a big deal. But if the color clashes, you’ll definitely notice it. And once the wood is in place, then you’re stuck so you’ll want to keep this in mind during the early stages of planning.
Before you nail anything up on your wall, lay the wood flat on the floor. Whether you’re planning on installing the boards horizontally or vertically plays a factor here. This does a couple of things. One, it will help you figure out if certain boards fit together better than others. (Remember the wall peeking color through issue.) Second, if any particular boards look good next to each other or clash you’ll be able to see it before it’s on the wall. This might not matter, depending on your boards, but it might if the boards are still painted. One of the big things to look out for is a piece of wood that ends up too short at the end of a wall. It looks awkward and, well, like a mistake. It doesn’t have to be perfect because this look isn’t about perfection. But you’ll be confident in the pattern you put up before it’s on the wall.
Once the pattern is figured out, you can start making your pencil marks as to where you need to cut for the ends. When you finally start to attach the boards to the wall, find the studs and use a nail gun to secure it. Installing boards on a wall is a little like installing wallpaper. You can’t assume that corners or ceiling lines are perfectly straight so you’ll start somewhere in the middle of the wall. Use a level to find an even starting point. Dividing the wall into quadrants can give you a starting point and you can work your way out from there. It’s often easier in the long run while you’re working. Attach the first board and continue on with the level as you progress if needed.
If reclaimed wood isn’t a viable option for you, don’t worry. There are plenty of other things you can do. At your local hardware supply store, you’ll find a ton to possibilities. In fact, it’s almost limitless.
Wall panels are easy to put up because they’re large sheets. You don’t have to worry about lining up one board at a time. However, there are plenty of individual plank options, many of them that fit together easily with a tongue and groove. Thanks to that, you don’t have to worry about boards fitting together or wall paint poking through. Also, you don’t have to worry about scrubbing off dirt or bugs. But other parts of the process are similar. Start in the middle of the wall or a large open space. Plan ahead for elements like fireplaces and outlets and then look for studs before securing nails. Painting and staining is up to you and the look you’re going for but it’s not hard to accomplish.
Believe it or not, flooring is another possibility. There are a lot of wood or faux wood planks that can pretty easily install on the wall. As long as the boards aren’t too hard and not too thick it should be fine. These are usually tongue and groove, too, so they fit together like wall planks. They’re pretty similar actually and these days, a lot of planks can be—and are—used for both floors and walls.
Finally, there are some very good peel-and-stick tiles that look realistic. They’re usually reasonably priced and you don’t have to worry about nails. As with the other options, you do have to plan ahead by laying out the pattern on the floor first and then starting in the middle of the wall when beginning the installation. There are a few material options, including wood and vinyl. If you’re working in vinyl, there are some definite benefits. For instance, if there is awkwardly shaped section, you can make a template out of cardboard and then cut the tile to the shape of the pattern.
Make sure the wall is smooth and clean before applying the sticky tiles. After applying a section, use a rolling pin to help them adhere to the wall better.
Whichever option you choose, you will have a lot of satisfaction with installing an accent wall yourself. You’ll also love the warmth and charm it adds to your home!
Our second season finale was a renovation of this cute cottage in our hometown of Claremont. The house was built in 1923 and had many elements of Tudor style, which included a steep pitched roof and an arched front door that was inset. However, instead of stucco and decorative half-timbering this house has clapboard siding. We decided that it is a Tudor inspired cottage. The possibilities for design on this house were exciting.
Claremont is home to the renowned Claremont Colleges. Pomona College was the first of the Claremont Colleges and is 130 years old. It was built in a New England style, which was a nostalgic return to the homes and buildings of the English countryside. Our cute little Tudor cottage fits right in with this design trend.
Since the house is in downtown Claremont it had been home to several businesses, one of them being a hair salon. We wanted to bring it back to a single family home, so that meant changing the floor plan dramatically.
We decided to take down the wall separating the living and dining rooms from the kitchen. In order to make this an open concept we did something fun that wasn’t seen on the TV episode. The kitchen had stairs that went down to a partial basement, and Jessie decided to make the entry to the stairs a trap door. That way the entire room could be opened up.
The house was reconfigured to make it a three bedroom, with a full bathroom and a powder room. We also had the space to put in an office adjoining the living room.
Probably the most exciting change to the house was opening up the ceiling in the main living space and vaulting it to a height of 18 feet. This required installing a beam that was 19 feet long and weighed 350 pounds, and cost $8000. The transformation was incredible!
We had several original elements in this home, and were excited to keep them. The fireplace, built-in desk and shelves, and front door could never be replaced.
Tina wanted to honor the Tudor influence of the home when designing the kitchen. She found a beautiful cornflower blue paint that she wanted to use on the kitchen cabinets. The countertops are Calacatta quartz, which mimics marble but is much more resilient. The most eye-catching design element in the kitchen is the white natural stone that was put on the entire dining/kitchen/backsplash wall. We also found 1920s candle sconces at Scavengers Treasures in Upland. We had them wired by our electrical wizards, Rob and Evan, at Moonshine Lamp Co. in Claremont. To finish off this amazing kitchen Jessie made a 9 foot island out of reclaimed wood! This is truly a unique and beautiful kitchen that will always be one of our favorites.
In the bathrooms we used brick tile on the floors and the shower walls. We were so happy that we were able to reuse the original medicine cabinet, by splitting it into two cabinets. We placed one in each bathroom. And in the powder room Tina found a beautiful yellow and gray Toile wallpaper, which was very popular in England and France during the Tudor era.
Jessie decided that the hardwood floors were in such bad shape that they couldn’t be saved. He had brand new hardwood floors installed in the entire home, at a cost of $14,000!
On the exterior we painted the siding a cream color and the trim a sage green. The home is now very reminiscent of a lovely cottage in the English countryside.
One of the interesting parts of our job is finding the homes, and we find them in many different ways. For this home it was really fun. We saw an ad for an estate sale. We went to the sale and found some really great vintage items for staging our flips, and as a bonus we discovered that the house was going to be listed!
This house is located in Ontario, just one block off Euclid Avenue. Euclid is an historic street that goes north and south, and through the cities of Ontario and Upland it is a divided roadway with a beautiful green space up the middle. In the late 1890’s Ontario’s famed mule car hauled passengers up and down Euclid Avenue. Mules would haul the car to the top of the street and then ride back down to downtown, as the car was powered by gravity. We love to imagine the city in those days, with mules carrying people up the street and then getting a ride down!
This cute little bungalow was built in 1923. It is a 1200 square foot, 2 bedroom and 1 bath home that we bought for $275,000. As cute as it was the house needed some help. It was a mishmash of different styles, from Spanish to Craftsman to Art Deco to Mid-Century.
The kitchen tile led us to some design inspiration for the home. The tile was yellow with black borders, and was Art Deco inspired. The original glass doorknobs were still on all the doors, and the backplates were definitely deco. Art Deco style was very prevalent in the 1920s when this house was built. It was a time when the decorative arts were celebrated, and that is how it got its name.
The one floor plan change that we made was in the kitchen. A room had been added on to the back of the kitchen and the kitchen window opening was still over the sink. We decided to take down this wall, making an open kitchen/great room. By doing this we were able to do a large kitchen island, something we have been wanting to do in one of our flips but never had the space. This was exciting!
Tina thought it would be fun to look for a vintage piece to incorporate into the island. That led to a trip to Treasures N Junk, a large antique store in Ontario, and we found the perfect piece. It is a buffet with definite deco design elements. When the buffet was placed in the kitchen Jessie discovered that it was taller than the cabinets that would make up the rest of the island. Tina was adamant that the buffet not be cut down to the cabinet height, so as not to lose any of the design elements. Jessie said he would raise the cabinets instead. The black quartz countertop was beveled along the edge in a scallop pattern to match the buffet, and the result was breathtaking. The color scheme we used for the kitchen was similar to the original colors. We did black lower cabinets, and a butter yellow on the uppers and island. This turned out to be a kitchen and great room that was tailor made for gatherings of family and friends.
In the living room we had the original fireplace, with tile that was green and yellow. The tile definitely had a Craftsman feel. We wanted to keep the tile, so had to search for a paint color that went well with it. Jessie and Tina painted a green on one side of the fireplace and a gray on the other side, to see which looked best. Tina liked the gray because it gave a more Art Deco feel, where the green felt more Craftsman. So gray it was!
In the living and dining room we were able to use the two ceiling lights we had purchased at the estate sale. We were so excited to remove the lights that had been hung in the 60s and replace them with the original lights from the home. It is these small things that make our home renovations so special.
Since there was only one bathroom in this home we wanted it to be special. On the shower walls we installed white subway tile, with a colorful niche of blue and green tile in a chevron pattern, mimicking the skyscrapers of the 1920s. On the floor we did a black hexagon tile and Jessie popped out some of the black tiles and inserted white ones. This floor design was very popular in the Art Deco era. In fact the women’s lounge at Radio City Music Hall has the exact same floor along with beautiful aqua pedestal sinks from the era. We sure wish we could have found one of those sinks for this home!
Moving on to the exterior, it was very obvious that we needed to change the paint color. However, there was something charming about the coral paint on the siding. We wanted to keep some remnant of this color, but in a smaller amount. We decided on a beige paint for the body and a charcoal trim (although the first trim color was too brown and we decided to repaint it). We used a pretty coral on the front door. Tina came up with a great geometric design for the railing. We did a matching gate across the driveway, and painted both in the charcoal with small touches of coral. That pop of color coordinated with our new flowering landscape of bougainvillea, iceberg roses and azaleas. This slightly tired, drab bungalow ended up being happy and bright – just like it’s future homeowners!
This house was built in 1952 and is in the town of Covina, a suburb of Los Angeles. Covina is 22 miles east of L.A., and became a postwar boomtown in the 1950s. World War II veterans had the GI bill and were able to buy homes. They came home from the war to their loved ones, got married and had children. The baby boom led to a housing boom!
Industry changed after the war to peace-time production, and war-time materials were used in building homes. Using materials like steel led to clean, simple design with an industrial look and a cool history. This industrial design was very evident in this home, from the metal windows to the streamline modern curve on the kitchen cabinets.
Our house was the only one on the block that still had the original metal windows, and we wanted to keep them. They had a crank opening, which didn’t work when we first saw the house. However, it turned out there was a lot of paint on the windows. Once that was removed the crank opening worked perfectly! The large picture window in the living room was a beautiful feature and we were so fortunate to have it.
The home’s other original features were high ceilings and hardwood floors. The floors had been covered with carpet for many years and were in beautiful condition. Even though the home was only 1130 square feet it felt larger due to the high ceilings.
The house had three bedrooms and only one bathroom. We were lucky to have a large laundry room that backed up to one of the bedrooms. We decided to make the laundry room smaller and use that extra space and the bedroom closet to add a master bath to the bedroom. Also we closed off a door that led to this bedroom from the kitchen, and voila! We had a true master suite!
The kitchen was full of possibilities for design. It had a great corner sink. The curved cabinets were a cool industrial design from the 30s, 40s and 50s. We really wanted to keep them. Unfortunately, when Jessie was removing the old countertop the lower cabinets were damaged. The plan was changed a little bit, and we kept the uppers but had to replace the lowers. We found a cabinet company that had just gotten a new cabinet in with a metallic laminate finish. The metallic look fit in perfectly with our industrial design. Tina decided on a black tile floor with a white tile border. On the upper pantry cupboard we had steel doors fabricated with clear door panels. And on a lower cabinet we saved a piece of the curved end and were able to cover it with a piece of the metallic laminate. This was really fun! The black quartz countertop and teal backsplash finished off the exact look we wanted.
The hall bath had a great sink that we restored and reused. The original bathroom tile had a dark green border and we used this color as inspiration for the renovated bathroom. We used dark gray tile on the shower/tub wall with a stripe of dark green. It was very dramatic and we loved it!
For the master bath walk-in shower we used the same design, but with a lighter gray tile and lime green stripe. We have to say, these bathrooms are among our favorites!
We decided to use the wood from the old garage door to make a reclaimed wood wall in the living room. It looked so good, and we loved keeping another original piece of the home.
On the exterior we had quite a bit of work to do. We discovered after painting that the old stucco was causing the new paint to peel off. This meant we had to spend an additional $5000 to re-stucco the entire house. We also did a new concrete driveway and a new roof. With all of these repairs – and a paint scheme of white with gray accents and black trim, new window box, the original steel windows, and plants that included grasses and sage – we achieved the result of a home with the retro industrial charm that we had imagined!
Wallpaper has fallen out of favor over the last few years but it’s starting to make a bit of resurgence. We’re excited to see that it’s making a comeback because it can bring dimension to a room that just paint can’t. When you’re trying to keep the authenticity of an older home, wallpaper makes a terrific option. In homes like Victorian or Queen Anne, you can bet they had wallpaper in their heyday.
There are people you can hire to hang wallpaper for you, but it’s not that difficult to do on your own. If you’re trying to save money, like DIY projects or are just feeling adventurous, here are some instructions to help get you started with hanging wallpaper.
Plumb line and chalk or level
Water tub for pre-pasted paper
Things to Consider
Shape and dimensions of a room: For example, rooms with low ceilings can look higher with vertical patterns. Narrow rooms look wider with horizontal patterns. Lighter colors help make a room look larger while darker colors make rooms look smaller.
Preparing the Walls
If there is already wallpaper up, you’ll have to remove it. You can usually do this with steam or with a mixture of water and wallpaper remover. For the water and paper remover, dip a sponge into the mixture and then soak the spots you want to remove. Then scrape the paper off with a scraper or putty knife. After that, sanding rough spots on the walls helps too.
For most wall covering patterns, place the first strip wallpaper to the side (left or right) of a door and work toward the biggest unbroken section of the wall. There is an exception: With a large or very intricate pattern, start in the largest section of wall or the place where you want to draw focus, such as above a fireplace or couch.
Measure the wall, then cut the first strip with a little extra paper at the top and bottom, about 4 to 6 inches in total. Hold up the strip to the wall and find the correct placement. (You might want to mark lightly on the paper with pencil or chalk where the strip will hit the ceiling. You can also create a crease if you don’t want to mark the paper.) Lay the strip on the work table, pattern side up and then cut a second strip to match and/or correlate with the first one. Continue on until you have an entire wall’s worth of wall paper strips.
As you’re doing planning the paper for your wall, use the pattern to help guide what kind of seam you will use. There are two kinds of seams: “butt seams” in which two seams “butt” up against each other and the edges fit tightly next to each other. There are also overlap seams where the paper edges slightly overlap one another.
Matching and Aligning
Believe it or not, rooms are not always square or the walls perfectly straight. So you’ll need to ensure straight lines when hanging your paper. You can do with a plumb line. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is to hold a carpenter’s level vertically against the wall with the top of it flush against the ceiling. The bubble indicates when you are level so adjust accordingly. Once you’re sure you have a straight vertical line, mark the wall lightly with a pencil.
The second way is to use a plumb line, which is a weight (“plumb”) at the end of a chalked string. Some people make their own but you can also buy them. It’s your preference. Hold the string taut against the wall and let the weight hang, which will determine the vertical line. When you’re sure you have a straight line, snap the chalked string against the wall. You don’t need to do this for every strip of paper but do if for every wall.
Next, lay your cut pieces of wallpaper strips face down on the work table. Apply paste with your pasting brush just before you hang each strip. Be sure to spread the paste evenly and completely. Unpasted sections of the paper will bubble and not lie flat against the wall. (Leave the top inch or two that won’t go onto the wall unpasted so you can handle the paper without your fingers getting even more sticky than they need to be.) Don’t forget to spread the paste all the way to the paper edges—the seams will need all the support they can get. If you are using wallpaper that is already pasted, submerge the strip into the water tub to activate the paste. Be sure to use a drop cloth to prevent drips from hitting the floor.
Hang the strip on the wall with that inch or so of overlap on the ceiling and line up the vertical edge to the plumb line. Smooth from the top down with the smoothing brush and start gently smoothing down the entire strip, removing bubbles or air pockets. Go all the way to edges too.
Cut off the excess at the top and bottom.
After the strips have been in place for 10-15 minutes, gently press the seams with a seam roller. Wipe the seams of excess water or drips.
NOTE: Corners can be tricky because they are rarely exactly straight. It may very well be impossible to get ends to butt properly. There might be a slight overlap necessary but no one will likely notice. Sometimes you’ll need to end a strip at a corner, like when you’re only doing an accent wall. But if you’re doing an entire room you and it doesn’t make the pattern look wonky, you can probably crease the paper at the corner and keep going. It’s a case by case basis so as long as you keep a look out for it, you should be OK.
Papering Around Features
Most walls aren’t big and blank. At some point you’ll encounter obstacles like a door, window or built-in bookshelf that you have maneuver around. When you reach something large, use a putty knife to create a crease, just like you did for the ceiling and floor. When you place the pasted wallpaper up, use the smoothing brush to bring the paper around, say, a corner bend. Then trim off the excess.
If you have a focal point in the room, like a fireplace, then you’ll probably want to centrally place a large patterned print over that spot. Trim the paper along the mantlepiece and cut away as much of the excess as possible. Then smooth the paper into place and cut it to fig snuggly around the molding (if any) and the sides. Take care because sometimes when the paper is cut into smaller pieces it can tear with the weight of the paste.
To work around an outlet, first turn off the power and then remove the cover plate. Paper over the opening and then trim away the paper over the hole.
These methods can also be used for light fixtures or just about anything. It might seem frustrating at first but you’ll get used to working around things soon enough.
Once you get the hang of wallpapering and open up to the idea of it, your decorating possibilities because nearly endless. The colors, the patterns and combining it with different features makes every room unique!