accent wall


Wood Accent Walls

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.

Reclaimed Wood

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.


The Walls

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.


Plan Ahead

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.


Pre-Made Options

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!