How do you style a wall?

Styling a wall can completely transform the look and feel of a room. The options are endless when it comes to materials, colours, textures and more. Here are some popular ways to style walls along with considerations when selecting your wall style.

How do you style a wall?


Painting is the most common way to style walls. Consider the following when selecting paint:

  • Sheen – Flat, eggshell, satin or semi-gloss are common sheens. Flat hides imperfections while glossier paints are more durable and cleanable.
  • Color – Choose a color that complements your furnishings and decor. An accent wall in a bold color can make a statement.
  • Finish – Matte, metallic, chalkboard and other specialty finishes can add interest.

Some paint application techniques for styling walls include:

  • Color blocking with sharp lines between colors
  • Sponging or rag rolling for texture
  • Stenciling patterns and designs
  • Painting stripes or geometric shapes
  • Gradating from light to dark
  • Adding dimension with faux treatments


Wallpaper offers endless patterns and colors for customizing walls:

  • Types – Traditional wallpaper, removable, repositionable, border, mosaic, flocked, foil, grasscloth, fabric, vinyl and hand-printed papers.
  • Patterns – Florals, plaids, damask, paisley, geometrics, solids and more. Modern prints have increased in popularity.
  • Color – Make a bold statement or complement your existing palette. Metallic wallpapers are on trend.

When selecting wallpaper, consider the room size and wall height. Busy patterns can overwhelm a small space while subtle prints are ideal for highlighting architectural details.

Prep Work for Wallpaper

Proper prep is key to a successful wallpaper application:

  • Inspect walls and repair flaws
  • Fill any holes or imperfections
  • Remove any gloss or residue
  • Lightly sand to smooth bumps
  • Apply acrylic or oil-based primer

Wall Panels

Wall panels add visual interest through materials, shapes and dimensions:

  • Wood – Stained wood panels with decorative cuts or natural edge planks.
  • 3D – Overlapping panels, convex bubble shapes or geometric angles.
  • MDF – Budget-friendly medium density fiberboard panels in various styles.

Consider panel placement carefully. Accent walls behind beds, focal living room walls or long hallways are prime panel wall candidates.

Tips for Installing Wall Panels

Follow manufacturer instructions but also consider:

  • Leveling panels for uniformity
  • Leaving room for expansion
  • Caulking edges for clean look
  • Installing with construction adhesive
  • Pre-drilling holes to avoid cracking


Ceramic, natural stone and porcelain tiles allow you to create a custom mosaic wall:

  • Types – Subway tiles, penny rounds, hexagons, hand-painted, listello and stone tiles all add style.
  • Patterns – Stacked stone tiles, herringbone and brick layouts or mirrored designs catch the eye.
  • Texture & Color – Smooth, crackled and tumbled tiles. Choose matte or glossy finishes.

Consider the room size and tile dimensions to determine layout. Accent walls around fireplaces, behind stoves or around tubs make excellent backdrops.

Tiling Tips

Follow these tips for proper tile installation:

  • Prepare the surface appropriately
  • Use latex-modified thinset mortar
  • Allow for proper tile spacers
  • Grout 24-48 hours after application
  • Apply grout release prior to grouting
  • Seal grout joints

Decorative Finishing

For true customization, decorative wall treatments add ornate style with tailored finishing:

  • Plaster – Venetian, Marmorino and stucco techniques create depth.
  • Gilding – Metallic silver and gold leafing accents.
  • Stenciling – Artistic freehand or stencil patterns.
  • Murals – Hand-painted scenery, landscapes or modern graphic art.

Hire experienced specialty finishers for ornate treatments. Accent walls, ceilings, trims and niches serve as the perfect decorative canvas.

Key Takeaways

  • Prep work is key for all wall materials to ensure proper adhesion and visual appeal
  • Combine wall treatments like panels with painted walls or a chair rail with decorative paper above
  • For small spaces, limit busy patterns which can overwhelm
  • Accent walls behind beds, focal living spaces or hallways make excellent feature walls
  • Hire experienced specialty artisans for ornate plaster or stenciling finishes


The options for styling walls are virtually endless. Paint offers infinite colors and modern finishes. Creative wallpapers and panels add visual punch. Tile in combination with specialty plaster or decorative finishes creates true one-of-a-kind works of art. With some planning and preparation, you can style the walls of your home to align with your personal taste and decor. Have fun and get creative with the ample possibilities!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are some beginner-friendly wall styling ideas?
    Some beginner friendly ways to style walls include painting an accent wall in a bold color, adding decorative wall panels around a fireplace or behind a bed, applying wallpaper borders along the tops of walls or on ceiling edges, or using stencils to create patterns with paint or wallpaper.
  2. What wall colors are in style right now?
    Some of the most popular 2023 wall color trends include earth tones like khaki green, terracotta orange, and warm sand, airy neutrals like sage green, pale pink, and buttery yellow, rich jewel tones like emerald, sapphire and amethyst, light pastels including blush pink, pale blue, and lavender, and clean bright like Kelly green, poppy red and cobalt.
  3. How do you make a small room look bigger with walls?
    To make a small room look bigger with walls, use light neutral wall colors which give the illusion of space, avoid dark colors or busy wallpaper patterns which can overwhelm, and add wall mirrors or reflective surfaces to add depth and light. You can also give the illusion of height by extending wallpaper or paint colors up to the ceiling.
  4. What are some budget-friendly ideas for wall styles?
    Some budget-friendly wall style ideas include choosing lower-priced paint in colors like white, beige or gray to transform the space, stenciling with paint or wallpaper to add designer touches, applying painter’s tape designs before painting for modern patterns, using peel-and-stick wallpaper or contact paper for temporary effects, or hanging photo ledges to build an artistic gallery wall.
  5. Where should you use tile for walls?
    Some prime locations to tile walls include behind sinks or stoves as a practical backsplash which also stylizes the cooking area, shower surrounds since tile withstands moisture well, fireplace surrounds for an eye-catching focal point, entryways to make a strong first impression, laundry rooms to add brightness and style to utility spaces, or on one accent wall in living rooms, bedrooms or dining spaces.
  6. How do you prep walls for wallpaper?
    To prep walls for wallpaper, fill any holes with patching compound and sand bumps for smoothness, remove any existing gloss or residue with TSP cleaner, lightly sand walls to assist adhesion, apply acrylic Wall-Prep solution, fix corners by installing mesh drywall tape to prevent future cracks or seam splits, prime walls with oil-based primer, apply liner paper to cover bold wall colors or heavily textured walls, then follow wallpaper adhesive instructions.
  7. What are some alternatives to paint for walls?
    Some popular alternatives to paint for styling walls include wallpaper like grasscloth or damask prints, wood paneling like tongue and groove planks or parquet, tile such as marble, ceramic or stone, ornamental finishes like Venetian plaster or hand gilding, fabric coverings including removable wallpaper or upholstered panels, 3D plastic wall panels, faux bricks or stone, PVC boards which mimic wood styles, or dramatically textured treatments like crystallized gypsum.
  8. What surfaces should you not paint?
    Surfaces you should generally avoid painting include natural stone, brick, and concrete which may not adhere well and can peel, most floors which require specialty paints formulated for high traffic areas and preventing slips, potentially contaminated surfaces which require abatement instead of painting, cabinets or built-ins which may have been factory finished or sealed, and metals like aluminum that require appropriate primer first or may oxidize.
  9. Can you paint over wallpaper?
    For best results, you should remove existing wallpaper prior to painting walls rather than attempting to paint directly over wallpaper. This prevents bubbling or peeling issues down the road. However if wallpaper removal is not possible, you can seal wallpaper with an oil-based primer followed by a heavy skim coat of joint compound to smooth the surface prior to repainting.
  10. How long does it take wallpaper adhesive to dry?
    On average, wallpaper adhesive dries in around 2-4 hours under normal conditions. Quick-set adhesives may dry in as little as 30 minutes while thicker glue may require up to 8 hours. Avoid allowing moisture on the glue and maintain room temperatures over 65 degrees Fahrenheit for fastest drying according to manufacturer specifications.
  11. What are some DIY faux finishing ideas for walls?
    Some fun and achievable faux finishing techniques to DIY include sponge painting metallic sheens, dragging a stiff brush through glazes for a striated effect, stippling multiple colors with crinkled cheesecloth for an organic mottled look, crumpling plastic wrap and applying tinted glaze for interesting textures, using a badger hair brush for wispy irregular strokes resembling wood grain, or embossing wet plaster for a tooled leather effect.
  12. What are some budget-friendly ways to decorate a wall?
    Some budget-friendly ways to decorate walls include creating a bold gallery wall salon-style with a collection of frames housing photos or artwork prints, installing floating shelves at various heights for displaying special objects, framing and Grouping colorful scarves for a tapestry effect, highlighting architectural details like niches or arches with up lighting, arranging collections of postcards, mirrors or plates, painting stripes or geometric shapes with painter’s tape, or applying free-form murals using stencils and paint.
  13. How long does it take for interior wall paint to dry?
    On average it takes interior wall paint 2-4 hours to dry to the touch and 1-2 days to fully cure and harden. Flat or matte paint may dry fastest in as little as 1 hour while high gloss can take up to 24 hours between coats. Temperature, humidity and paint thickness impact dry times as well.
  14. Can you use wallpaper on textured walls?
    You can apply wallpaper over lightly textured walls by first sealing the texture with an oil-based primer followed by a wall liner. However wallpaper applied directly to heavily textured walls is difficult to smooth and adhere properly which can lead to premature peeling or seam splitting. It’s best to skim coat heavily textured walls with joint compound first to achieve the smooth surface needed.
  15. What are the different types of wall textures?
    Some of the most common types of wall interior textures include knockdown which has rounded stipple peaks, orange peel with a mottled fine texture resembling the skin of an orange, skip trowel created by flicking bits of compound onto the wall for one-of-a-kind textures, Santa Fe which features sweeping plaster waves, stucco which mimics Spanish architecture, and sand float created by broadcasting sand for an organic matte texture.
  16. How are shiplap walls installed?
    Shiplap wall installation involves cutting wide horizontal planks with tongue-and-groove edges to interlock them vertically. You secure boards to studs in the wall with construction adhesive and short nails or screws with pre-drilled holes to prevent splitting. Plan the layout to minimize butt joints between boards. Stain or paint boards before installing for easiest finishing.
  17. What type of primer do you use before texturing walls?
    For best results, use an oil or shellac-based primer before applying decorative wall textures like Venetian plaster, knockdown, orange peel or sand float finishes. Oil primers fully block stains and seal surfaces to provide the necessary grip. Alternatively, some acrylic primers made specifically for texturing exist but oil is most heavy duty.
  18. How soon can you wallpaper over new drywall?
    New drywall needs substantial drying and curing time before applying wallcoverings like wallpaper or paneling. Allow at least 30 days after taping and mudding joints to ensure moisture levels are low enough for wallpaper. Quicker applications may lead to adhesion issues or seams cracking as underlying drywall continues to settle and shrink.

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